Olivia Burwood-Taylor

Deciding on the right career

On meeting RBC Capital Markets employees at a graduate fair, I was struck by how friendly and enthusiastic everyone was and how willing they were to help. I was later to find out that this impression follows you from the beginning of the interview process right through to when you are actually in the job.

I immediately felt at ease and it made the whole recruitment process much more enjoyable. I think this is due to the emphasis put on interaction and communication with colleagues, as well as the flat hierarchical structure – managing directors and trainees work side-by-side (literally!), meaning that you get to know those around you really quickly and are immediately exposed to the heads of desks.

After a variety of work experience during school and university holidays, I knew I wanted to work for a bank on the trading floor but wasn’t sure what area I wanted to go into or if I would be better suited to sales or trading.

You can read about the various roles that exist, but I don’t think you really get a sense of what a job involves until you have sat down and seen it all working in action. I am not the kind of person that can be stuck in a slow-paced job, waiting for the phone to ring – I would just get bored.

The trading floor seemed so exciting, and I must admit that the idea of a nice salary was appealing.

The unique 17-week rotational programme at RBC not only allowed me to gain a great overview of how the various desks work and the product areas in which the bank deals, but I also met most of the people on the floor – a great networking opportunity. In addition, I was able to spend some time in private banking and the back office, which enabled me to get an even wider view of the organisation and banking as a whole.

Most importantly, the 17 weeks gave me a chance to see for myself which area I would be best suited to.

Choosing the right role and getting the exposure I needed

When trying to decide what area I wanted to go into, I thought about my strengths and what I wanted to get out of my job. From pretty early on, I decided that I was keen on sales but I also recognised how important it was to understand the trading side of the business in order to be good at sales.

After the rotations, I was offered a position as a junior broker on the newly established base metals desk, a role which is part sales, part trading. As there were only three people on the desk, I knew that my input would be valuable from the start and the chance to get involved quickly was a great attraction.

Is there a typical day?

When I first joined my new desk I realised how much I had to learn. I was apprehensive as I know how impatient I can be at times!

From the very beginning, I was given responsibility for the morning report, which meant that I quickly picked up what was going on in the markets. Over the subsequent months my responsibilities gradually built up to include doing trades both on the electronic platform and with brokers on the London Metals Exchange (LME) floor, taking orders and helping to write further research.

Some days are extremely hectic, leaving you with little time to think about anything but the markets. It was quite overwhelming at the beginning because my knowledge was so limited and I wanted to help but didn’t really know what to do. However, you do find that it is during these times that you learn the most and it gives you a real buzz because you are forced into a situation where you just have to get on with it and the next time you find things a lot easier.

I typically get in at around 07.30.

First, I check any orders we may have received overnight so that I know when we may need to buy or sell a specific metal. I then spend about an hour observing what happened overnight, particularly on the Shanghai Futures Exchange, log on to Bloomberg and Reuters, read analyst emails and look at what has traded on the electronic LME platform.

This enables me to compile my morning report, which I send out to our customers around 09.00. Before lunch, I help compile a more detailed report, which involves analysing changes in warehouse stock levels, price and spread movements and open interest changes. With news stories and research articles constantly appearing during the day, I need to keep abreast of market movements and information as this is a fast-moving environment, where anything can happen at a given moment.

For the rest of the day my tasks vary. I speak to clients, giving them commentary on the market, and working their orders. I regularly speak to brokers on the LME floor to get quotes and hear their market views. I also coordinate with the back office to make sure that trades are being cleared and that they have the information they require to enable them to process the trades.

Some days I am set projects such as designing the base metals website, researching a specific mine, or compiling a presentation.

Valuable lessons and tips

Always ask questions, even if you think it may be a silly one. You are going to learn much more quickly if you ask rather than trying to work something out yourself. People value your inquisitiveness and interest in their job and often love to tell you all about it.

I studied biology at university. Lots of people ask me, ‘why banking?’ I have found that it doesn’t really matter what degree you did as long as you have a desire to learn.

Graduates at RBC come from a huge variety of backgrounds from history to architecture to the more traditional subject of economics. There have also been many transferable skills from my degree, in particular data analysis and research. Every day is different, which I love as it keeps me on my toes.

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