If you want to go into trading, but you didn’t manage to get a position as a trader straight out of university, you may be feeling a little thwarted.
Most banks hire fewer MBAs into sales and trading positions than into M&A or capital markets, so it can be difficult to ride the top business school route into trading. Fortunately, there are other less expensive paths to the trading desk. They are listed below, in order of appropriateness.
1) Desk assistant
Moving into trading is all about getting visibility with the people who are traders
already. The best method of achieving this is to be their desk assistant.
Desk assistants are junior people who, among other things,
fetch coffee book trades, run risk analyses, take rudimentary client orders, and help resolve failed trades. Desk assistants are most likely to become traders in a future incarnation.
“Anything that’s slightly customer facing is going to give you an advantage,” says Grant Ashton, former head of European credit trading at Barclays Capital. “Desk assistants also understand the transactional element of a trade.
According to a senior commodities trader at one European bank, desk assistants also have the advantage of proliferating as banks tighten controls. “Historically, we didn’t have trading assistants, but they’re becoming increasingly prevalent,” he says.
2) IT – desk support
You won’t become a trader if you’re working on IT systems for the HR department, but you may be able to move into trading if you’re working as IT desktop support on a trading floor.
“I have seen a gazillion people go into trading from IT roles,” says Ashton. “Traders are very dependent on their desk support people, particularly those who support new electronic trading systems and multilateral trading facilities (MTFs).”
You’re most likely to move into trading from IT (as from any other job here) if you demonstrate your enthusiasm by taking the Certificate in Securities and Financial Derivatives exam run by the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment.
3) Risk – market risk, specifically
“Market risk isn’t really seen as a middle office function any more,” says David Butter of risk recruitment firm GRS. “Market risk professionals are now largely involved in making trading decisions, which means it’s a natural succession for them to start managing their own money.”
Some banks are more partial to market risk professionals becoming traders than others, says Butter. However, he declined to mention which ones.
4) Product control
You may possibly be able to move into trading from product control, but as we noted previously, it’s kind of unlikely.
This is because product controllers are often perceived to be a) geeky accountants, b) lacking in flair, c) annoying. “In the main, traders hate their product controllers,” says Ashton. “You are rowing with them all the time and they’re always telling you your stuff is mismarked.”
As a result, he says product controllers are most likely to move into sales.