Need advice: switching desks within bank or moving to another bank - how to do it

MBAinSearch's picture
Rank: Baboon | 100

Hello there,

I have a problem that I would love to get some valuable advice on. I recently graduated from top 5 MBA program and was able to find a job in fixed income structuring with of bulge bracket banks. The desk I got an offer from, deals with liability side structuring - structuring loans for corporate clients. After a long-enough period I came to definite conclusion that I am clearly NOT enjoying this desk AT ALL for several reasons:

  1. Not sure what skill set I develop in this job - on the deals we work on, real in-depth fundamental credit analysis is done by a separate prop desk, while derivatives are structured and priced by derivatives structuring desk (when we decide to embed derivatives in the deal), we are then left to do the least desirable tasks - pricing on the credit side (returns analysis) and then, WORST OF ALL, dealing with legal docs structuring (I hate hate hate that part).
  2. Unlike derivative structurers, we do not get to interact with market-driven side of fixed income business i.e. traders, sales teams that market the instruments to the buy side. We deal mostly with coverage guys who source the deals. In short I am suffocating.
  3. I have an uneasy feeling that we are considered a backwater among structurers. Any experienced structurers (FX or derivatives) please confirm or deny this.

Basically, I came to conclusion that I need to switch desks as soon as practicable. My genuine interests lie in the following rather different areas:

  1. FX structuring
    or
  2. Distressed debt trading (with possibility to move across capital structure)

The only problem, doing so internally would pose a political obstacle. I tried switching desks 3-4 months ago but instead got a hint that I was seen in this role in the foreseeable future. The only problem is that I DON'T!!!

What is the best way for me to maximise my chances of getting into one of the above roles? Where do I even start? What are the first actions I need to take? I would be extremely grateful for useful advice from experienced people.

I was willing to give this job a try because of market conditions, but my patience is running very low. Please excuse the tone of this letter, but I am rather frustrated at this point.

Comments (6)

Mar 8, 2010

Bump

Stay curious

Mar 8, 2010

After skimming through your post, although not exactly the same position as you are in, I have put out an article on making group switches and taking the necessary steps - if you're interested, check it out below.

http://www.bankonbanking.com/2009/07/27/making-the...
Above all else, it will start with a lot of quiet networking and putting the feelers out there. From there, it will really depend on the opportunities available both within your bank and in other banks where you have some contacts. Use your MBA alumni connections.

Mar 8, 2010

You should probably start speaking with headhunters. Either that, or you need to grow a pair and speak with the desks directly. It's not like you're asking to move from BO to FO. You're not even asking to move from sales to trading, or from research to structuring. You're asking to move from one structuring desk to another.

With that said, you need to recognize that structuring derivatives requires A LOT more math than you're likely to have had in an MBA curriculum, so you're going to need to convince someone that you can actually do the work. Do you have a mathematics/physics/engineering degree as an undergrad? I don't care where you got your MBA--MBAs don't generally go into structuring because they lack the background, and structurers are intellectual snobs who DEFINITELY look down upon MBAs.

You need to speak with the desk head on the FX structuring desk. Tell him you want to work for him, that you're hungry, and that you're willing to do the grunt work to learn the business the hard way. Tell him that you've already been studying derivatives, and have a real desire to get your hands dirty. He is definitely going to grill you on what you actually know about derivatives, and if you refer to your MBA-level knowledge of 'Options, Futures and Other Derivatives," he might just urinate on you right then.

Read Baxter and Renny and Mikosh. Also, Bjork 'Arbitrage Theory in Continuous Time.' Do you know VBA? C#? Any programming whatsoever? Do you know the greeks? All of them? If you don't, then you have a lot of work to do before you're ready to speak with a derivatives desk.

If you feel ready, though, best of luck!

Mar 9, 2010

Thank you for advice. Quick question, how about recent CFA charter award? Should this give those guys some comfort that I have the technical aptitude? I definitely know that I will need to show more on derivatives knowledge, which I have been working on for some time.

FX is the place to be within the next 10 years. I really want to be on one of those desks.

Stay curious

Mar 9, 2010
MBAinSearch:

Thank you for advice. Quick question, how about recent CFA charter award? Should this give those guys some comfort that I have the technical aptitude? I definitely know that I will need to show more on derivatives knowledge, which I have been working on for some time.

FX is the place to be within the next 10 years. I really want to be on one of those desks.

Seriously? What informs this comment?

First, your ideal destinations represent very different realms of finance and it's not clear what you actually want to do. Do you want to do speacial sits/distressed debt investment? This is interesting but like all contrarian strategies, it's effectiveness comes and goes.

FX structuring is COMPLETELY, UTTERLY different than distressed debt and you should figure out what it is that you want and why, then pick one or the other. If you're talking to someone and you say you're interested in both of these things they're likely to think you either 1 have no idea what you're talking about or 2 are not clear about what you are interested in or want to. Both conclusions are not helpful to you.

The distressed debt side doesn't require complex quant skills. Programming isn't a necessity unless your modelling CDO tranches and even then I think many groups do all excel modelling and therefore your background is fine (assuming your modelling skills are strong).

Apr 9, 2013
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