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Q&A: A senior UBS banker talks about his career and what you must always do and not do in interviews

Here’s the first in a series of new Q&As with senior bankers. Rob Ellison, European head of FIG DCM at UBS has answered our questions below.

Rob Ellison



1) How long have you been working in financial services?

I joined UBS as a graduate trainee in September 2000, so that is nearly 11-years.



2) Has your career path been conventional or capricious?

It started capriciously. I read law at university and banking was a late choice for me. I knew I wanted to work in fixed income, but my only rationale for that was so people wouldn’t be constantly asking me for stock tips (it was the time of the dotcom boom and it seemed the whole world was obsessed with finding “the next big thing”).

I was looking for a role in sales and trading. When UBS called me to say the sales and trading jobs had all been filled but they might interview me for a role in “Bond Origination” (as it was called then), I thought why not?

My first interview was a complete disaster (at least it seemed so to me) but after two more rounds and an assessment day, I was in. Since then my path has been relatively conventional: I worked in debt capital markets origination for 6 years, then I spent 3 years in debt capital markets syndication. 2-years ago I returned to debt capital markets origination and now I head the team I was originally hired into.



3) What matters most: talent or hard work?

No doubt in my mind – hard work. The best people in this business don’t stop learning (about their products, their clients, their markets, their firm). This continuous learning process requires hard work, humility and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone.



4) What would you always advise people to do before they step into an interview with you?

I did more than a dozen milk round interviews before UBS offered me this job. Each unsucccessful interview made me better prepared for the next one.

Likewise, when I am hiring, it’s not unusual for me to see a dozen candidates before finding the right person. So while the primary goal has to be to get the job on offer that day, remember also to extract maximum practice value from every interview you do. Also never, ever
touch the refreshments.



5) What do you know now about working in banking that you wish
you’d known 15 years ago?

There is no better way to build rapport with clients or colleagues than to address them in their mother tongue. 15-years ago I was at high shool choosing my undergraduate course and at that time I had pretty strong language skills. I wish I had built on that, maybe even by reading languages at University e.g. Mandarin.



6) You are only allowed to hire one person over the next six months. Can you describe their ideal profile?

That person would have to be commercial and flexible, with a strong capacity for learning. Must have exceptionally strong written and oral communication skills. Analytical and IT skills need to be pretty good too.



7) In no more than three sentences, can say what your business area will look like in 2015?

My business area has changed literally beyond recognition over the last 4-years and it will continue to change dramatically over the next 4-years. The only thing I can be absolutely sure of is that it will be ultra competitive, just as it is today.



8) I want to work for you. What will persuade you to hire me?

Be thoughtful. Be honest. Be memorable.

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