Is Sales & Trading the Right Career for You? A Discussion with 7 Morgan Stanley S&T Professionals

Published: May 14, 2020

 Finance       Job Search       
Article image

Sales and trading careers are among the most dynamic, exciting, challenging, and rewarding. And there’s perhaps no better place to pursue a sales and trading career than New York-based global financial services giant Morgan Stanley—which offers a wide range of S&T roles, for all types of backgrounds and skillsets. 

Recently, Vault spoke with several S&T professionals in Morgan Stanley’s Institutional Equities Division and its Fixed Income Division—Kow A., Managing Director, FID; April S., Managing Director, IED; Sage Z., Managing Director, FID; Jack C., Executive Director, IED; Erin B., Vice President, FID; Jon L., Associate, IED; and Catherine F., Analyst, IED.

Vault spoke with these professionals about what makes S&T such an exciting and challenging career, how junior professionals can gain early responsibility, how Morgan Stanley helps junior professionals grow, and what their most exciting days on the trading floor look like. Below is an edited version of that conversation.

Vault: What makes Sales & Trading a unique, exciting, and challenging career?

April: It’s dynamic, high energy, and you learn something new every day. You don’t know what to expect from the day or even the next hour, which means you have to constantly be thinking on your feet and be proactive. It makes for an exciting career. I’ve been in the same role for 15 years and am still exposed to new products. Also, S&T has a flat structure, which creates a collaborative environment. It also exposes newer employees to senior management and clients early in their careers.

Sage: Constantly changing markets and the never-ending flow of information ensure that no two days are the same. As markets move, clients’ needs also change. Staying abreast of these moving markets and the evolving needs of clients is a big part of the challenge—and fun—of working in Sales & Trading. Watching the markets react to global events and news in real time and anticipating those moves as they’re unfolding to stay in front of clients is both the most exciting and challenging aspect of the job.

Jack: S&T sits in the center of everything. It touches every part of the bank. On a daily basis, you’re working closely with reps from Capital Markets, Research, and Investment Banking to provide the best solutions to your clients. You get to learn from all members of the bank. And you’re constantly interacting with some of the brightest equity investors, which can be demanding but also very rewarding.

Jon: The work is fast-paced and constantly changing. There’s always something new to learn. For example, we’re now trending towards efficiency with electronic trading. Information is more readily available, which gives an edge to banks that can leverage data in the most efficient and profitable way. This new technology and data has affected the way banks make decisions. Banks have to adapt and be willing to see the bigger picture and throw out the old way of doing certain tasks.

Vault: Tell us about your most exciting day on the trading floor.

Kow: In 2018, we closed a renewable energy deal with Facebook. It was the first of its kind. Getting to the finish line on that was a big deal. Facebook was a new client. There was a big announcement at the state capital of Georgia. It was very exciting.

Sage: The most exciting days are when there’s a lot of volatility and markets are moving. On the night of the Brexit vote, for example, the entire New York trading floor was staffed until the middle of the night when results came in. Markets were moving fast, and clients needed to be able to get information and execute trades to hedge their positions in real time.

Erin: Promotion day is one of the most exciting days on the trading floor every year. We celebrate employees stepping up and getting elevated and the recognition they deserve. It’s amazing to see people come together and celebrate the success of people they care about after spending so much of their time with them every day. Given that it’s always a very busy time at the beginning of the year, I think it really gets people excited to kick things off for the year.

Catherine: I sit on our LatAm sales desk, and one of my most exciting days last year was the Monday after the former Argentine President Mauricio Macri lost major ground in the general election primaries to Alberto Fernandez, now the current Argentine president. Following the surprise outcome of the primaries, Argentina equities were down around 45 percent (twice what the Dow fell on Black Monday in 1987). It was the second largest single-day decline in history, only rivaled by Sri Lanka’s bourse tumbling more than 60 percent in June 1989 as the nation was engulfed in a civil war. It was a historical moment to watch but also a tough one, knowing that many clients I work closely with felt the pain of that surprise market reaction.

Vault: How do you recommend S&T analysts gain responsibility early on in their careers?

April: Once you’ve proven you can handle your given responsibilities, Morgan Stanley will give you the opportunity to grow. We’ll give you additional accounts, projects, and clients at an early point in your career because we see your potential. I found my niche within my team very early in my career, which gave me the opportunity to add value and grow within my team. It also allowed me to thrive through many different kinds of business cycles including 2008 and now.

Kow: S&T is really about merit. People will give you as much as you’re able to handle. As soon as you prove yourself, people will hand you responsibility, regardless of title—which doesn’t happen often in other areas. Early in my career, I had a meeting with eight MDs. I was the only analyst in the meeting since I was the one who did all the work. You’re only invited to meetings if you have something to say. In S&T, if you have something to say, no matter your title, people want to hear it.

Erin: Initially I think it’s all about doing the little things right. Have a conversation early on with your manager to understand what’s expected of you in your role and focus on being great at that and figure out what you want your personal brand to be. While some of the little tasks in your job at first may not seem all that important at the time, it’s important to understand that paying attention to the little details helps build your credibility and allows the people above you to have trust in you and confidence in the work you produce. It’s also extremely important to make sure you’re putting yourself out there and getting to know individuals at all levels of seniority, and not just within your specific team or trading group. People need to get to know you first before they feel comfortable giving you more responsibility. Investing in relationships is the key to elevating yourself.

Catherine: The best way to differentiate yourself is to work harder than anyone else—go the extra mile with projects, do more than what’s asked of you and do it as quickly as possible. It’s key from the start to establish this “brand” of how your coworkers perceive you and make it known that you’re a hard worker and someone to rely on. You also have to ask for more responsibility. Even if you don’t immediately get what you ask for, you’ll be top of mind for any opportunities that arise in the future.

Vault: How does your team help its analysts develop and grow?

Sage: Analysts are immediately in the flow of the desk—expected to both learn and contribute at a very fast pace. As analysts learn and grow, they earn more and more responsibility. It’s not uncommon for analysts to be trading live risk and handling clients solo very early in their careers.

Erin: On the sales side, analysts will work directly with both a senior and junior salesperson who will take them under their wings and introduce them to work with their specific client account base. They’re given responsibility and get access to these clients very early on. They’re able to observe and learn from those around them and constantly ask questions and get real-time feedback to help them learn from mistakes, which is extremely important given the fast-paced nature of the business. Our overall trading group also coordinates a series of “teach-ins” when analysts first join. “Teach-ins” allow analysts to learn about all the different parts of the business, and offer a ton of additional resources to help them build their product knowledge in their specific areas and learn about other areas they may be interested in.

Jon: My desk understands that the market is constantly changing and that developing people and their skills for the future of work is critical.  We’re constantly updating the new analyst curriculum to give analysts the opportunity to learn new skill sets and grow their expertise in new technologies/software. We’re looking for new analysts to become subject matter experts.

Catherine: From the start, my team has analysts working closely with senior individuals on the team, usually sitting them directly next to each other. This allows analysts to follow seniors’ lead, ask questions, join client meetings, and see how they conduct calls and client requests. Analysts grow through observation and exposure to very senior people, who take analysts under their wings as mentors and teachers. Beyond this, analysts get responsibility very early on—they’re thrown into the fire—which forces them to learn quickly. “Teaching sessions” are also available where analysts learn about different concepts and products, allowing them to continue to broaden their knowledge.

This post was sponsored by Morgan Stanley.