FILS 2022: All-star panel makes the case for balance in diversity

In a discussion around how to upskill your desk to remain competitive, speakers from BlackRock, LSEG, MarketAxess and Euronext argued that while coding is important, trading expertise remains paramount.  

The world is changing, and the demands from the desk are changing with it. The market for talent is getting wider, and it can seem as if all people want are data scientists and coding whizz kids. But in an ‘All Star’ FILS panel discussing the importance of upskilling your desk to remain competitive, speakers from leading fund managers, venues and industry providers argued that in fact, the crucial element was balance.  

There is no question that the demand for data – and by extension, data analysis – is becoming ever more important. “We are looking for skills around execution, data science and programming,” confirmed Jon George, group head FICC trading solutions at LSEG. “We’re basically preparing for the next generation of smart order routing.”  

Angelo Proni, CEO of MTS at Euronext Group, made the point that hiring new talent is one thing, but retaining it is quite another. “We need developers, data experts, product managers and account managers who understand both micro and macro market structure, and can join the dots between them. But it’s one thing to attract those skills, and another to develop them – this is a management challenge we constantly have to address.”  

“We have to make the commitment to develop people,” agreed Christophe Roupie, head of EMEA and APAC at MarketAxess. “If you bring people in, you need to invest in them. But you also need to think about the future. We’re considering new developments such as DLT, ESG. It’s not all about programming – it’s about obtaining the right mix of IQ and EQ.” 

This point was central to the panel discussion and the speakers stressed that this balance, this mix of talents, was critical.  

“The industry has seen tech disruption before. Yes, trader roles are changing, but don’t turn every trader into a data scientist.” 

“Don’t follow trends just for the sake of it,” urged Daniel Mayston, head of electronic trading and market structure, EMEA at BlackRock. “The industry has seen tech disruption before. Yes, trader roles are changing, but don’t turn every trader into a data scientist, or take an army of data scientists and plonk them onto a trading desk and hope for the best.”  

The objective instead should be to curate and develop talent – upskilling and developing interesting career paths to appeal to a wide range of skillsets.  

“Yes, develop trader skills so that coding is more part of the DNA, but also develop separate analysts and execution teams and data scientists so that they’re closer to the markets. They need to speak each other’s languages,” said Mayston. “We need specialists, but maybe it’s more sensible to think about developing existing skillsets – coming at it from an evolutionary perspective, rather than a replacement exercise. At the end of the day, we are investors, and our talent strategy needs to be embedded in that vision. We don’t want to be so disruptive that we forget our reason for existing.”  

The audience would appear to agree. “Surely it’s better to hire someone who enjoys trading rather than a coder who gets interrupted by orders from PMS?” read one question. “It’s best to have a diverse set of golf clubs in your bag,” answered Proni. “There’s an obvious benefit in using trader expertise.”  

However, the opportunity of upskilling should not overshadow the evolving importance of data.  

“Data is the key to unlocking everything,” said Roupie. “It will help you understand timing, market conditions, current context. It’s critical to be able to unlock it, understand it, and use it. So the ability to keep pace with innovation really makes a difference.”