Financial markets are where financial assets and instruments – such as stocks, bonds, shares, equities, foreign exchange and commodities – are created, traded and distributed. As such, working there is mostly about finding solutions that generate revenue. Financing or hedging an array of clients, including corporations, financial institutions and even governments, is also part of the job.
Experts achieve this by offering analyses and fixes to financial problems, including resources for clients to trade various securities and assets for greater liquidity, much like instant cash.
Businesses in markets primarily make money through trading margins and fees, as well as proprietary speculation. As such, trading, sales and conducting thorough research are the three essential components in this field.
Networking and relationship management are also especially important in this line of work, not just for picking up opportunities to obtain valuable information, but to also gain insights on what clients are up to, a more accurate comprehension of the markets, and sometimes, even unreleased intelligence. These can lead to additional income or clue experts in on profitable transactions.
Traders start the day early – usually 7AM – to keep up with the opening of the markets, and subsequently spend their time connecting with clients and other traders, exchanging information and making deals. They also spend a lot of time booking trades and advising salespeople and interested investors.
Sales staff start the day slightly later, and focus on establishing and managing relationships between the firm and its investors. They interact mainly with external financiers. On top of suggesting and making financially profitable deals and persuading clients to invest, salespeople also liaise with traders on clients’ behalf to ensure that the agreed transactions are successfully carried out.
Research staff, by contrast, react to what happens once traders start exchanging products – which means they begin working even later than members of the trading and sales teams. Researchers usually spend their days making observations and recommendations based on ongoing trends in the markets, and pass this data on to co-workers in trading and sales to help them make more informed decisions.
With the exception of positions that deal with complicated financial products and calculations, employers don’t necessarily require finance or mathematical degrees. Basic numeracy skills will usually suffice, though applicants must be accurate.
Employers look out for talents with excellent communication skills, and who also have the ability to build strong relationships and connect easily with other people – most positions usually involve plenty of internal and external communication.
Because competition can be very fierce, an internship offers a head-start and industry insights that can allow hopefuls to hit the ground running in this intense role.
Pros & cons
This field is dynamic, exciting and comes with long hours. Moreover, it’s undeniably stressful and risky, with even a single mistake having a chance to incur high losses.
But other than the heady excitement and energy on the trading floor, graduates are drawn to the opportunities to network widely and travel as seasoned professionals post-pandemic.