middle office to front office. whats the best strategy?

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I graduated cum laude from a non-core school with a BS in Finance back in 2008. Got hired by a BB in their Operations program and was placed within a back office group for two years. Moved on to a middle office role in sept 2010 and have been there ever since. It will be about 5 years since I graduated college and I have still not been able to break into the revenue generating side of the business (sales/trading, IB, asset man. etc) despite busting my ass for my trading desk and networking alot over the years . At this point I am considering take CFA level 1 or heading to b-school full-time (obviously something at least top 20). which should I do? Would you recommend another path? I appreciate your help and insight. Thanks

Comments (87)

 
Sep 24, 2013 - 9:18pm

The answer usually comes down to b-school or networking. Networking didn't work for you, so it looks like b-school is your best bet.

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee
 
Sep 28, 2013 - 7:35pm

But I would only go back to b-school to break into i-banking right? Sales/trading don't really care about b-school, correct? By the time I am done with b-school, I will be 30 or 31 years old, would I even be hired as an Associate at that age? I am also not a fan of levering up for a 2 year vaca and thinking if I pass level 1 CFA I could at least get some front office interviews and hopefully break in that way. What do you guys think? Thanks for your help.

 
Sep 24, 2013 - 11:00pm

I'm a 2008 grad so I sympathize. According to the WSJ, we graduated into the worst labor market in 25 years.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323864604579067030009725934.html

Regardless, I made the jump 3 years ago. Passed CFA Level 1, and that's all you need for interviews. Got fired for applying to B-School earlier this year.

Best of luck!

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 7:46pm

Top BB MO -> CFA -> FO? (Originally Posted: 10/15/2014)

Hey Guys,

Long time lurker first time poster. I interned this past summer at JPM/GS in the middle office and just signed the full time offer. I will be on either trading support/client services and was wondering if getting my CFA would be a good way to get into the front office. I've already passed level 1, and plan on taking level 2 in June of 2015. Would experience as in trade support/client services + a CFA be good credentials to make it to the front office as either trading the product I support or researching that product.

Thanks.

 
Sep 24, 2013 - 11:12pm

Ticking:

I'm a 2008 grad so I sympathize. According to the WSJ, we graduated into the worst labor market in 25 years.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014241278873238...

Regardless, I made the jump 3 years ago. Passed CFA Level 1, and that's all you need for interviews. Got fired for applying to B-School earlier this year.

Best of luck!

[email protected] fired for applying to b school. what jerks, glad you're positive though. sounds like you're on a great track.

If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!
 
Sep 27, 2013 - 3:17pm

But I would only go back to b-school to break into i-banking right? Sales/trading don't really care about b-school, correct? By the time I am done with b-school, I will be 30 or 31 years old, would I even be hired as an Associate at that age? I am also not a fan of levering up for a 2 year vaca and thinking if I pass level 1 CFA I could at least get some front office interviews and hopefully break in that way. What do you guys think? Thanks for your help.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 7:50pm

MO at BB to FO (Originally Posted: 06/05/2013)

I have an Masters degree from a top IVY league college and am currently interning at a BB in a MO role. What are my chances of jumping to a FO position for full time ?

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 7:53pm

Question about MO to FO (Originally Posted: 07/10/2015)

I just started a job in product control at a large bank out of undergrad and was wondering what the chances of moving to a FO position are and how I'd go about it. I feel like I should explain the position, because it's different than a lot of the product control descriptions I've seen here. I don't work at any particular product desk, I create a report of all the business lines that goes to the CEO, CFO, etc. I've heard that a lot of the MO to FO transitions from product control happen at specific desks when an opportunity arises, so I am worried that those chances won't be available since I won't be in frequent contact with traders. I'm open minded about FO positions, I just know I want to do more.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 7:58pm

You have several mistakes in your bullet points and to be honest most of them are very awkwardly phrased.

Also, do you know how ridiculous this one sounds?
"Leveraged advance Excel and VBA background to construct a time savings of at least 10% on every
spread sheet encountered"

How are you going to quantify that for me? At LEAST 10% on EVERY spreadsheet? Really? You sat there and timed the process before and after your "improvements" for every single spreadsheet you worked on? If you're going to make crazy statements you better be ready to defend them.

Where is your GPA? I assume it's sub 3.0? If I'm wrong and it isn't below 3.0, I would include it to stop others from thinking that too.

Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into SWANSONS.
 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:00pm

Advice on Moving MO to FO (Originally Posted: 09/02/2015)

Hey guys,

So here is my story:

I interned for an asset manager for three years during my time at university (good southern school but not a target) and was unable to turn that into a full time offer (not due to performance but the structure of the firms pitch to clients). I started a job in the middle office at a MM bank in late July and have quickly realized I HATE my job and life. My current job focuses on supporting one of the trading desks, we're called trading assistants. The question I have for you guys is what are my options going forward. I see them as:

1) Start applying for jobs right now and leave the MO position off my resume.

2) Start applying to jobs with the MO position on my resume

OR

3) Wait until Jan/Feb of '16 and start applying to external jobs then with my MO position on my resume.

If I leave the MO position off my resume it would lead to a 3mo employment gap which I fear will be a hindrance but If I include it I don't want to be stuck in middle office operations for my whole life.

Thoughts?

End goal would be in research specifically credit research.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:01pm

You've been working for about a month, you need to be patient. Why not crush your current role and move on to a full time trader? This is very possible at boutique and MM firms, I've seen plenty of people go from a TA or SA to a full time trading/sales role. Not as common at a large BB (though that can happen). Do you sit on the desk next to the traders? I am sure you'd be able to build relationships with them

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:03pm

Going from MO to FO - is this possible? (Originally Posted: 07/21/2011)

Hi Guys,

I'm currently searching for a sales/trading job on a desk, but failing miserably. I have worked for two years as a consultant financial engineer, before going "native" and working the past 18 months as a MO product controller in an IB. My job is fine, but I'm itching to get to FO. I'm bored senseless running their P/L. However, there seems to be a glass wall between us.

Part of the problem is that I'm an english speaker in a swedish bank. Which is fine for everyday stuff, but everytime I've applied for a FO sales job, they tell me that despite my good CV, my language skills prevent me from getting the job. The traders aren't much more help. I have a pretty good relationship with the guys I work with, but positions come up so infrequently, and I feel again that by speaking only english, I'm going to be on the back foot.

I have been applying vigourously to IB's in London and Zurich, but get not so much as a telephone interview. I feel I'm doing something dramatically wrong.

Also, I'm 28. Surely I must be getting on a bit, to be a junior trader? Is there much hope for me once I hit 30?

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:04pm

I'm currently searching for a sales/trading job on a desk, but failing miserably.

So is everyone else. It's not you, it's the economy.

My job is fine, but I'm itching to get to FO. I'm bored senseless running their P/L.

1.) All entry-level jobs suck.
2.) Guess what TAs do? Guess what junior traders spend years doing?

However, there seems to be a glass wall between us.

So knock it down. Ask good questions when they give you something to work on. And smile.

You need to work on getting back to the UK or the US. But risk management/product control is a perfectly good career.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:07pm

Yeah dude, learn swedish...can't be THAT hard...if I were going to work for a swedish company I would have started learning the language even before the first day of work.

Seems like if you fix the language thing, you'll have the job. This economy's tough dude, and will be for a very long time, especially the financial sector...that may be the only (or easiest) way to get to FO.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:10pm

Something not mentioned here is that a majority, in my experience, of these sorts of one-off openings are filled by networking/internal contact. At least in the US that's the case in both i-bankings and, especially, S&T/ER.

So, the language is part of the problem - but it only feeds into the more overarching theme. Learn the language and network your butt off.

The networking thing will need to happen in the US or Sweden, though, and it's the most critical part.

Unless I'm way offbase and Sweden doesn't work that way and there's a more formal way of filling these one-offs.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:11pm

Moving from MO to FO (Originally Posted: 02/01/2007)

What do you think is an adequate time spend in MO to start looking for a FO position?
Is there an unwritten industry rule in regards to time one needs to spend in MO before looking for a job in FO?
All this in ref to trading.
Thx,
L

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:13pm

I sit floor above and talk to all of them daily. The problem is there is no PnL this year so no promo to FO. I have been in MO(trade support) for 1.5 now and I am thinking to look somewhere else since there is no opportunity in my current place. I really would like to move on the desk not to another MO.
I am just curious about the time ppl like to see one did in MO before they will consider them for FO job.
L

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:14pm

i know ppl who did it for 3 months, and others who did it for years and got nothing. if you distinguish yourself, there's no set timeframe except that there has to be an open seat on the desk

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:16pm

Umm you're asking a very subjective question. The move depends on numerous variables. Some of them being:

  • the corporate environment at your place, some firms allow the move often others don't
  • your relationship with the traders, have you talked to any of them about the move? Hang out with them outside work hours, discuss trading/strategies etc
  • Also what exactly are you doing as part of trade support? Is it purely operational - clearing, settlements etc? Or are you in risk?

I've seen alot of people make the transition and mostly these lateral movers tend to progress faster than the new analyst recruited from a target. Not sure why, maybe they are more hungry.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:17pm

This is my CV it should clear some of the questions.
I am simply looking for a move to FO outside my current place.
Objective: Trader Assistant

Qualifications: Top global bank analyst with outstanding experience in foreign exchange options. Comprehensive knowledge of foreign exchange, trade support, and PnL. Knowledge and understanding of risk management. Analytical, detail oriented, excellent multi-tasking and organizational aptitude with unyielding drive to succeed.

Experience: New York, New York
Sr. Middle Office Analyst-Derivatives, August 2005-Present
• Provide all trade support functions to the foreign exchange options desk
• In charge of daily exercise and expiry (all cuts) of over the counter traded foreign exchange options
• Handle daily fixing procedures for average rate options
• Perform trade entry, conversions, and trade amendments
• Oversee weekly and quarterly exercise and expiry of exchange traded options and futures
• Execute barrier triggers, window trade conversions, forward volatility agreement trades, and other exotic structures
• Monitor all NDF balances and perform NDF closeouts
• Work directly and effectively with traders, sales, and back office to resolve trade discrepancies
• Perform daily position reconciliation of FX listed options and futures to mitigate risk exposure
• Responsible for support and maintenance of the trading system in preparation for rolling the book to Tokyo hours
• Generate PnL for global foreign exchange business and FX options desk
• Responsible for developing skills of new team members

                       Liz Claiborne, Inc., North Bergen, New Jersey
Treasury Analyst, July 2004-August 2005

• Prepared and updated investment and FX reports used by senior management
• Managed retail Bank Deposit System to maximize daily cash collections and maintain its integrity
• Handled processing and input of wire transfers and ACH’s thru Chase Insight treasury workstation
• Prepared monthly cash receipts journal entries for retail bank accounts and lockbox accounts
• Performed monthly bank account analyses to ensure they meet budgetary constrains, investigate and solve discrepancies

Skills: Knowledge of Murex Trading Platform, Reuters, and Bloomberg
Proficient in Microsoft Office Package, Spreadsheet Software and Internet
Bilingual in English and Polish

Education: Columbia University, New York, New York
School of International and Public Affairs
Master of Public Administration, May 2007
Concentration: International Economic Policy and Management

                       New York Institute of Finance, New York, New York

Options Volatility Trading, December 2006

New York University, New York, New York
Certificate in Financial Risk Management, May 2005

Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey
W. Paul Stillman School of Business
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Cum Laude, May 2003
Major concentration in Finance
Minor in International Business, Certificate in Business Law
GPA: 3.5/ 4.0

Activities: Mentor, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Morris, Bergen and Passaic Counties
Volunteer, Habitat for Humanity
Snowboarding

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:18pm

Best Time to Jump from MO to FO (Originally Posted: 10/14/2013)

I've been in a MO position at a BB for about six months now. I desperately want to make the jump from MO to a S&T or prop shop gig. I've gotten some recognition from traders for analysis I have done for them (they specifically mentioned it to my boss's boss) and have in that six months found out I passed CFA Level 1 on my first attempt. I'll be taking Level 2 in June 2014 and am going to do everything necessary to pass the exam on my first attempt. My question is three fold. First, when is too early to start seriously making overtures to S&T and prop desks. Second, given that my previous two roles since graduating were 6 months each, what time should be spent in my current role to show some staying power, for lack of a better phrase. Third, my boss flat out asked me why I was taking the CFA and I--somewhat stupidly-- said that I wanted to make a jump to a FO gig in a couple years; how bad is it to tell your boss that you're eyeing greener pastures a couple years down the road and how--beside killing it at my current job--can I make amends for that error? All harsh criticism accepted and welcomed.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:20pm

It's never too soon to start that transition. In fact, I would be concerned about staying too long.

And fuck your boss, tell him to mind his own business (don't really say that, but if you must make sure you do it Kevin Hart style: "...you two plus two not knowing what the fuck it is, bitch." etc). On a serious note, I think that yes it is bad that you mentioned your goals. In my experience, a lot of these MO/trade support people that have been there for years, rotting away, waiting for their shot at that junior trading position are all very bitter. There are many that are just happy to be there, are good at what they do, and will also be very happy for you...but be cautious in identifying them/sharing your aspirations.

Talk to the people you actually want to work with. Impress them. Show them you are intelligent, social, and likeable. Keep chugging away at the CFA. Not sure how much incremental value level 2 will add to your efforts but it definitely won't hurt if you have the time.

Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into SWANSONS.
 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:21pm

I may get flak for this but the respectable thing to do would be to invest about 18 months in your MO position before trying to transition. I'm assuming that your boss took the the time to train you and so forth. 18 months is usually the threshold where your current manager will understand that you want to pursue better opportunities. And as you're doing it laterally you're in a better position if he is not pissed at you. Again, this is from the perspective of a manager.

Of course if the FO team really wants you, and you can prove that you will add more value to the firm as a whole in that capacity, then your current manager can be overruled. Is the FO actively trying to "recruit" you or are you just trying to get an interview?

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:26pm

Karma's a good thing. So it's good to put your 18 months in. I'm with mb666 and CaR. So far, all of the folks who work in industry are telling you to wait.

I was one of the folks who transitioned from MO Analytics to FO after two years of work. I made the transition relatively close to the bottom at the end of 2009. Now I'm heading to a systematic quant strategy role at a pretty big hedge fund. (you'd recognize the name). We're a small group managing a decent chunk of change. Irony of ironies, I was hired for my product knowledge from my MO days. So being moderately loyal, being a nice person, and doing good work has this amazing ability to let completely unsophisticated people leapfrog the job-hoppers in this Mister Magoo-like way.

I think it will be easier to make the transition with 18 months worth of solid internal reviews than six months. But you don't want this to blow up on you, and trying too hard now may hurt your chances later. It may also really come back to haunt you if your boss finds out.

I am not going to say that risk management is better experience than trading for trading. But I am going to say that if risk management was the best job you could land coming in, you've made all of the right moves so far, and the next right move, if you're playing a patient, conservative game, is waiting 15 months to start looking for an internal opportunity and really sticking it out to month 17-18.

But one bad review between months 12 and 18 could screw this up. So you can't let your work suffer.

And remember to keep that internal bridge working after you cross it.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:29pm

Here's another thing...it's not like you're going to wait for those 18 months and then on month 19 you're making the jump. That shit takes time. I started talking to various people in research at around 5-6 months on the job. I didn't see any kind of breakthrough until 4 months later, and I didn't get my final offer until I was working for 12-13 months. I consider myself to be relatively lucky and I think that's a pretty short timeline...but this kind of shit can take years. Out of my MO class in 2009, I was the first to move. Four others followed soon after also by networking. On the other side of the spectrum, those who wanted to move but waited for a year....guess where they are right now? They are still doing the same BO/MO shit 3 years later. Except now these kids are studying for the GMAT or trying to figure out if the CFA will help (it won't).

I think for more quant oriented guys and developers like IP it's a little different because they have some sort of tangible skill they can leverage. I assume OP is in a position similar to mine, doing trade support where your biggest challenge is figuring out why the end of day P&L on your trade entry system is different from the blotter and different from the back office settlement system...I don't see where else that kind of knowledge would be useful.

Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into SWANSONS.
 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:45pm

Don't leave a job or position before a year is up, especially when you're starting out. That is for your own benefit (in several ways), not just your employer's. But in terms of corporate entities...you don't owe them a god damn thing other than doing the job they pay you to do while you are employed there.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:51pm

You can also network outside of your bank...

Ask your traders if they have any contacts at other banks, and setup some time to talk. This will probably give you even more opportunity to chat with the traders at your bank. This way they also know that you're serious about becoming a trader, and aren't waiting for any handouts. If you want it, go after it.

 
Sep 28, 2013 - 8:58pm

Mid-Office to Front Office? (Originally Posted: 03/04/2007)

Have any of you had a mid-office summer internship and then transferred to front office full time? Or did most of you who had mid-office like it and decide to take the full time mid-office offer?

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