Christian is a salesman if you’ve ever met one. Whether it’s convincing you to have one more drink at his favorite local pub in London, or negotiating prices with a vendor at the market, he stays true to his profession regardless of if he’s in or out of the office.
Specifically, Christian is on the sales side of trading. In layman’s terms, this means he connects clients across the globe, selling bonds and other fixed income products to clients who want a steady yield or to hedge risk. Lost? Me too ;) In any case, there’s lots of talking to clients, there’s some technical analysis, and then depending which markets you cover, there’s likely travel. With his Scandinavian language skills, as well as experience with banks in Toronto, Christian naturally covers Canada and the Nordic region.
Christian, you paid your way through high school/university as an infomercial TV sales guy, demonstrating the merits of chamois, microfiber mops, and fancy knife sets. Exactly how did that sales gig help you?
To a certain extent, the feeling with regards to the thrill of the “close” is similar. Regardless of the product, you have developed something and are convincing a client it’s a good idea to buy it. I actually figured I was born to be in sales at eight years old when I become country champion two years in a row selling mayflowers (in Sweden, people wear these on 1 May to support the cancer society). Most of the proceeds went to charity but a certain percentage also incentivized the sales person. From then on, I was hooked :-)
Now I’m putting these skills to use in a much different environment, and the caliber of people you deal with is of course very different – professional/institutional sales clients versus QVC TV buyers! But at the end of the day, you’re still convincing the client to trade – and with you.
What’s the best and worst part of being a salesperson/trader?
I work with fun and smart people, and so it’s great to have a tight knit relationship with your team. Also, it’s a very motivating job as you’re always incentivized to perform.
On the flipside though, if you don’t do well, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll need to figure something else out. The job comes with a lot of pressure and can be very stressful. Attention to detail is key. You also often have to work early hours, and sometimes late evenings. It’s not nearly as bad as investment banking, but I’ve seen a lot of people develop gray hair in their mid 20s. I only got my first when I was 28 :-)
What do people get wrong about sales/traders? What are some of the misconceptions?
Stereotyping does happen, but simply put our job is to earn returns for the bank, to make sure that we keep clients well informed and help them to achieve great results. You want them to deal with you repeatedly so you always do your best for them.
Getting a lot of ‘no’s’ is surely part of the job. What advice do you have for handling rejection?
This is the case with a lot of jobs in banking. You’re never going to get 100% of what you pitch or want, so you just have to accept that this comes with the job. If you can’t handle it – not just from clients, but also your boss and colleagues, then I’d say banking’s not for you. Personally, I just try to move on to the next deal and keep it professional.
What advice do you have for women who want to work on the trading floor?
I know a lot of super successful women traders, and one of the best traders I’ve ever come across is a woman. It’s true there are fewer women and so you do stand out, but I feel it’s also an environment where you’ll be judged by what you can do not who you are.
What do you wish you knew before you started work?
I wish I had a greater appreciation for teamwork. Everyone wants to succeed as an individual, but trading in sales is a team environment. I approached things with too great of an individual focus early on, and wish I understood that at end of day, if the team does well, everyone gets rewarded.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into trading?
It can be hard to crack into so it’s really about getting your foot in the door. There are lots of trading and sales programs at every bank. Yes, they’re very competitive but you can always start at a smaller one and work your way up.
I have read hundreds of resumes, and recommend keeping it short and to the point – so never more than one page. You can’t be long winded with answers either, as you won’t fit the job if you can’t be succinct! When I’m scanning 200 resumes for one job, I will be doing it on my personal time, so I’m more likely to get bored of a four page resume and put it down.
We look for intelligent, well-rounded people. So while grades matter (in math especially), you need to show you participate in other stuff too, for example conferences, student government, etc. We need people who can both work out complex financial problems along with building solid relationship with clients.
When I interview, banks look for motivated people who are also team players and level headed. Motivation is super important so I need to see/feel that eagerness. Some say they only want to make money. That’s part of it but it shouldn’t be your number one goal. You need to enjoy what you do, and then you’ll do well…