My experience with UBS began in 2013 when I took part in the UBS Insights Week with Equities Sales as my main area of interest.
Students on my degree course often have a greater level of early career awareness than average, and so when a friend in the year above suggested I apply, it seemed like a good opportunity to learn about an industry which was totally alien to me. I had a great experience on UBS Insights Week, and was able to secure a place on the 2014 summer internship, where I completed rotations in a couple of sales roles, before eventually being hired to the UK Cash Sales team – my present role.
To an extent my bio shows you how and why I got into banking in the first place – I took an opportunity to try out an unknown industry. That said, perhaps what is more relevant is why I have seen it through to graduate level and not been tempted away by alternatives such as consulting. I would put this down to a combination of the role and the people at UBS. We’ve all heard horror stories of banking, either relating to the working hours or the culture, and while early starts on the desk can be tough at times, the challenges of the role and the willingness of more experienced co-workers to help you develop understanding and style go a long way to compensate.
What do you actually do?
I tend to describe Cash Sales as different to most other sales roles – rather than selling a product where technical understanding is your significant point of difference, a Cash Salesperson is essentially the seller of ideas. Much of my day to day is therefore spent:
- Reading company news and updates
- UBS Research
- Finding stories that are important and relevant to stocks, and then getting to grips with my analysis.
Naturally there are also routine tasks which fall to the desk junior, for instance compiling the general morning email, but these have given me an early taste of responsibility as well as great exposure which is really invaluable.
You’ve mentioned style a bit, what do you mean?
Sales people, especially in the Cash world, will have different styles in the same way they have different personalities. When I started, I spent time listening into people’s conversations with clients, and it quickly became apparent that you do not have to be the stereotypical, assertive stockbroker to succeed. Ultimately there is one common denominator when comparing everyone’s sales interactions, and that is they all share conviction!
Is there anything that sets UBS apart?
The answer to this is an honest yes. On a macro level, the selective strategy taken by management has helped maintain our market-leading position within Cash and Derivatives, as well as to become pace-setters in newer areas within Equity Finance and Prime Brokerage. On a micro level, UBS offers something different at all levels of entry:
- Applicants for first year programmes can either apply for the Insights Week or try for a place on the Horizons programme which offers great opportunities for travel and charity work.
- While rotations are not a new concept, those offered as part of the graduate scheme are set apart from those in other banks where the ultimate aim is to learn things that can help in your hired role, rather than spend a year fighting for a job. As part of the rotational program I have had two enjoyable months with the Global Equity Finance team, working with products I did not even know existed before I made the move. It’s given me experience I know will benefit me later down the line.
- Outside of my formal work, UBS are also sponsoring my CFA examinations, giving me the chance to continue formal education while learning skills that will help me in my career.
What are the hardest elements of the job?
The early starts within Sales are definitely not something I’d pick out of choice, but the positive here is that I have an earlier finish than some. I can factor in having a social life, studying for exams, and staying active after work. Beyond this, my daily challenge is making sure I have read enough of what’s important each day to really get what’s going on. If you don’t make the effort in the morning your day can easily fall off-pace, and this can be problematic over time.
Do you have any advice on how to get into the industry?
Getting a spring insight week or internship is a real boost to anyone aspiring to work in finance. From the employer’s perspective they offer an extended interview where they get to know your strengths and whether you would fit into the organisation through seeing how you work in a team. But the real positive is that as an intern you get to experience what it would be like to work at a firm full time, and make your own mind up as to whether you actually want to.
If you can only apply to a graduate programme, more will be expected of you in terms of how proactively you have read up on finance and current news, but ultimately the same decision about fit and competence is made just in a shorter interview and assessment centre format.
My last piece of advice is to show genuine interest and curiosity. Even if you weren’t born holding a copy of the Financial Times, your capacity and desire to learn can go a long way.