Have I messed up my future?

Hi everyone. I have big concerns about my future and would like to ask the community for help.

First let me tell you about my background.
I have a bachelors degree in Accounting and Finance from a non target Eastern European university. I had a 1 year internship at a F500 company in accounting and a 10 month internship in the financial advisory department of a Big 4, mostly doing valuations. I was offered a FT role, but had I taken it, it would be hard to get out of my country to a city like London.

I desperately wanted to get a FT FO offer from a BB, which wasn't possible in my country as there are none. (think small Eastern European country in the adriatics). After applying online to many IB and S&T internships, of which I didn't even get an interview out of, I got a role in a top tier BB in Central/Eastern Europe outside my native country. This role is an analyst in the Valuation Control Group of the BB, mostly doing mark review, among other things you probably already now better than me.

Now I am thinking I made a mistake, so I have a few questions regarding the best steps to take to eventually land an FO gig, and I hope the good people of WSO can help me.

1) Is this a MO or BO role? It seems as a MO role but googling didn't give me a definite answer.

2) What are the best steps for me to take to secure a future in a FO role? Stay here for 6/12/18 months and try to move internally to a risk management position, try to find a boutique that would take me into a FO analyst role, quit the job and go back to my home country or do something else entirely? If I should stay, please indicate how long should I wait before looking for new offers elsewhere. B school is out of the question as I can not afford it.

3) What are the main things I should focus on if I want to have any chance of moving to a FO role like trading, did I make a giant mistake by accepting this?

4) I will learn a lot about various financial products, pricing and control, that's for sure, however, how transferable are these skills to a trading desk or any other kind of a FO role, not necessarily at a BB?

I really appreciate any help I could get, as I am really concerned I messed up my future, but the main reason I took this position was to get out of my shitty country. Now I am confused and unsure if I had made a right choice.

I am willing to do anything and everything to get where I wanna be, and am planning to take the CFA exam, but I want to make sure I am going in the right direction and not making cardinal mistakes that would destroy any chance of getting a FO role.

Thank you very much for your help.

Comments (35)

Most Helpful
Feb 11, 2019

Doesn't sound much like a MO role. People get too caught up and get worried for no reason. A guy I know at BMO worked in settlements and moved to FO, not doing trading but somewhere in FO. Another guy who was in MO and was a associate director, I think maybe aged 40 got into rates trading for the first time. Just prove your worth... I assume you're at JP Morgan and the opportunities there are endless. I trade full-time and it sucks, long hours. I come in at 6am and trade til 2:30 and unwind down my position + continue trading. Work with other traders to develop strategies. Get scolded if I lose money and explain why I took the risk and feel like the biggest POS and don't want to come in tomorrow. Plus being forced to make markets OTC and getting fucked in a position in the red pack spreads and unable to get out and you're P/L gets fucked and your boss is the one that forced you. Yeah... It's not fun. Call yourself rather lucky. FO job security are volatile.

    • 6
Feb 11, 2019

Thanks a lot for the answer. It's not JP, but pretty close. So you think I should stay and try to make my way here?

Feb 11, 2019

Stay but don't show your boss and the people around you that you don't want to be there. When I was in MO, I kind of acted like I didn't want to be there and it hurt my relationship with my boss and this boss was the kind of person that would have gone until end for me, as she did for other people but we didn't end in good terms. At the end of the day, this industry is smaller than people think and trust me, you don't want to jump around or build bad relationships.

    • 1
Feb 14, 2019

6:30am to 2:30pm with no weekend work..? Those sound like pretty reasonable hours to me. Why do you trade if you dislike it so badly that you are convincing someone to not pursue a role? Why not move to back office yourself, since it seems you would be a better fit for it?

    • 1
Feb 11, 2019

I love trading, it's stressful. We all know that. At the end of the day, people get into trading because of the money, absolutely no other reason. Not because the market excites us, blah blah, it's about the money. Another trader told me he was interviewing a candidate who came right out of school and asked him why he wanted to get into trading and the student said "exciting, fast paced"... you know, same shit you expect to hear. The trader looked at him and said "Well we're here to get rich", lol. So yeah, it's about the money... Besides back office and middle office gets treated like shit, from my own experience and it doesn't pay shit, no thanks. Well 2:30 isn't over... I have to unwind down my positions til 5:00 and maybe stay til 6 for the market to open back up. I'm currently stuck with spreads in the red pack and I'm losing like 10 grand a day and I can't get out of it over the counter or on the screen... also discuss new strategies, put that into algos, talk about our day, etc.

    • 1
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Feb 11, 2019

Would appreciate more thoughts on this, thank you.

Feb 11, 2019

Listen, one thing I learned, no one owes you anything, especially in this industry. It's a dog eat dog world. You want to get a shot, better yourself or take risk. I'm taking on python classes. Do I want to? No... I'm also planning to get back to school to finish out a math degree. Do I want to? No... When I came back from the Navy and knew absolutely nothing and my buddy told me about trading, I took my own money and joined a prop shop and lost money but I knew trading is what I wanted to do and worked my ass off, studying, learning products, learning everything I can, losing my family and friends because to me, working was more important. Am I going to regret it some day? Probably. Just do whatever you can to give yourself an edge. Maybe get a middle office role and stay there for 2 years and try to get a junior trade role at a small shop and work your way up. I first started in this industry at back office, moved to middle and then front... I worked my ass off but I'm still not happy. I'm always hungry because some other asshole is trying take food out of my mouth.

    • 5
Feb 11, 2019

Thank you for the reply. Could you please elaborate on how you positioned yourself and what steps you took to make the transition to FO?

Feb 12, 2019

congrats on the job. if it's a big bb, work hard and opportunities will open up.

Feb 11, 2019

Thank you. It is, it's a top 4 bb

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Feb 12, 2019

Firstly, and this goes to pretty much all student monkeys here, it's extremely unlikely you would've messed up your future at age 22, unless you did some major crime. That doesn't mean you wouldn't need to work hard to position yourself better in order to pursue your goals.

So, on your questions:
1) If you're working directly with the traders, it's likely MO, but the MO/BO line is often blurred at banks. That being said, different roles would have an easier transition to FO than others, such as risk or technology.

2) You mention you'll be based in CEE for a top 4 BB (assume this is Citi, since BAML doesn't have offices in CEE apart from Athens and JPM/GS/MS are typically bundled together as top 3). It's possible to transfer to front office, but you'll need to network well with FO and get your MD to put in a good word for you. But the question is, are you in the same office as FO? Most of the trading for CEE is still done from London as far as I know, so if you are not located in the same office as the FO desk, you should aim to first transfer to the MO team in that office. Start doing that as soon as possible, but try not to show to your team that you're not happy to be there from day 1.
A top MBA is another solution to go to FO. Don't worry about the money. Few people can pay cash, you can get a loan and some scholarships and you'll be fine.

3) It's not a mistake to take a job if you don't have other options. Some relevant experience is better than none. Just don't be complacent and continue networking and applying for roles.

4) The skills you learn on the job will be useful especially for trading, and maybe for M&A, since you'll learn how to review/build cash flow models, be proficient in excel etc. In some MO roles, the learning curve flattens quite quickly into the job and can become repetitive, especially at the junior levels.

CFA can marginally help, but since you did Accounting and Finance, level 1 won't bring a lot of extra knowledge. If you are choosing between the networking and CFA, networking will help you more.

    • 5
Feb 11, 2019

Thank you so much for the detailed answer.

1) We do work directly with the traders. We do end of month mark review and pricing, independent valuation control across the entire asset class spectrum of the firm's S&T inventory. There are opportunities to transfer to risk management internally after a year or so, but it is, at least based on what I've seen for now shunned upon by the Valuation Control team.

2) It's not Citi actually, it's one of the top three. Unfortunately, just as you say, the FO is in London and most of our communication is done over skype/phone which makes it tough to network.

I will definetly look into what you said and try to get an MBA. How long do you think I should stay here before applying for MBAs?

3) The mistake here mostly relates to dropping a top big 4 FO role for a MO BB role, and how that impacts my future career and employability, even though that big 4 office was in my home country. Do you think I made the right choice?

4) Main reason I want to do the CFA is because of the name. Since I went to a non target university nobody outside my country knows about, I was thinking that passing one level would show the recruiters I am serious and am a good choice for a FO role. After how long do you think I should start applying for FO roles? Should I also try to get internships/SA roles or just FT analyst roles?

5) There is also a BCG office in this country. Do you think trying to get an associate role at BCG would help breaking into banking FO later on? Should I try to apply there after 6/12 months in the MO role?

I will definetly try to network, although it's a bit hard considering FO is in London. How would you go about this?

Thank you very much.

Feb 12, 2019

This is a long post, but hope you can find good guidance in the text below.

TL;DR: My advice on possible paths:
a) easier: MO CEE -> MO London -> S&T (BB or smaller)
b) harder: MO CEE -> MBB CEE -> MBB London or MBA -> FO (IB/PE)
c) also hard: MO CEE -> Top MBA -> FO (IB or S&T)

1) I know the type of role you're speaking of. I worked for a Big4 in London (both in audit and advisory) and BBs used to try to recruit from my teams quite regularly. Nobody went from advisory, but they took a few people from audit (most had taken some CFA exams or were charterholders). The pay was better and people were keen to get out of audit (as are most).

I think in your case, it would be better to aim to transfer to London as soon as you can, rather than another type of MO role (such as risk) in the country, where you still won't have face to face interactions with FO. Obviously, at the same time, keep applying for FO roles, either in the country or western Europe.

Apart from that, tell senior colleagues you're keen to learn more about the products, meet the traders, etc. and go on as many trips to the London office as you can.

2) For an MBA, if you want FO in banking/asset management or top tier consulting after, it's only worth it if you attend a top one (don't want to say exact rankings, but you can look at the career reports and see where graduates go after). But I would recommend you get out of MO as soon as you can, as you will be bundled in the eyes of MBA admissions as a banker, so your competition would likely be a lot of FO people.

3) Maybe yes, maybe no. It's hard to tell which role would've helped more in your ambitions. Having worked in Big4 Advisory, I would've said big4 is better, but I may be biased. Depends on how small is the big4 office and whether you were in an EU country. Even though visas aren't really an issue for big4, a transfer to London from, say, the Zagreb office, is still better than from the Serbian office. But it's still not easy; and if you have limited deal flow in your country, it would be hard to showcase useful experience and skills when applying to a western European office.

4) As I said before, networking is better if you are choosing between the two. However, if you see networking is not going well, getting the CFA helps. By all means, do it even if it gives you more confidence when talking to recruiters. I came from a similar background to yours, Eastern European from a non-target university (good in my country but not known in London). I did CFA in my first role, and although I've had interviewers mention how hard they know the exams to be, I didn't really open any doors.

There's not an exact time you have to wait before applying, as you are going for graduate roles which don't require experience and you will now at least have GS/MS/JPM on your CV. Keep applying for any FO roles you can, including internships (be careful though as you've already graduated and most won't be open to you). It can be depressing at times (I got rejected to about 40-50 jobs before getting an offer in my final year of uni), but you only need one offer in the end.

5) This is indeed your best option if you can get in. If you're in the country where I think you are (where one of the BBs has a large backoffice), there's also a McKinsey office, but no Bain office. Aim to get into either of these as soon as you start; MO experience is not particularly helpful, but you can show that you live in the city and have a good brand on your CV. These firms have much better mobility between offices, and better prestige than an MO role. So it would help with a top MBA, a move to FO (IB rather than S&T) or a move to PE.

    • 4
Feb 13, 2019

It sounds like MO. From my experience the main problem that you'll face is getting in touch with traders. It will take you at least 5-6 months before you get to know the traders. However, a 1.5 - 2 year time horizon is what you should set for yourself. Use the first 4-5 months to learn well the work you're supposed to do. Then be the hardest worker. No one should be able to work harder than you. This will help build reputation.

Once you start building your reputation network hard. See which desks would you like to work for and try to get in touch with people in those desks. Banking is hard and no one is going to give an inch. I have known people who have moved from BO to FO. It took some time but they reached there.

You're 22 and have time on your side. Good luck!

Feb 11, 2019

Thank you very much.
How long do you think I should stay in this position before starting to apply for FO roles?

Feb 11, 2019

You don't necessarily need a CFA to be a trader. Personally for me, I rather choose a math whiz. But would it help brand you as a higher tier candidate? Yes, but keep in mind, to obtain the designation is going to take at least couple years but you're young so use that to your advantage and not dwindle off, wasting time like other young 20 years old that I've worked with and go out in the city and drink and get wasted unless you're a genius but going back to my old post, if you want to break in FO and this is the only opportunity you can leverage, yes, go for it but this all comes down to you because it won't be an easy path. I've only met a handful of traders at different banks with CFA, when I was at BlackRock, that was a different story. Most traders at bank had some sort of quantitative background, mind you, I'm not talking about sales traders. I'm pretty sure you can have the bank pay for your CFA and/or MBA, use that benefit and learn some programming. Personally for me, being in this industry, math is huge hence why I'm going back for a math degree because as soon as I see higher level stat, advanced calc in models, I want to puke and limits my potential as a trader

    • 1
Feb 11, 2019

Thank you very much. My plan is to take the level 1 in December and then start python and mathlab classes. What do you think about this?

Feb 14, 2019

If you want to do a FO, better early than late.
Leverage your company brand to apply the FO role in core location, if you stay in your role for too long, it is harder. Even though there are many successful story about from BO to FO, it is still damn hard. CEE office is more about share service center? so i suppose hard to do internal mobility unless you have high visibility and super exceptional.
Make the right and wise decision when you are young.

Feb 11, 2019

Thank you. In this city theres a couple divions, finance, strats & modeling, risk management etc. How long do you think I should stay in this position to not come across as unprofessional or a flight risk to potential employers?

Feb 14, 2019

If this is your first job, you have big space to manoeuvre.

Feb 11, 2019

This is true. I came from nothing... I knew I couldn't get a FO job from the beginning. So guess what I did? I applied to Vanguard in PA HQ for a mail clerk job, I fucking hated it and got fired. I got a consulting job at BNP Paribas on the trading floor, then I moved into equities prop firm then joined another prop firm doing interest rate derivatives. I couldn't make money and went to blackrock, bny mellon, bmo capital markes, barclays, icap and now im at a market making firm. Yeah I've been around,.. All I cared about was branding my resume back then and now I honestly don't give a fuck.

    • 1
Feb 11, 2019

So you think it is not that big of a problem to have many short stints so long as it's top firms?

Feb 14, 2019
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Feb 11, 2019