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Trading & Sales

Trading and sales is possibly the area of investment banking you’ve heard most about. Traders and sales professionals are the front office revenue engines of an investment bank. They buy and sell all sorts of assets/financial instruments, from commodities and currencies to equities (ownership in companies), bonds and futures.

Sales in investment banking…

Sales roles are usually the face of trading for an investment bank. These charismatic types have to be confident, efficient and on the ball as they communicate with clients – primarily over the phone. They have to be exceptionally commercially aware, keeping clients in the loop with the latest markets developments and suggestions for their investments. They are the link between all the main players within the sales and trading department: the traders, the researchers and the clients themselves.

The trading floor…

Traders in an investment bank execute trades, buying or selling various different assets on behalf of the bank’s clients, or the bank itself on the proprietary desk. Proprietary trading has a reputation for being a little riskier than trading on behalf of clients, as it tends to use a wider variety of strategies, a bit like a hedge fund. Traders will usually develop a specialist area, such as FX (currencies on the foreign exchange market) or commodities. Oh, and there’s no manic shouting down phones all day any more: nowadays nearly all trading is carried out over electronic platforms, so as a trader you’re going to be dealing with an altar of computer screens now rather than having a phone attached to your ear for the duration of your day. 

Risk management, strategy development and financial market research are all essential to the work of all traders. They have to keep date with the latest news (a review of the any overnight developments is one of the first things on the cards in a trader’s day), and they must be able to anticipate the impact different occurrences could have on the financial markets. They must also develop a sturdy risk management strategy and investment strategy that suits them and mitigates risk.

Traders often have an early start, and hours can be long. Depending on the markets they’re working on, they may work shifts. However, the salaries and bonuses in this area can be very generous indeed…

Getting a job in trading & sales…

If you’re keen on a trading role in investment banking, then you’d best get cracking with your internship applications! Work experience is a must nowadays, and if you want to work for one of the bulge bracket investment banks, the top investment banks in the world, then completing an internship with them first is a must. Some explicitly state that they will only offer graduate roles to those who have first completed summer internships with them.

Finance related degrees can offer an advantage for entry into a sales or trading career in investment banking, though it’s not impossible to earn a spot as a graduate from an alternative degree background. You will have to a high calibre student, though, with an aptitude for mathematics and analytical thinking.