Peter Zeitsch spent 13 years working on the trading floors some of the biggest investment banks in the world before joining Calypso Technology in 2013. He went from a desk-bound job to one that requires “catching planes like most people catch buses” and from working predominantly with middle class men to diverse range of cultures.
“In the first few weeks on the job I flew to our San Francisco office and the first thing I saw were some female colleagues all speaking in the reception area in French,” he says. “To someone used to working with alpha males from similar backgrounds, this was a bit of a culture shock.”
A start-up mentality
Joining a financial technology vendor like Calypso required a period of adjustment, he says, but much of this was a positive experience.
“When you’re in a bank you’re part of a very hierarchical matrix of command and you’re siloed. You speak to your boss, who speaks to their boss who then speaks to someone else you’ve probably never heard of,” he says. “Here it’s a much flatter structure. I have no problem picking up the phone to the CEO to talk about the projects I’m working on. It’s a very start-up mentality.”
For a company with 21 offices worldwide and 800 employees, this seems like a counterintuitive sentiment. The point, says Zeitsch, is that Calypso has to continually adapt to the demands of its clients and the products it creates have to react to the changes in a dynamic financial services environment.
Zeitsch himself was latterly trading counterparty valuation adjustments (CVA) and XVA solutions, which manage banks’ derivatives valuation adjustments, and was drafted into Calypso to help get their CVA trading solution off the ground.
“Five years’ ago, the concept of XVA trading didn’t exist,” he says. “I came in and had to establish if there was a demand for a product and what exactly potential clients needed. We had to move quickly to remain competitive and this happens a lot as regulations change. It’s like a series of small start-ups in a larger institution.”
The changing world of banking
He admits that he was drawn to Calypso because it produced the “Rolls Royce” of structured credit platforms when he was working in banking. But the changing nature of trading in investment banking – particularly the fact that compensation has been heading down – was one of the factors that influenced his decision to switch.
“The perception of banking as being a very high-paying industry no longer reflects the reality. My friends in banking are not earning what they once were, and I’ve come across a Nordic bank with a no bonus policy – this would have been unheard of in the 2000s,” he says. “Calypso offers the potential for a very lucrative role – you’re incentivized well and if you make the numbers your pay is very competitive.”
Zeitsch has a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Sydney and admits that his first choice was to try and enter academia. The proliferation of banks and financial services organizations on campus eventually persuaded him to sign up as a quantitative analyst to Zurich Capital Markets in Australia.
“I realized that capital markets was a fairly brutal game, and as someone who played rugby until the age of 28, this suited my personality,” he says.
Zeitsch’s current role as a product manager involves not only defining the product and tailoring it to clients’ needs, but travelling around the world in order to pitch to potential customers and implement the software for those who have bought it.
For a man who has spent much of his career tied to a desk on a banks’ trading floor, this has been a profound change in working life. Zeitsch is currently based out of Singapore – and will soon move to Calypso’s head office in San Francisco – but has spent much of the past two years hopping on a plane to everywhere from Moscow to Toronto.
“One of the things you learn quite quickly is that no matter where you are in the world, financial services professionals are surprisingly homogenous,” he says. “The great thing about travelling is not the places you go, but the people you meet.”
Zeitsch’s relocation to San Francisco is indicative of Calypso’s attitude to its employees, he says. “We have a team based in Paris working on equity derivatives software, for example, because that’s where the graduates of the French Grands Ecoles wish to be based. Calypso is very accommodating to talent.”