Morning Coffee: UBS's top banker's big break at 27. The one trait that will get you hired

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It's difficult to imagine for students toiling away through multiple internships, while attempting to secure amazing academics to land their first banking job, but things were a little more relaxed for the generation that's currently heading up the big banks. Lloyd Blankfein told Goldman Sachs' interns last year to 'chill' and find themselves a little before striving towards banking.

Now Sergio Ermotti, UBS's CEO who - like Blankfein - has a trading background, has said that he never saw banking as a long-term option. Instead, he merely signed up to an apprenticeship in Switzerland as a 15-year-old as a stop-gap until he could become a...P.E. teacher.

"The most practical thing was to do an apprenticeship with a bank to get up to speed with accounting, finance, and so on," he told Bloomberg Businessweek in a wide-ranging interview. "When I finish that, I’ll go into sports. I never thought that I would stay at the bank."

The thing, however, is that Ermotti had a pre-conceived idea of what working for a bank would be - ie, boring. When he ended up on the trading floor with "all this info bombarding us that would affect financial markets", he realised there was more to it. He was hooked. "Every other step I took for the next 10 years was only so that I could get into working at a big securities house as a trader," he said.

Ermotti's supposedly relaxed approach hides a clear steely determinism, and an element of luck. "In 1987, Merrill Lynch asked me to open a Swiss capital markets operation. I was 27," he said. In hindsight, I was lucky enough to start a business from scratch. And I mean from zero—no offices even, just a space with walls between different areas. We decided to tear down the walls. I had to go out and order everything from phones to desks and also hire people."

Ermotti was given the chance to replicate the Zurich office in London. His advice to making it into a strategic management role is to make "horizontal" moves throughout your career, rather than trying to climb the pole in one area of specialism. That, he says, "does not make you a good manager". Being able to make tough decisions does, he said, which might explain the brutal downsizing of UBS's investment bank with him at the helm.

"Learning to kill your darlings was also big from an emotional point of view," he said. "When you need to have difficult discussions with people who’ve been working with you for a long time, it’s not easy. You have to recognize that things have changed and move on."

Separately, there's one character trait that will make you irresistible to professional services firms and investment banks alike - insecurity. Specifically, according to the FT, the type of insecurity that provides the drive to continually succeed. “Partners are earning over £800,000 a year and the average guy here will be thinking, ‘God, I’m not worth it’,” said the managing partner of one law firm.

Meanwhile: 

Goldman is making a habit of hiring in people at partner level. Mike Blum, the former chief technology officer at KCG Holdings, is joining as CTO for its electronic trading unit. (Business Insider)

UBS could get by with 30% fewer employees as technology takes hold. Good news, though, the jobs that will remain in banking will be "more interesting" (Reuters)

Reid Marsh, an industrials investment banker who has held senior roles at Barclays in Asia, is its new head of investment banking outside of the Americas (Financial Times)

Asset managers are clubbing together to ensure that they don't face a talent crunch after Brexit (Financial News)

Fidelity has introduced a new fee model that cuts management fees and adds in a performance element (Financial Times)

It's essentially copying hedge funds (BreakingViews)

Hedge funds are flipping ICOs: “It’s not healthy for the ecosystem, and it’s pretty abusive.” (Bloomberg)

Still thinking about #Bitcoin. No conclusion - not endorsing/rejecting. Know that folks also were skeptical when paper money displaced gold.

— Lloyd Blankfein (@lloydblankfein) October 3, 2017

Don't blame John Cryan for Deutsche Bank's woes (Financial Times)

Contact for news, tips and comments: pclarke@efinancialcareers.com

Image: Getty Images

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