3 Years in Back Office, now looking for path to the Front

I've been in back office ops for the past 3 years for a portfolio administrator/reporting company. I'd rather not stay to long and get sucked into the black hole. It was a good "in" to the industry but I think I've run my course there.

I've been exposed to numerous products: equities, FI, options, derivatives, structured products so I'm open to middle/front office positions dealing with just about anything. Equities interest me most along with options.

Long question short: what are your suggestions for my next realistic position that could lead to the front office in the future. Something in middle office for now? Something along the lines of credit/risk analyst? Should I am more for a trading/research assistant role?

Also would appreciate roles or paths to certainly avoid.

Thanks for any help!

Comments (33)

 
6/5/13

At 3 years out of undergrad and without plans to attend a top b-school, you already stayed too long to make that move. So by moving to a "middle office" role you're just kicking that can down the road and your chances will not improve. You'll be soon making another post asking if it's too late to graduate with an MBA at 30...or even worse, you'll be asking if you should sit for the CFA exams.

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6/5/13

I supposed that is the response I was expecting. Oh well, I'm not discouraged. I'll just have to pave my own road and have a hard ass because sounds like people sure like to kick.

 
6/5/13

SB'd Flake because he's absolutely right. It's the damn harsh truth.

Were you racking up any contacts/references/interviews during those 3 years?

 
6/5/13

You're in the black hole now, and you need to get out any way you can. I appreciate your candor about just wanting out, and now you need to do better: why did you put up with if for three years? Why do you want front office? Why do you think you stand a chance? Where is your best opportunity and how are you going to take advantage of it?

Three years is nothing, I know a guy who worked in IT for eight years before becomming an M&A banker....but he did his homework and made the full effort. If you want to move to a different job, you need to understand the people and the job, and find out where you can actually stand a chance of getting in. Step #1 is realizing change is needed, so good for you, now spend some time identifying where you want to go and why....and how you can pull it off.

Start looking at the jobs that interest you most and are most viable, and look first to smaller companies where the hiring isn't as structured. You might want to network directly with FO folks and get their opinion, switch to BO at a larger company to open up more opportunities, or get a masters degree to reset your recruiting options. Scrape this site for stories of how people got out of back office. Talk to your alma mater's professors. Start PM'ing people on this site. Breaking out of the rut your in will be a full time job, so talk to EVERYONE.

Seriously, anything is possible, you just need to figure out where your best chances are and then go for it.

Get busy living

 
6/6/13

I'd suggest getting creative:

-Corporate finance positions
-Apply to banking groups specializing in the financial industry (like a Sandler O'Neill or Keefe Bruyette Woods kind of thing, where they work with regional banks). Maybe you could leverage your experience saying that because you've worked back office, you understand the challenges and opportunities that financial firms face, and hence could better advise clients...long shot but again you need to get creative
-Maybe apply to a Morningstar kind of company

Can you expand what exactly you want to do? Ideal situation, NOT practical situation. If you could do anything, what would that be? Also what specifically have you done in back office? Did you get to work with performance reporting, rebalancing, what?

 
6/6/13

Been doing some good networking on Linkedin and had some conversations going back and forth with mid level guys in research and assistant PM type roles. I have a some calls lined up with a performance reporting guy at a larger asset manager and a small hedge fund PM/founder.

I'm really interested in the equity markets, researching companies, trying to find growth stories, trying to find ways to predict the market, searching for correlations. Trying to find what is trending. Understanding what's happening in the news and economic trends that will shape the future. I'm studying for the CFA (I know I'm asking for what's to come but take it easy, I'm being honest with you guys). So that is really getting me even more interested in the equity markets.

My firm does performance report so while I haven't been directly involved in the role, I've done supporting tasks such as revaluing holdings to be accurately valued for the period. I've done portfolio rebalancings per instructions from the PMs. Account reconciliations gave me a pretty good overview of a variety of different investment products but I emphasize broad and general. Currently I update private and hedge fund holdings and investigate discrepancies between fund data and client directed data.

Dream job situation would be an equity research analyst getting comp'd for recommendations that result in profits for the PM or fund and then eventually moving onto a PM position.

But I do realize my situation will be tough to get out of. If something opens up in fixed income, I would not automatically turn it down and probably would accept it if it allowed to be involved with research that will help the investment decision making process.

I know networking will be key here, explaining my story and really get people to understand what I want to do and show my passion for the topic area and determination to get there.

I've read the threads where some guys from Targets have this expectation that they "deserve" a certain standard. I know I'm up against this, maybe even some hiring managers will agree and say people of a certain pedigree do deserve a certain standard, they have big loans to pay off probably, give em a break. But I've been of the hard work mentality. I really want to earn my keep and I'll do what it takes to get there.

It goes beyond wanting to have something to brag about. I don't need friends to show off a Rolex or Lambo to. I can live a fine life without that. Rather I think my family deserves the rewards of me working hard and smart. I feel I should take full advantage of my potential opportunities.

Thanks again for the advice given and certainly for any more to come.

 
6/6/13
StreetGuy:

Been doing some good networking on Linkedin and had some conversations going back and forth with mid level guys in research and assistant PM type roles. I have a some calls lined up with a performance reporting guy at a larger asset manager and a small hedge fund PM/founder.

I'm really interested in the equity markets, researching companies, trying to find growth stories, trying to find ways to predict the market, searching for correlations. Trying to find what is trending. Understanding what's happening in the news and economic trends that will shape the future. I'm studying for the CFA (I know I'm asking for what's to come but take it easy, I'm being honest with you guys). So that is really getting me even more interested in the equity markets.

My firm does performance report so while I haven't been directly involved in the role, I've done supporting tasks such as revaluing holdings to be accurately valued for the period. I've done portfolio rebalancings per instructions from the PMs. Account reconciliations gave me a pretty good overview of a variety of different investment products but I emphasize broad and general. Currently I update private and hedge fund holdings and investigate discrepancies between fund data and client directed data.

Dream job situation would be an equity research analyst getting comp'd for recommendations that result in profits for the PM or fund and then eventually moving onto a PM position.

But I do realize my situation will be tough to get out of. If something opens up in fixed income, I would not automatically turn it down and probably would accept it if it allowed to be involved with research that will help the investment decision making process.

I know networking will be key here, explaining my story and really get people to understand what I want to do and show my passion for the topic area and determination to get there.

I've read the threads where some guys from Targets have this expectation that they "deserve" a certain standard. I know I'm up against this, maybe even some hiring managers will agree and say people of a certain pedigree do deserve a certain standard, they have big loans to pay off probably, give em a break. But I've been of the hard work mentality. I really want to earn my keep and I'll do what it takes to get there.

It goes beyond wanting to have something to brag about. I don't need friends to show off a Rolex or Lambo to. I can live a fine life without that. Rather I think my family deserves the rewards of me working hard and smart. I feel I should take full advantage of my potential opportunities.

Thanks again for the advice given and certainly for any more to come.

Definitely a good attitude. Keep at it and maybe you will be one of the outliers. Keep us posted too.

Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into SWANSONS.

 
6/6/13

Honestly, you have a pretty good attitude and that's a large part of this. You'd be surprised at how many people have very humble backgrounds in finance. I'm very heavily biased towards networking being key, and the CFA is step in the right direction.

Also look at non finance jobs. Think of it this way: if you land a F500 role that positions you well for bSchool, then you're going to up your chances of landing your dream job later on down the road, and you'd be surpised at how well these people regard finance folks of all strips....BO, FO, or otherwise, they often don't know the difference. Take advantage of every opportunity to build your resume and don't pigeonhole yourself.

Get busy living

 
6/7/13

I was going to say the same thing about your attitude once I read your initial response to Flake. Dude I wish you the best of luck man! :)

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6/7/13

I'd look at maybe a credit role at a bank. Maybe do an MSF with a 1+1 option like Vandy and roll into a senior corp finance role or try for MM banking.

BO can suck, but you can also move up. How about a different group or different bank. You'll make a decent living in the BO if you keep at it. Maybe relocate so you can do a part time MBA at say Rice or Chicago or NYU.

Keep a positive attitude and look for the next incremental step. You'll get there.

Masters in Finance HQ - The #1 site for everything related to the MSF degree!
MSFHQ

 
6/7/13

Thanks for the encouragement!

Just want to run a few positions past you guys that I've been recruited for in the past. I wasn't in position to take advantage unfortunately at the time due to some personal obligation but they keep reoccuring (warning sign?) frequently:

Treasury operations, P&L, Credit Risk analyst positions at a large investment bank. They sound broad, step up in pay for sure, but good choices as a next move?

Treasury ops, P&L, pricing validation analyst (sounds like operations!), at a $13 Billion AUM hedge fund.

The P&L and credit risk roles sound like they could be a next step in the bridge. Treasury and pricing analyst sounds operational but might be good as well as it places me inside a bank and hedge fund.

I see these positions come up regularly too, almost quarterly, especially at the hedge fund. It's a slight warning sign that they possibly keep hiring someone and letting them go for whatever reason, either the job is difficult to master, company sucks, etc.

I was also thinking of possibly looking into a "due diligence" type of role.

If you guys have any thoughts, suggestions, warnings, I'd love to hear it.

Thanks!

 
6/8/13

Credit risk is usually MO type roles. I'd most likely go that route.

Masters in Finance HQ - The #1 site for everything related to the MSF degree!
MSFHQ

 
6/11/13

Just recently got in contact and scheduled an interview with the president of a small/boutique investment banking firm that is starting up a subsidiary platform to make it easier for more individual Qualified Investors to invest in capital raising deals.

Seems like an open interview, I suppose we'll just talk and see what I've been doing and looking for.

My ideal scenario is obtaining an "associate" type position and help analyze, gather data, do any due diligence on companies they consider offering to their clients, that would be really interesting work to me.

I'd like to get thoughts from more experience members who work in this space and how would this type of opportunity sound to you if you were in my position? Any red flags to look for?

Last thing I need to do is jump at something that might be promising, not know what to look for, and have the job being completely different than promised with no growth or experience gain.

Always hesitent to talk about compensation but if anyone's comfortable, what's realistic for an associate at a startup/small/boutique firm?

 
8/18/13

Just had a phone interview for a mid office job at a 6B+ hedge fund and was invited for an in-person interview. Any tips on what to expect? The hiring manager seemed to have vetted me pretty well in getting to know my previous applicable skills. Figure he thinks I can do the job and now it's a likability competition. How would you guys prepare?

 
8/18/13

Depends on what type of position it is
what's the job title?

You will most likely be meeting with others and you should still be prepared for technical questions.

 
8/18/13

Title is actually mid-office analyst. Basicly valuing the positions of the traders and PM's. Some p&l work. Discovering discrepancies.

I'm making sure I have good technical examples and at least an understanding of some software I haven't used before tgat was mentioned I the phone call.

 
9/9/13

Curious, how did this turn out for you?

"I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious." "

 
9/9/13

This is rather belated but you just need to flip the switch. Plenty of people make the move, it just takes time. Also, looking outside of NYC probably is helpful

I'm on the pursuit of happiness and I know everything that shine ain't always gonna be gold. I'll be fine once I get it

 
9/9/13

Someone else posted a success story about how he just completely switched industries after working in BB BO.

Other industries get wet at "GS/JP/MS" on the resume, without knowing how BS the BO role is.

 
9/16/13

Not belated advice at all as I'm still in the search. I haven't heard back from the hedge fund I interviewed with. I followed up but no responses. Figure it's a no but certainly not waiting around for them. I've applied to some other funds just recently, one for a client service type role and another doing P&L recon and providing some commentary on it. Main focus has been just to get a foot into the door at a capital mgmt firm. I'll play the politics to work up once in. I have noticed an uptick in recruiters reaching out to me. So far the jobs have been reconciliations or fund accounting work.

 
9/16/13
StreetGuy:

Not belated advice at all as I'm still in the search. I haven't heard back from the hedge fund I interviewed with. I followed up but no responses. Figure it's a no but certainly not waiting around for them. I've applied to some other funds just recently, one for a client service type role and another doing P&L recon and providing some commentary on it. Main focus has been just to get a foot into the door at a capital mgmt firm. I'll play the politics to work up once in. I have noticed an uptick in recruiters reaching out to me. So far the jobs have been reconciliations or fund accounting work.

Those roles are very hard to break out of. Best bet now is serious networking, additional credentials, or an MBA.

I'm on the pursuit of happiness and I know everything that shine ain't always gonna be gold. I'll be fine once I get it

 
9/16/13
pktkid10:
StreetGuy:

Not belated advice at all as I'm still in the search. I haven't heard back from the hedge fund I interviewed with. I followed up but no responses. Figure it's a no but certainly not waiting around for them. I've applied to some other funds just recently, one for a client service type role and another doing P&L recon and providing some commentary on it. Main focus has been just to get a foot into the door at a capital mgmt firm. I'll play the politics to work up once in. I have noticed an uptick in recruiters reaching out to me. So far the jobs have been reconciliations or fund accounting work.

Those roles are very hard to break out of. Best bet now is serious networking, additional credentials, or an MBA.

I'm definitely networking with people at the companies I want to work in, mostly through Linkedin and seeing how things work from there. When jobs open up, I let them know about my interest.

Right now I'm at a fund administrator so getting into a investment mgmt firm is my priority, I'm open to different roles.

For credentials I've started studying for the CFA but was thinking CAIA might also be relevant.

When given the opportunity, I love discussing the markets. From my own observations, I'm comfortable saying that I'm the most interested in the markets out of all the individuals in my current office. Not knocking them. I've simply observed many will be on ESPN.com or CNN while I'm on Google Finance watching the markets.

 
9/17/13

Wish you the best of luck. I think the CFA is a more common name than CAIA, however I could be mistaken. Regardless, you're taking the right steps to get some looks.

Headhunters often only have their best interest in mind. Also, they're being paid top dollar to place someone in what's effectively the best fit/price for the company. So, it's very difficult to work through them and transition; I've tried, it didn't work.

At the right place you can work your ass off and make the move (so I've heard).

I'm on the pursuit of happiness and I know everything that shine ain't always gonna be gold. I'll be fine once I get it

 
9/16/13

Once you go through the back door... you aren't allowed in the front.

 
9/16/13
GoIllini:

Once you go through the back door... you aren't allowed in the front.

Are we still talking finance?

 
9/16/13

Good luck. It sounds like you have the right attitude, but I also want to ask this: would you mind being in BO/MO and work your way up to a comfortable salary with good hours (9-6)?

Some other guy here was lamenting the fact that he was in Risk Management at a HF making $300k after 7 years experience.

 
9/16/13

$300K with or without bonus? Almost a non factor as yes I would be comfortable with that figure. But that sounds like you would need to be head of Risk Mgmt for that, no? Would it take a MBA to get there or would the FRM designation suffice?

 
9/16/13

Good attitude, but get in touch with two- three headhunters. Make amazing impressions to them and they'll try their hardest to get you a step up.

 
9/17/13

i feel you man... after interning at a BB in a BO role i'm literally open to doing anything but that. basically applying everywhere to see if anyone bites and going from there. keep at it man. spent a decent amount of time talking to the right people this summer internally and still am unsure of whether or not i'll land an interview.

 
9/17/13

Thanks for words of encouragement guys, I appreciate it.

The jobs game is interesting. I'll get headhunters approach me with something too similar to what I do now but when I find something I like and is a realistic step up... I hear crickets when I reach out. I lost my love of headhunters a while ago and instances like that keep confirming it. I'm getting better feedback contacting people who work at firms through LinkedIn.

I probably sound like I'm all over the place but another designation that has sparked my interest is the FRM. Besides the importance of risk, the coursework in the program seems relevant to a lot of the requirements I see for job ads that interest me especially having knowledge of derivatives valuations and some sort of risk knowledge.

I'll keep investigating

Having said all that, I agree with alargefox BO works to get some experience in the industry, a spring board, but you gotta be sure to spring off of it when the time comes. In the mean time we need to be stand up guys and commit to doing solid work until our opportunities come up.

 
9/21/13

Update: have a phone interview scheduled with a capital mgmt company. It's an ops position in the emerging markets strategy. This would keep me in ops a while longer however it does place me inside an investment mgmt firm, about $80B AUM. I figure I can then focus on working up from within.

Might have another opportunity for middle office in a derivatives office. Reconciling activity and making sure pricing and valuations are in line. Sounds back-office-ish but I'd appreciate the experience in working more with derivatives.

Derivatives, alternative investments, forex, and emerging markets are all very interesting to me so that's why I'm giving these roles consideration. Soposedly both offer interaction with traders and PMs.

I'll let you guys know how it turns out.

 
9/22/13

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