Like most teenagers I found it hard to know what I wanted to do in life. I opted to study economics and finance at university, because I wasn’t passionate about maths and couldn’t see where literature or languages would take me. After graduating I heard of a postgraduate diploma created in association with the major French banks. This two-year degree included two three-month internships at a financial institution. The director boasted that all the students had found work within a few months of graduating, which was appealing to a young French person in the 90s – then, like now, recession had made recruitment prospects tough for graduates.
A vast world
There are many types of risk specialisations, including market, operational, credit and regulatory risk. Operational risk provides more opportunity to look at processes and interact with people, whilst investment and credit risk are more analytical – it’s important to find and work to your strengths, but there’s a lot of scope to move in between specialisations.
I’ve moved across all of these areas, and enjoyed all specialisations and sectors, so I find it hard to recommend a particular one to students.
Step by step
My first roles in risk were mostly about reporting. I had a lot to learn about communication and key indicators, before moving on to learn more about risk identification and risk profiling.
Communication and interpersonal skills are among the most important traits you will need to be successful in the risk management profession. It is difficult to identify and measure risk adequately, but it is even harder to convince decision makers to make different, often hard, decisions such as closing down a position, a product or a business or investing in a new process based on that analysis.
Location, location, location
When working in financial markets, you have to be ready to live in a main city.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work in Paris, Milan and London. However, I could not find work in Lyon, where I was born, even though it is the second biggest city in France. The exchange there closed long ago. Financial companies only have sales offices in smaller cities such as Lyon.
My role today
I am in charge of portfolio risk for Schroders. That means that I define the minimum standards in terms of independent risk oversight. I also manage a team in London which implements those standards.
Overseas we rely on locally based risk managers with whom I work closely. I also work closely with the team in Luxembourg which specialises in the UCITS (Undertakings for Collective Investments in Transferable Securities, the European regulatory framework for a collective investment that can be marketed in all EU countries) and other related regulations.
A typical day is full of meetings. I have one to one meetings (four a week!) to guide my team members and help them prioritise their tasks, as well as a weekly team meeting, a one to one with my manager and a weekly team meeting with his direct reports.
In addition I have to attend most of the monthly or quarterly Risk Committee meetings (eight of them in total) and the Investment Risk projects working party and steering groups. On top of that I have to find time to review all the important risk profiles and risk reports and, most importantly, implement changes. Finally there is recruitment, training, budgeting and planning. I never have time to get bored!
I love my job, but there is a lot of pressure as we manage more and more complex products and regulations change at a fast pace.
There are also many new regulatory requirements (BASEL II, UCITS IV, Solvency II) and the industry best practices are changing fast. Institutional clients are more demanding and are asking for more risk reporting since the 2008/2009 crisis, which means there’s always a lot of new territory to cover – it’s an exciting place to be, and an area of finance that’s only going to get bigger in the years to come.