Sales & Trading is a function of front office investment banking. Sales people analyze research from equity specialists and then try to sell this advice to institutional investors. The company makes a commission on this information and this helps the client trade through the banks trading platform. Sometimes your client (e.g. hedge fund) may give you some cash and you are responsible for investing this on behalf of them (although this is for more senior sales people).
Traders ‘Make Markets’. In its simplest form this is providing liquidity to institutional investors. i.e. Hedge fund X has £10m of Apple Shares. The traders will decide on how much to buy the shares for, and will seek a buyer (taking a commission). If no buyer can be found, the bank may take on proprietary risk, if they believe they can profit from the trade. Banks, also take on shares even if they expect a loss (if the client provides a lot of commission for the bank), as banks are needed for market liquidity.
The skills differ quite a lot for each job: Sales people need to be more extroverted and confident. They will have to convince investors to buy or sell X, and also manage relationships. You will also be expected to wine and dine with clients after work. Traders however need to be more analytical, and more recently have to be proficient in code (Python, R etc). As we see a larger shift into algorithmic trading, many jobs require this skill set.
Notable employers are listed but not limited to the ones below.
1st Year Student (3 Year Course)/ 2nd Year Student (4 Year Course)
Most if not all the popular Investment Banks offer spring internships to students in their 1st year of university if the student is on a 3 year course or 2nd year of university if the student is on a 4 year course. The programs usually last for the duration of a few days to 2 weeks depending on the bank and occurs during the spring holidays. A spring internship is used as a stepping stone to attaining a summer internship in the same firm the following year as it is not uncommon that the banks offer summer internships to students who perform well during the spring week.
Penultimate Year Student
Most if not all the Investment Banks offer internships to penultimate year students in the form of summer internships. Penultimate year students are 2nd year students on a 3 year course or a 3rd year students on a 4 year course. The internships usually last for 8-10 weeks on average at a specific area within the Sales & Trading department.
All Investment Banks offer graduate jobs to students who have graduated from university and are looking for jobs in Sales & Trading. Graduate jobs are available across most if not all parts of the Sales & Trading department.
The recruitment process for Sales & Trading is similar to Spring Week applications for roles in Investment Banking. The most salient variation might be the emphasis of questions on investment strategies, market analysis and stock pitches. Please refer to section on Investment Banking for more details.
The application process usually opens in September, and for most banks, they recruit on a first come, first serve basis (with the exception of Goldman Sachs and a few others)
Stage 1 (Online Applications/ Psychometric Testing)
It goes without saying that one needs impeccable academics and the minimum requirement is AAB at a level / international equivalent. In reality however, applications that are successful usually have much higher grades (think A*AA+). This by no means eliminates you from securing a job if you don’t have this, but you better make sure that you have a lot of extra-curricular activities to impress.
Usually in the online application there is a set pro forma questions that you need to fill out: “Why Sales/Trading”, “Why X Bank” etc. These should be tailored to the company as best as possible. Look on the respective websites for what they look for in employees.
Applicants will also be asked to submit a CV. This should be 1 page in length and you should include everything the applicant has to impress. Keep in mind that as most people applying will be part of a finance society, applicants need a lot more than that to stand out. Examples can include but are not limited to work experience in other financial institutions (Spring weeks etc) and any achievements that make the applicant stand out (100% in X exam, climbed X mountain, launched X business making X)
After submitting the application, most banks require applicants to complete online psychometric math tests. Applicants should aim to excel in these tests so as so have a higher chance of going to the next round of the application process.
While these tests are not too tricky, they may be daunting for some. However, as with normal examinations, practice makes perfect. The University of Manchester has practice psychometric tests on its Career Services website and it is not uncommon for applicants to go to websites such as CEB and purchase the test packet for additional practice.
Stage 2 (Psychometric Testing 2)
If the applicant makes it to the next round, he or she may be required to sit another numerical test, just to ensure that there was no cheating on the prior test. If the applicant’s score deviates too far from the original, his or her application will usually be withdrawn from the application process.
Stage 3 (Assessment Center)
Successful applicants who reach the final stage of the recruitment process will be invited to give a group / individual presentation. The presentation will be on a basic SWOT analysis, so practice analyzing a few companies prior to get the technique right for the day. With regards to the presentation, the main things to keep in mind are to always speak with confidence, eloquence and have strong financial knowledge. One way to rehearse is to practice presenting something at home and ensure that the presentation comes off as being professional.
On the same day, the applicant will usually then be interviewed by someone from Human Resources (HR). They will ask a set of basic competency questions. Applicants should prepare beforehand on how to answer these questions and they should always be backed up with relevant real life examples from the past experiences of the applicant. In addition, applicants should also emphasize on why they want to work in that specific firm by drawing reference to the firm’s core competencies or core values when answering their questions.
Finally, the applicant will be interviewed by someone from Sales or Trading. There will usually be some technical questions. This can be practiced, but as mentioned in the Investment Banking section, applicants should make it a point to read the FT regularly and be on top of all the latest financial news. During the interview, applicants will usually be asked a few brainteasers to see how he or she thinks. These are hard to practice, but this enables the interviewer to see if the applicant is logically minded and will fit the culture of the firm.
The recruitment process for graduate roles in Sales & Trading is similar to that of the process for the summer internship program. In summary, the recruitment process starts with the online application and psychometric tests and ending with the assessment center. It should be noted that this is not a fixed recruitment process for all firms. Some firms may have slight variations in their recruitment process and it is always advisable to check with the firm to fully understand their entire recruitment process.