Trading desk not willing to teach me


I am a trading analyst working in rates trading for a BB.
I was in sales before and I know the job is different, but it feels like in sales they really wanted to teach me and get the best out of me and make me become the best one in the street.

Here in trading, I know that my seniors have to manage their book and don’t have time to explain me stuff, but it really looks like they don’t want to teach me. They don’t care whether I become a good trader or not, they don’t want to get the best out of me, they just want to use me and take care of the boring back office stuff.

If I try to ask something I either get shouted or they tell me to go look on Google or read books, and I feel like I’m not learning anything and that I’m just lost. And the more time goes by, the more I fill I should know stuff, and the fact that I don’t know yet makes me fill more and more demoralized, stressed, and makes me lose my confidence.

I tried to speak with them but they say I should learn by myself and I don’t know what to do know. Maybe I am wrong ? Maybe I was simply lucky before in my previous team because the truth is BB is this one?


I understand where you're coming from. 

Did you just start this role in the last couple of months? I feel like when you first come into a new role, they just want you to do your job at hand. Especially when working with traders, it can be really easy to annoy them when continually asking questions or asking for more work to do. Crush your current job (however monotonous the work may be) and prove that you are competent. Once you do that, you will have increased your likeability amongst them and they will be more receptive to teaching you. At least that's how it was in my experience. 


How did you get the job without knowing how to do it? I would love that convenience.

In all seriousness, it just sounds like you don’t know the landscape- you may have some reading to do in the next few weeks, and lots of it. There are books and PDF guides written about nearly every job responsibility/market area you can imagine. Go back through the old stacks of textbooks, order some off of Amazon, or learn to Google for several hours per day, on and off the job, until you’re comfortable with your competence.

It might seem like a lot of work up front- several hours of reading after work for several weeks. Don’t stress about it, it’ll become manageable as you fill in the knowledge gaps.

In terms of asking your coworkers for help, it might be better if you keep a list of questions throughout the week and then see if someone can schedule a half hour or an hour to go through them with you. Exercise discretion, obviously, and make sure your questions are legitimate ones that don’t scream “I didn’t do any research and now I’m asking you”. Other than that, you should be fine. Good luck, chief.

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All else being equal, your senior colleagues will help you learn only what you were hired to do. In sales, it might've seemed different but it was probably easier to bring you along client events where you can shadow how they interact with clients and show you what you need to do to process trades in the system. They have an interest to do so because they can pass off their high touch, low profit generating clients that they probably don't want to keep.

In trading, its a little different story. As a junior trader / analyst, your job is just to make the senior trader's lives more simple and that will consist of all the back / middle office tasks. There really isn't much incentive for them to let you shadow them all day and tell you when and where to trade, and most importantly why. That you have to earn by being an absolute beast at your current role, being humble, and connect with your senior traders at a personal level. After a while, you'll probably have one or two of the traders you've been close to give you a chance.

They're not going to handhold you, you need to be prepared and do your own studying, and be fully prepared when opportunity comes knocking. If I can give you an analogy in programming, nobody is ever going to teach you how to code line by line. You have to self-study, learn the basics yourself and then ask smart questions or collaborate where it may be helpful to the other party as well.

Best of luck on your journey in finance. Not a lot of people make it to where you are and not a lot of people make it through the grind.


I find this one being a very possible answer. Often many people mask their ignorance by being secretive and trying to make you look stupid. There was an analyst in my FICC floor that was making a ton of valid points challenging current understanding and status quo. Team got annoyed and they fired them. Now the analyst is at a prop shop making 2x their previous boss. So yeah definitely sometimes people are just stupid and unfair, just like in school.

This obvs only applies if you have a good idea of what you’re saying/asking. If you’re truly not on par with the knowledge, then they might just really be annoyed. I’ve had juniors who would not understand stuff after 1/2 times I repeated and I just stopped putting effort in teaching.


In the  exact same position you are. Although, my desk isn't a BB. Very little structure, little to no effort in development, and random expectation of knowing to do certain tasks that only someone who has previously worked on a trade desk would know to be doing/how to do. It makes sense to have growing pains being a junior, but it also feels like seniors want someone to magically come on to a desk and be a rainmaker without any teaching or exposing to the actual business itself.


What would be your suggestion when you have a toxic manager? I've had all other traders on my desk tell me to be reaching out to new accounts and build a book of business. But our most senior trader tells me I must ask permission to call every account (and get brushed away most of the time). And when I find an account that is good. Instead of getting any positive feedback, I'm met with "Who gave you that account to call. I didn't tell you about them"

It feels like I genuinely am lost at the moment.


This is going to be blunt, so apologies in advance.

The reason that sales guys are so nice and empathetic is because they are sales people.  Their whole job is to get other people (especially nerds) to like them enough to trade with them, especially if pricing is competitive.  Their jobs are relatively simple - usually involving some amount of schmoozing after work- but during the day its glorified secretarial work - just copy/pasting chats between clients and traders.  So, it makes sense that they are warm, welcoming, and help you want to learn.  The other thing is that sales people don't have the "loss" part of P&L - they just get credits for doing deals and moving on, so it's not really similar to having a real P&L.

In trading, guys have volatile P&L, and get paid on it.  They can't really hide behind having sales credit on their trades.  For example, say you get some toxic flow from from a fund.  Maybe sales allocates $100k of P&L expected on it, but the trading desk gets run over, and luckily scratches on the trade.  The sales guy gets $100k on their name and continues on their merry way, while the trader gets to be flat, but get $100k taken out of their book (because its allocated to the sales guy).  Note that no economic value was added on this transaction, but essentially trading subsidized the sales people.  This doesn't really work the other way - you could have traders make more money than the sales credit, but there is no "clawback" of sales revenue typically.  

The bottom line is that trading has a lot less room for being bad at your job - there is a reason traders leave way more frequently than salespeople do.  Traders have to be good, and that means being able to not only do the day-to-day stuff, but developing the critical thinking skills and ability to learn about things on the fly.  In the beginning your job will be more rote (doing pnl, risk reports, working with back office on stuff), but just show them you are competent and want to learn and they will eventually open up.  With traders YOU NEED TO EARN THEIR RESPECT, and the best way to do that is showing that you can do the robotic stuff, you can think critically about things, and that you can research stuff on your own to a reasonable extent.  Try to carve out time during non-market hours (or schedule a meeting time ahead on the calendar) to go over this stuff, talk about trade ideas, and everything.  Their job is not to be your teacher or mentor, even though it's still largely an apprenticeship model.  They will if they think you're worth the time, but you can't be entitled enough to think that just because you're on a desk you deserve excess attention.  

Some people and desks suck, to be sure, but generally the bar for trading is a lot higher.  It's also why traders get paid more, both on average and median, although with much higher variance.  


i’ve been a trader and a salesperson and i somewhat agree with what you say, but not entirely. i’d assume that you are a trader and therefore you haven’t actually experienced the other side of the coin.

the treatment i’ve seen in sales and trading desk’s really varies, mostly because of who you work with. it’s not that sales are nice because they are salespeople. i’ve had my very fair share of extremely toxic, bottom notch people at a sales desk in a top BB (while having the exact opposite experience at a trading desk). there are good and bad managers (and good and bad people) everywhere.

on the pnl vs credits side: i don’t agree with you on the copy and paste side of things. salespeople bear a LARGE amount of risk taking, at least in my FICC product. i not only have to interpret communications (clients many time don’t even know what they are asking for) and make sure i transmit them in an efficient manner, but also have conversations with clients that know their shit (so i have to know what im talking about as well). sure, a sales desk “cannot” lose money itself, because we bake in our credits into the spread. but fuck up interpreting/managing a trade (which is VERY feasible, given the amount of flow and intensity we face) and you can easily mistrade/misbook. in the end we are all risk managers, just in different ways. added to all of this, in my desk we model each and every trade and we tie with traders before showing a price. many times, my traders are pricing shit the wrong way and i have to fucking walk them through a trade and explain them what they are doing wrong. take into account my sales experience was at a top notch BB.

salespeople manage counterparty and credit risk as well. we also have to take care of a lot of painful shit like understanding docs and their terms, funding and xva. baking that into trades while managing 4 trades simultaneously. understand your terms wrong and instead of making money, you lost it. it’s a much more complex job than what people think.

i would even argue that in my asset class, trading and selling are very comparable in terms of stress. and regarding seniors who are “warmer” that’s much more on a case by case basis

edit: and just to add one more point. that variance in pay is exactly why i am going to leave and go back to trading. the amount of work/stress/risk that sales desks take is IMO very similar to traders, and we have a much more limited upside that simply makes no sense to me. so it’s an easy decision to go back to trading, have the potential to make more money and not have to deal with counterparts or documentation term bullshit.


Man trading is a thing, and that’s really all I can say. It’s nut cutting to the nth degree. You conceptually know what is happening but until you are in the thick of it there isn’t a comparable experience available. Add that to the experience that it seems to never be what you thought it was is always eye opening. Keep showing up and stay late. Take time to go over what you did and what others did in certain situations. Hell a lot of the time people are making it up as they go. Just keep showing that you are there, doing the work and that you want to learn more. You have to obsess over the smallest details. So much of it is purely tacit. Most strong shops know this and build your losses from learning into their budget. Stick with it and someone will see your work and you will get better. Stay strong. 


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