Just who is the man who’s replacing Jerker Johansson as head of UBS investment bank (together with Alex Wilmot-Sitwell)?
Carsten joined Goldman Sachs in 1997 in FICC, Frankfurt. He became co-head of European Fixed Income, Currency and Structured Sales, based in London in 2002 and assumed his current role in the summer of 2006. Carsten earned a BA in European Business Administration from Middlesex University and a Diplom-Betriebswirt (FH) in 1991, as well as an MS in Finance and Accounting from the London School of Economics in 1992.
What attracted you to Fixed Income initially?
I started in M&A but it proved not to be my thing. I was no Michael Douglas! What attracted me to Fixed Income was the creativity required to establish new products. Fixed income markets were traditionally thought of as government and corporate bond trading. Because both of these became more compressed over time, more liquid- and electronically-traded, the FI guy had to become more creative. This is when solution-driven FI thinking really got off the ground – helping corporations or financial institutions to find creative financial market instruments.
I was interested in working where you could see a marked impact for clients and for the company.In fact it’s a structuring role – basically a production function. Products are created and
put together for distribution for clients.
What personality traits and skills are helpful in Fixed Income?
It helps if you are good at both quantitative and conceptual thinking. You need to be able to identify ideas and concepts to help a client raise finance or make an investment. In situations like that, the problems can be conceptually easy and difficult to compute, or vice versa – so you need to be able to use both sides of the brain!
If you don’t have the quant skills, but do have the “conceptual” and the “communications” abilities (what I call the two Cs) you are much better off than being clued-up on quants but no good at the two Cs.
Can you describe a typical working day?
First thing you look at what’s happening in all the other markets. ‘First thing’ differs from person to person – I like to be up early and in the office by 07h00. Many people get in before 08h00. Later than that isn’t much good when you’re working as part of a global organisation.
After checking the markets, there will be a morning meeting with a group of individuals responsible for trading markets, structuring products or distributing (or all of the above). This is an exchange of new ideas and a check up on progress of in-process ideas. The rest of the day for me will be back-to-back meetings, either internally or with clients. I might take a short break for lunch, which is when I usually catch up on emails.During the week, the day finishes with an evening engagement with a client dinner or an internal dinner to discuss current projects.
What is the most difficult aspect of your work?
Balancing work and the rest of my life. I try not to work at weekends (although I probably spend about two hours on important communications). You have to be able to rest and play. I always plan one or two hours’ sporting activity during the week, and maybe one evening is not work-related, and I’ll spend it with my family. It’s important to keep your life in kilter – the financial world isn’t naturally structured to cater for this, so it’s up to the individual to recognise overwork or an imbalance, and to counter-manoeuvre.
What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?
The best part of it is when I’m working in a group of people. You do a client-related transaction that really helps out that particular client in a big way – that’s a really positive experience. It happens if you have a project with a gestation period of up to a year – it can be long-winded and complicated and involve lots of work and collaboration between client partners and Goldmans’ people, but the best bit is when you prove that the team is greater than the sum of its parts.
Almost always you will find a better solution when you get together a few dedicated people, rather than one individual trying to come up with the answer.
For Fixed Income roles the spectrum of qualifications applicable is very broad – we hire people studying subjects from Classics to Physics. If you are collaborative and competitive you’ll shape up.
A healthy degree of competition can stimulate you to produce better results than your peers. If you’ve experienced this, the Fixed Income world will not be alien to you.