Physical Commodities: Shell vs. BP vs. Trading House Grad Programmes

LongGamma94's picture
Rank: Monkey | banana points 57

Looking for some career advice from long-time physical trading experts here on WSO.

This past summer, I interned on one of Shell's trading floors, and worked hard to network with every desk on the floor. Tremendous learning experience, developed good relationships around the floor, and I believe that if I wanted to gun for an entry-level role in trading operations (with eventual rotation into the Shell TDP), the opportunity could be there. What's holding me back, however, is that the nature of Shell's Graduate Programme is not trading-specific: graduate rotations are determined largely by HR, with every possibility of ending in a department like Downstream Retail for 2 years, for example, if things do not go as planned.

At the same time, BP has just opened applications for their TDP programme. Unlike the Shell Grad Programme - I understand that the many rotations in this grad programme have been tailored specifically to help you build the foundations around physical trading in the future (E.g. Market Analysis, Trading Operations, Risk etc.)

Glencore & Trafi have also opened applications for entry-level grad schemes. The programmes seem attractive - but the LinkedIn profiles of grads at these houses seem to suggest that most do not make it to trader even after many years. Interestingly, there is an entry-level Market Analyst role with Aramco Trading that is also worth considering.

Now I know that I don't actually have all of these offers in the bag, but I'm keen to reach out to the WSO community to ask: given a choice between these opportunities with equal probabilities of success - which shop would you pick to start out a career in physical trading? (Taking into consideration issues like future exit opportunities, comp etc.) Would really appreciate some advice here - Thanks!

Comments (11)

Most Helpful
Aug 18, 2018

BP for three years to learn the ropes and when they don't have a seat for you after that you jump ship to a trade shop and start taking on risk there. Prove yourself at a smaller shop and then if you're good enough the Vitol's and Trafi's of the world will start knocking.

Like you alluded to, hard to break into a trading spot from the grad programs at the trade houses. Grad program at BP though is very well regarded in the energy trading space and people often pivot from there.

    • 2
Aug 18, 2018

Duplicate post. Deleted.

Aug 19, 2018

I work in metals but I would say BP/Shell. There are so many people in oil trading at Vitol/Glencore/Trafi that will never become actual traders. Coming it with with the kind of flow and assets you have from a supermajor is clutch. Shell has actually had a substantially bigger book than Vitol in recent times if you believe Bloomberg.

Difference in metals is that the mining majors are playing catch-up in terms of trading culture and the top traders are more asset-heavy in mining than in oil (did not pan out for Noble though).

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Aug 27, 2018

Shell/BP first 3 years out of school... good luck

Aug 27, 2018

Where are you seeing job posting for BP?

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Sep 4, 2018

I am also wondering this as well.

Aug 28, 2018

BP I don't know the shell program. Know a lot of bp guys and ex-bp guys. Even the guys kicked out of bp on culture fit etc ended up running a major refinery trading desks or a multi-manager platform.

That being said I don't love oil trading for a career. When do battery cars take over? Spend 3 years in training then get to run some positions with bp make 250k for a couple years and then what? Battery cars take over in 2025 and energy trading is dead?

Then again energy trading will still exists but maybe a different product. Oil dies but lithium becomes huge? Still won't support the amount of seat in oil now.

Aug 28, 2018

Thanks for the responses guys; appreciate the feedback.

I'm certainly no expert on the subject - but I think part of the value of the Shell/BP programmes is that they give you a good foundation in the fundamentals of physical commodity trading (Shipping, Risk Management, Asset Optimisation etc.), which is a skillset that goes beyond the specificity of the energy market. Even if, hypothetically, the energy market begins shrinking - it's still a tremendous start in the physical trading industry which I don't think is likely to decline anytime soon.

On the energy side, I still see the job prospects as being positive because of strong growth particularly in the Asian economics (China, India, ASEAN). That growth comes with increased physical flows, and correspondingly, a demand for new traders with an appreciation for these regions and appropriate risk management skills.

Just some of my thoughts in my very brief time in the field.

Aug 29, 2018

BP first choice by far. Hands down best program. Shell is hit/miss and yes totally HR driven. I think working at any level for Traf is worth it, just cause of their size and how fast it moves as an organization to learn new things. But for sure Traf likes more seasoned traders.

Aug 29, 2018

No personal experience at Shell or BP but I would definitely go in the direction of one of the two over a pure trader like Trafi. To pick? BP > Shell. BP's program is globally recognized - people at other shops know exactly what to expect from a BP rotational grad, that should speak for itself.

Sep 5, 2018