Sales jobs in investment banks are in decline. In a slow process of attrition, hastened by MiFID II, specialist sales jobs are becoming generalist and generalist sales jobs are becoming fewer. "There were 14 of us when I joined five years ago," says one European equities salesman. "Now there are four or five, and we're selling the whole suite of the bank's products - not just equities."
In equities sales - as in other areas of banking - survival requires a fleet-footed willingness to change: to see the direction of travel and reorient yourself before everyone else tries to do the same. It's not good enough to have excellent client relationships when the market is shrinking, or when clients themselves are struggling - as Mike Stewart at Credit Suisse noted is the case with some hedge fund clients in his Bloomberg interview yesterday. You need to adapt.
Craig Butterworth, a managing director at Nomura who's a racing driver in his spare time, has the adaptation playbook.
By July 2018, Butterworth will have been in banking for 17 years. He began his career at Goldman Sachs before moving to RBS and then State Street, RBC and Nomura. All but the last seventeen months were spent in fixed income sales. An MD, Butterworth was head of European fixed income sales at RBC and then head of client account management at Nomura. In 2016, however, Butterworth spied an opportunity. As a result, he's transformed into the sort of digital transformation person banks today are bursting to hire.
Butterworth is in charge of Nomura's "client ecosystem." To the uninitiated, this is a program to 'digitalise' Nomura's sales process, partly by working with external fintech providers. To Butterworth, it's the way of things to come.
"Over the coming years, technology is going to change the role of a salesperson forever," says Butterworth. "It will enable salespeople to be much more efficient and targeted in their efforts. My role – and that of my team – is therefore to act as a bridge between how the industry has been in the past 20+ years and how it’s likely to be in a digitally powered future.”
How does a dyed in the wool salesman become an expert in using technology to transform a job he's done for more than a decade? "I was always involved in technology as my part time job alongside my official responsibilities," says Butterworth. "I have a strong passion for optimising processes and client service."
Smouldering passion isn't enough though: you also need to act on it. In Butterworth's case, this meant going to his bosses and pointing out the opportunity. "I presented the need for a cohesive client ecosystem programme at Nomura to senior management," he says, "- Bringing together client, market, product, regulatory and technology understanding - and was subsequently asked to lead this new initiative globally in November 2016."
These days, Butterworth is running 14 different digitalisation projects. They're focused on clients, but touch everything from trading to operations, risk, legal and compliance. He has a core team drawn from a variety of roles inside Nomura, including finance, operations and technology. He's also working with fintech start-ups and established players, like Salesforce.com, Symphony, Fenergo, Cloud9, GreenKey and OpenFin.
If you're working in a front office finance job and you're feeling the force of technological change, Butterworth suggests you're better off applying your skills within a bank than quitting for something more entrepreneurial. "You have all the benefits of working for a large established company, plus exposure to a whole suite of different fintech start-ups," he says. However, he cautions against getting stuck in a bank's "innovation lab" which is partitioned away from the actual business and has little, "tangible impact," on how things work.
Butterworth has two young children under eight years old. With 17 years in finance behind him, he's not ready to become superannuated by technology just yet. His career shows that it's not necessary to be a programmer to be forefront of the 'digital revolution.' "There are plenty of super-smart technologists out there but few of them have that deep domain knowledge," says Butterworth.
People from the front office are needed to translate business needs into transformation. You can either get in front of the trend, or suffer the consequences. Colleagues of Butterworth say his racing hobby helped: "He’s a very smart (and nice) guy, with a racing driver’s instincts and decisiveness. He sees the world differently."
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