Guest blog by LSE alumna Sanya Ahmed (Philosophy and Economics) who now works for BNP Paribas as a Financials Sector Specialist:

My day-to-day role

I come in anytime between 6:15am and 6:30 and check the morning and overnight news on my sector and post any relevant news on a chat with the traders in a summary form. Traders by nature (sorry to generalise) have short attention spans so there’s no point sending them long articles; the aim is to make sure they’re aware of the key relevant points that may impact their positions!

The Sales morning meeting happens around 7:15/7:20. Here we update Sales again on the morning and overnight news and how we think this may affect their day. Meanwhile Sales and Trading update us on market sentiment and what kind of prices and volumes clients are looking for. We also get an update from Strategy here on the more macro topics which we don’t really focus on, because they can be really important for us.

By 8:30 we have to publish our morning comment; which goes out both internally and externally. Those are pretty much the only bits that stay constant every day. Beyond that the day can really move in any direction.

Key things that happen during an average day

  1. We constantly monitor the news and continuously post it in the chat; if it’s something on which we need more clarification we’ll often call up the involved party and try and get some more information from them. We’re also constantly discussing this information with Sales and Trading, so there’s a lot of running around, especially if there is a big move in the market.
  2. Clients often call us to get our views on different topics/situations etc. and if they like our views they’ll move on to trade with us. Mostly they’ll call us directly because they’ll be interested in something we wrote; and sometimes they’ll be referred to us by Sales or Trading. This can be done over the phone or for a more in-depth conversation, there’s generally a client meeting of some sort at least once a week.
  3. We prepare and aim to publish on average around three notes a week. These are focused on one situation, unlike the morning comment which is an overview of many different things. This number can go up or down depending on time of the year and general market sentiment. For instance now in December, we’re doing about one a week, whereas in November we were doing almost four! Notes can take a while to prepare, because they involve collecting information from various parties, computing numbers etc.
  4. Setting up a position through speculation can be very beneficial if done correctly; that’s why we spend a lot of time trying to predict/project market movements which is basically a combination of all the things mentioned above!
  5. Ongoing tasks: Since the job is quite fast moving, and you often need a lot of information at your fingertips, it’s useful to have all the most up to date information in an organised format. It’s quite easy to not do this relatively simple but mundane task in the business of the day, so available time is often spent collating this information and trying to automate as much of it as possible.

General advice

  • Be open to new things. Sometimes, it’s best just to take every opportunity that comes your way as a learning experience and an exciting new possibility. When I got offered a role in ‘research’ last summer I envisioned hours and hours of reading report after report in a dark room. I can safely say that being a sector specialist is quite the opposite, involving constant interaction with traders, sales and clients and staying up to date with the latest market news. Had I not taken up this opportunity, I would never have gotten the chance to learn all that this multi-dimensional role has to offer.
  • Learn to deal with failure. Finishing university with a decent degree and a job offer, it’s easy to get complacent and think that life’s finally on track. But sometimes, it’s not the smoothest journey. For example I failed an exam within my first month of starting. As you can imagine, it is pretty damaging on one’s self esteem and easy to feel negative but I was blessed with a supportive team. So step 1 is to build your own support system with fellow graduates and take advice from your team, and step 2 is to remember that life/work is sometimes challenging and disappointing. I’ve used my experience to learn how to deal with failure and how to pick myself up and move on!
  • Know you’re not expected to know everything. As a new graduate sometimes, despite your hard-earned degree, the expectations from you are pretty low. Use this to your advantage and ask questions. This doesn’t only apply to your manager; most people are willing to answer questions from graduates which means you can get lots of different views on the same situation. People from primary markets, sales and trading can have completely different perspectives, so get as many as possible.
  • Don’t expect to make a significant difference straight away. It’s been two months, and I haven’t made the bank a single penny (actually I lost them £170 with my failed exam…) and it can be a bit disheartening, but keep learning, observing and try to add value wherever you can. Remember, if you perform well in the small tasks you get, it’s an indicator that you may perform well in bigger tasks.
  • Slow down. Slightly contrary to what I just wrote, even though you’re eager to learn a lot you need to make sure you’re actually absorbing the information you get. At the end of my first two weeks, I had a pile of papers full of lots of random words that (to me) sounded quite impressive. But fancy technical words won’t get you far in a field full of experts if you don’t know how to apply them! The ideal situation would be to reconcile all your learning at the end of every day. I think it’s better to understand a little a lot, than a lot only a little and it’s up to you to learn the basics in your own time.
  • Don’t turn into a robot. After a month of working my life had been office-home-office-home-office-home and so on. And this can be pretty depressing so get into the habit of occupying your evenings with something productive.