The former head of international equity sales trading at Deutsche Bank says that trading careers are alive and well, and that surviving is simply a case of finding the right mentor and understanding your skills gap.
"The industry has come a long way with regards to mentorship and human development," said Glenn Lesko, the president/CEO of Bloomberg Tradebook and former head of international equity sales trading at Deutsche Bank. "Find a strong mentor, listen and learn."
While investment banks' trading desks might be viewed as a cut-throat place to work, Lesko says that you should work with your colleagues to ensure you have a diverse range of skills and insights.
"Gain as diverse an internal perspective as you can from colleagues, including everyone from fellow traders to product people, technologists and operations," he said. "Gain perspective on your firm's clients and how they use your products and services to solve problems."
As a senior trader, your experience in the marketplace and of clients and their workflows is an asset that can be used in other sectors, Lesko said.
"You simply need to read up and gain an understanding of the renewed focus on implicit costs that has been driven by the advent of passive and quant investment," he said. "A former high touch trader who can convert to the new paradigm is invaluable to a client facing trading platform."
Lesko came to talk about the launch of OPTX, a new platform using quantitative data models and analytics to route equities and options traders’ orders to achieve best execution, but also talked about his trading. He says asset managers that are feeling fee pressure and increased regulatory scrutiny need a differentiator to compete in a brutally competitive arena.
“We’re launching a new approach to best execution, with a focus on data and analytics,” Lesko said.
“Instead of building out our own market connectivity to create the world’s biggest dark pool, we’re aggregating dark pools and connecting to counterparties in the industry through our BDARK offering,” he said.
Lesko has worked in various parts of the financial services industry since he graduated with a B.A. in economics and business from Lafayette College in 1990. His initial role in the industry was as a research salesman and trader focusing on Asian markets at a small firm that was bought by Dutch bank ABN Amro.
“I learned a lot about how the markets worked, and then in the mid-’90s Asian markets became much bigger and many regional Asia-Pacific institutions became global,” he said. “After the acquisition, I ran sales and trading at one of the biggest Asian brokers, working to find liquidity for large global institutional investors that wanted to buy or sell equities in Asia.”
ABN Amro promoted Lesko to managing director and he moved back to the U.S. in 1999 to take charge of non-U.S. execution sales in North America. In 2001, Lesko joined Deutsche Bank as a managing director and the head of international equity sales trading after ABN Amro decided to deemphasize its U.S. platform.
By 2003, around the time that electronic trading was really gaining serious momentum for the first time, Lesko decided to leave Deutsche Bank to become a partner at CF Global, continuing his focus on international equity trading but at a outsource buy-side trading service provide founded by a former Tiger Management trader.
Tech-savvy young people have an opportunity to really make an impact on the financial services industry generally and sell-side and buy-side firms’ trading business in particular, Lesko said.
“It is important to understand their employer’s model and how they can differentiate themselves versus others,” he said.
“No one firm will be a leader in every element of the business, so it’s crucial to understand the critical skill sets and elements that your firm brings to the table and attach yourself to a firm that has a domain expertise and sticks to it as close as they can.”
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