TradeTech FX Europe 2023: Incoming traders are increasingly having a say in their own development; firms need to be proactive when competing for the top talent, experts agree

Panellists gave their “views from the top” on what makes for an outstanding performer at the junior level, the opportunities diversity can unlock, and the ideal candidate for a desk within the ever-developing market.

Speakers at a TradeTech FX Europe panel on Thursday delved into the importance of capitalising on the drive of junior candidates who have become increasingly proactive in seeking the best new opportunities in recent times, aiming for roles which not only pay up in the economic sense, but also in terms of their professional development.

Desks are always seeking the best talent, and panellists agreed that more and more candidates are arriving well-equipped and ready to take on challenges, more aware than ever of the importance of coming prepared.

They are now demanding more and having a greater say in what they want to learn and how they want to grow, said Carolina Trujillo, head of e-FX distribution at SEB.

“Gone are the days where you would come into a position and have a steep learning curve for a few months and then sit comfortably for five years. The young talent definitely want to be challenged and wants to grow continuously.

“Which is great because the demand from employers are quite high as well. We need great specialists, but we also want them to have many complementary skills. We want those people to learn and grow and be much more adaptable and be able to move across different paths.”

David Turner, head of EMEA FX trading at Blackrock highlighted that from a managerial perspective, understanding what these candidates want and where they want to go is important when it comes to helping them get there and what the next steps are.

Turner added: “Through internships you really get a feel for the people and the way they work and the way they learn – it’s a way of going deeper into that recruitment process.”

When asked what, aside from firm reputation and career development, are the main focus areas for incoming professions looking at market opportunities, panellists agreed that it came down to “meaningful roles”.

Expanding on this, trading and innovation expert, Liakos Papapoulous, explained that increasingly candidates are looking for jobs that matter and are having a societal impact: “It’s a trend that you see more and more […] SRI, personal development, career development and being challenged are the most important topics for candidates in my experience”.

Turner added that this factor can lead to difficulties in terms of retention as individuals move rapidly in search of this angle.

The panel also highlighted the importance of incoming traders being flexible in terms of their growth opportunities and approach when it comes to developing their skills, agreeing that the optimum mix is a high performing quant individual with a good grasp of data, combined with a sociable attitude.

Read more: Amidst the transformation of trading, technology and talent, where does the balance between versatility and specialised expertise lie?

Speakers agreed this is hard to find, but that mindset is key. One must want to develop skills, and managers must want to foster this.

In terms of flexibility, the panel also addressed this in the scope of work-life balance, as well as career-wise, highlighting the importance of allowing employees to have a say in their day-to-day set ups.

Papapoulous suggested that the buy-side was better placed to empirically follow this through: “The buy-side actually has a better proposition here than a lot of the sell-side because from what I’ve understood, especially in the US, on the sell-side everyone’s being pulled back into the office five days a week again but if you can have a proposition with some freedom to work one or two days from home […] giving them the option is something that you should definitely have on the table.”

On the other hand, Turner explained that what works very much depends on individuals, asserting that in his experience juniors are not moving towards remote working. 

“That’s where they’re learning most quickly, and when we talk about them wanting to be challenged and move on, team members want to be in the office.” 

Elsewhere, all panellists agreed that diversity and inclusion was an important aspect of building a successful team, with the diversity of experience highlighted as key in reaching successful outcomes and ensuring a complete overview of the market.

Trujillo made clear that from her perspective, tokenisation needs to be avoided at all costs and that the optimal percentage of representation – whether that be gender, race, or any background factor – needs to be at 30%, as research suggests.

“You need to make sure you have role models all the way up […] really it’s hard work because 30% is a lot when you start from zero. It’s about structure at each level in order to really have an impact, to ensure that that group of people can feel comfortable and get included and finally get a sense of belonging and therefore have an impact on your organisation.”

Panellists agreed that this aspect was something that should not be overlooked by firms, or else risk being left behind. Papapoulous suggested that a desk with completely identical backgrounds will only serve to limit outcomes.

Trujillo further warned that firms must be wary of not being too naive in believing that hiring junior individuals with diversity in mind will directly result in diversity at the top levels.

Looking from a top-down perspective, she brought another notion to the table, the idea that taking care of existing resources – i.e., older, established team members – should not be overlooked.

“Age diversity is important […] be mindful not to discriminate based on age, respect knowledge as even at the end of their careers, individuals can give so much by involving them in their own succession plans – it brings out new engagement and energy from them.”

Speaking to the recent changes to work set-up, including home working, Trujillo advised that when managing a team, the key is to find solutions that work for as many as possible, recommending an approach which is as creative as possible.