Diversity and inclusion from a head of trading’s perspective

Dan Nicholls, head of trading, Federated Hermes International

By Dan Nicholls, head of trading, Federated Hermes International 

The Pandemic brings into sharp focus the challenges it presents to peoples’ livelihoods with health under threat and the catastrophic effects of economic lockdown.

As an investment firm we are responsible for managing many billions of pounds for, ultimately, savers and future pensioners. Individuals who will rely on sound investment, even in such extraordinary times, so they can live and retire as comfortably as possible. That is a considerable task in such times, for which you need a rich and diverse group of people to draw upon.

A trading desk benefits strongly from being both inclusive and diverse. The diversity we already have has added so much to the way we work, offering a far more diverse range of solutions and approaches. Whether it’s diversity in age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social demographic and experience, they all provide more opportunity to finding a better way – a better diversity of thought.

Trading roles don’t come up every day and while the objective has to be to hire the best person for the job, you need to be clear what criteria is to be applied in order to achieve this.

Diversity encourages and allows for differences in people and inclusion is about the culture you create to ensure people feel respected and valued for who they are as an individual or group. This is important to Federated Hermes. We dedicate time to personal development; understanding and mitigating bias and focussing on inclusive leadership. This mind-set and approach is vital to me across the trading desk and I expect team members to do the same.

We must be able to trust each other and enjoy the company of whoever we hire. We live in a time now where we can attract a wide diversity of people and we are very fortunate that in Federated Hermes we have a great employer that encourages everyone to bring their whole selves to work.

What sort of person do we look for?

Clearly integrity has to be high on the list, especially given the trust people put in us to manage their money. It is the most important attribute that I value on both a personal and professional level.

People make mistakes – it’s inevitable – but what I am most interested in, is how people deal with them, how they respond and learn from them.

On a personal level, there are some decisions I have made in the past which I now look back upon with regret. While I wish I could turn back time and reverse them, equally it is important to take responsibility and ownership for our actions. Doing what is right, not just what is the shortest or easiest route, can be difficult but it is what sets people apart.

We also need people who can put their hand up and say ‘something doesn’t look right to me’ even if they are a lone voice. I admire people with the strength to question – I would far rather answer a question five times than deal with one unnecessary and avoidable mistake.

Trading is still very much a relationship-based business. The ability to form trusting relationships in the industry is important. We look for calm, confident individuals with a curious, analytical mind who can win with grace and lose with dignity.

What experience are we after?

We always consider candidates from all backgrounds, whether experience has been gained on the buy-side, the sell-side or with a vendor.

It doesn’t matter to me which University somebody went to – I’m yet to find any correlation between degree course, ranking of University and ability to be a good trader. Being street smart (having common sense) is just as important as being academically smart. I wouldn’t want the academic qualifications on an individual’s CV to define them and stop them applying for a role.

We don’t need our traders to be able to program. I frequently read job adverts for traders that require fluency and the ability to program. In an institution like Federated Hermes we have dedicated programmers whose role it is to program.

What training do you provide?

Federated Hermes will support and fund ongoing education. We encourage everybody on the desk to take a course each year. In the last few years people from the desk have taken courses in Artificial Intelligence at MIT, Algorithmic trading at Oxford University and the Senior Executive Program at London Business School.

We hire individuals who want to learn, develop their skills and contribute to the desk. I don’t believe that anybody is their own finished article. We provide individuals with the necessary tools to continue that journey.

We always expect new hires to put in a lot of effort. In return we invest time and money in our employees. We support and train our traders to become a multi-asset trader, trading Equity, Fixed Income, FX, MM, Derivatives, Commodity & Treasury.

The traders on the desk have an individual career development plan. Everybody is a valued key part of the trading team. I would hope that we are well regarded by our peers – our team won ‘Mid-cap Trading Desk of the Year’ 2019 and ‘Trading Desk of the Year’ 2018 at The TRADE’S Leaders in Trading awards. Two of our traders have also been awarded Rising Stars. My personal strategy is to recognise and celebrate this success, but also be conscious of where we can improve.

There’s still a huge opportunity to really encourage and promote diversity and inclusion across the trading desk, Federated Hermes and the industry in general and I hope to play a role in helping to challenge mindsets. 

At Federated Hermes we put our Investors first. On the trading desk we aim to get the best price we can for the people who have chosen us to look after their money.

Federated Hermes is a leading global investment manager, founded in 1955. The company manages $605 billion of customer assets. The views and opinions contained herein are those of the author and may not necessarily represent views expressed or reflected in other communications.