Sales in S&T: Dead-end career path in 2020?

This summer, I will be interning at GS/JPM/MS in S&T, specifically in sales. After doing some research, I am becoming concerened that sales is not the place to be with the current state of the industry. Basically my questions are this:
- Is sales still a good place to be in 2020?
- What are the most realistic exit options for sales, and what desks make these exits most likely? (is buyside possible?)
- How difficult is it to transition from sales into IB or trading?
- Is getting into a top MBA a viable option after 3-4 years in sales?
Thanks for the help.

Comments (112)

Feb 6, 2020

Personal opinion - i'd rather be in sales than trading. Both are shrinking, but at the end of the day, between the two, who's going to survive? It's the person with the relationships.

Not many exit opps in general if you're in S&T. You have to work twice as harder to make it to the buyside (1) network hard - a sales role will allow you the opportunity (2) and write up pitches and models on your own to show them you have the capability.

Lateraling within the bank from S&T to IB is very hard as well.

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  • Analyst 1 in S&T - Other
Feb 7, 2020

Disagree. When sales people go out to meet with clients they almost always bring a trader with them. In the past was possible to jump to buyside, but these days with how few seats there are it's almost impossible unless you're running risk. As someone on the buyside, now that things are tougher, i trade with whoever prices the quickest and shows the tightest spread,
Also, if anything the sales for products that have already been electronified like equities are probably the safest. Tons of dead weight to cut in ficc still, over next 10 years will def be shrinking whereas equities will probably be the same

    • 5
Feb 7, 2020

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't reconsidering my future after reading all of this. I guess I just have to work hard and search for opportunities wherever I can find them.
I am strong in sales, should I still pursue S&T? Are there any other areas within a BB, Hedge Fund or PE Firm where my sales acumen would be valued higher than other qualifications/abilities? I tend to prefer a high pressure, competitive, environment.

    • 1
Feb 6, 2020

If its sales in FICC, than your fine, but if plain equities move on. You could try and get on a interest rate trading desk. Their more likely to still be around.

    • 1
Feb 22, 2020

how have the rates traders been doing lately?

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Feb 22, 2020

No personal insight, but you could check banks financial reports and see how their FICC teams have been doing, for reference. I believe rate traders are bigger in europe may be wrong though.

Feb 23, 2020

Despite having a record year in FICC, most banks are keeping trading comp flat or slightly down.

This Bloomberg article I read a while back provides good insight.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-27...
From the article:

"JPMorgan Chase & Co. is keeping annual bonuses at its corporate and investment bank roughly flat for 2019 even as workers across Wall Street brace for a drop in payouts.

The biggest U.S. bank's decision, described by people briefed on the matter, came after the unit notched its best year since at least 2011...

JPMorgan notched the highest profit in U.S. banking history for the second year in a row with $36.4 billion, spurred in part by a 56% surge in stock and bond trading in the fourth quarter."

So despite a record year, comp was flat.

Feb 10, 2020

FICC sales is still a good career. If you are in cash equities complete dead end. Equities generally is concentrated in the top 3 BB (margins are extremely compressed even on the derivatives side).

Mar 4, 2020

I was about to ask about fixed income and other products. Agreed that equities is going to the computers.

Most Helpful
Feb 12, 2020

As I mentioned in the S&T bonus discussion (you can view that thread), I would not recommend anyone to enter the industry anymore. Both sides, sales & trading are deteriorating with the risk higher and reward lower.

I entered the industry a little over 5 years ago, and back then during my internship I didn't believ that what some in the industry had told me to sway me from reconsidering the industry. I thought the talk was exaggerated (effect of technology mostly) ... Needless to say, a lot has changed in the past 5 years and I've personally seen it now. Almost all of my intern/full-time class is gone or leaving soon as well as people around my level leaving in drones who are all feeling the same way. A lot of senior people are in the same mind set, but they are already in the late stages of their career and just need a few more years (rather than the rest of us who have 30+ years of a career to think of...). I'm also at a top American BB btw.

JP Morgan having a record breaking year in trading (as did most BBs) and banks continuing to proceed to cut people / keeping bonuses flat year on year should be a red flag. Imagine what's going to happen when things actually go bad.

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Feb 12, 2020

it really depends on the bank and your position. if you are the 30yr bond trader at an ibank....or maybe if you trade on the swaptions desk and you have your own prop book.....and if you have a good year of pnl with minimal usage of balance sheet (ie.,..high return on capital) then you can still get paid well and these "flat" bonuses won't really apply to you.

If all your pnl is generated from customer flow....then the bank can argue that you aren't adding more value...but if your pnl comes from prop trading....then you can just argue that you'll goto a hedge fund....since you don't need the ibank to prop trade.

its an owner vs employee mentality

Feb 12, 2020

Well, I'll just say a lot has changed especially in the past few years. The fact is resources are being allocated away from traditional S&T, overall the return on capital for the entire industry especially given regulation (ex. RWA) with the advancement in tech, it just doesn't make sense as it did before. When you consider machine learning wasn't really even a field 5 years ago, it's pretty threatening what's going to happen in the next 5.

Like I said, from the past few years I've been in the industry, the mood has just gotten worse on the trading floor even as banks are "doing well". Even if you have a good year in P&L (prop or not), banks just simply don't feel the need to pay you. It also doesn't help when the overall hedge fund industry hasn't been performing either and just keeps losing investor money / cutting people too. When was the last time there was actually good news from the industry? It's just a completely different mentality now.

You'll still be paid relatively well (as it is still better paid than almost all other jobs out there), but there's no denying overall it is an industry in decline with higher risks now as it will be much harder to find other openings if you're let go. If you're in a good seat right now, you're pretty fortunate.

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  • Intern in Other
Feb 13, 2020

You mentioned that most of your intern/full time class is gone or leaving soon. Of those that have left the firm, what are the exits like. How many went to pursue MBAs versus lateraling to different industries, and what industries are most common for people to exit to (out of your analyst class).

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Feb 13, 2020

If you left early on (before becoming an Associate), some went into other areas of finance aka banking or research type roles. There were the occasional start up type route, but that is more rare.

Most who are leaving now are doing an MBA to basically leave the industry. I know some who did something outside of work (aka programming) and set themselves up that way as well. As I've sort of hinted, you don't really get any exit opportunities from s&t as you do in banking so there really isn't any room for other industries otherwise.

Personally, I had a friend who got let go after the analyst program and he had a very tough time finding work again (which was somewhat surprising to me at the time) - basically it took a lot of luck to get a job in the industry again (almost half a year). That was maybe 2 years ago and that was when the first red flags were getting raised to me about the industry. Also had a friend (VP level) who was let go and was out of work for almost a year with no leads before getting lucky as well through a reference.

Now, I also know of two younger people (mid to late 20s) who get let go from trading/research type roles almost a year ago around my age and struggled to find a job (now both looking into graduate school or programming boot-camps). So yeah it's pretty rough if you're let go no and can see why the industry mentality has changed completely. You can kind of see for yourself even just on LinkedIn - there are hardly any openings for s&t roles, when I first started there were a lot more.

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Feb 13, 2020

I won't lie - this is disheartening. I know there is (obviously) a low probability of becoming extremely wealthy in any profession, but as someone who is significantly motivated by money, my biggest fear (besides failure) is pigeonholing myself somewhere where my ability to strive towards extreme wealth becomes diminished (like a hamster, running endlessly on a wheel). Hearing this information from guys in your positions, it really carries weight and cuts deep,
I am talkative, high energy, and thrive around people. I am strongly goal and problem solving oriented and have the ability to work extremely efficient on tight deadlines. I tend to focus on the big picture and I am able to think strategically and maintain their long-term focus. I value truthfulness, consistency and equality and think logically when making decisions. I am a passionate of Math and investing/ Finance and I would like to talk to smart people.

If HF's were dying, as well as S&T- if that's so, what careers are best to start to pursue? Quant, IB, Tech (Sales)...?

Feb 13, 2020

Without a doubt, it's something related to tech in whatever industry. Think about it this way, you want to go into something that will continue to grow. And what's the only thing that has grown through history and will continue to improve/grow? People can say "tech" is a bubble or whatever, but at the end of the day technology in one way or another will always be improving/growing and you want to be involved in something like that for the most growth potential. Like I mentioned before, when I was in college (just a little over 5 years ago), machine learning wasn't really even a field (I didn't even know what it was), now it's just completely taken over. It's even more mind blowing when you realize that it was only a few years ago that computer vision even became a thing (Google recognized cats in a video only in 2012).

  • Associate 1 in S&T - FI
Feb 12, 2020

The name of the game is finding the right seat and getting the right breaks (bank is growing your product, senior guy in front of you gets let go, etc.). It used to be that if you could find your way into S&T you were going to have an opportunity to make some real $$ at some point. Now you need a bunch of things to go your way in order to make some real $$. And honestly the right seat is more luck than anything else, and every day there are less and less seats. I would describe the business as dying a death by 1000 cuts.

What you are really learning in S&T is 3 things

  1. How to filter through a ton of information flow and communicate what is important and why.
  2. How to manage relationships and play politics with what can be some very demanding personalities
  3. How to multitask and think on your feet.

There are going to be a lot of people who are going to learn how marketable those skills are in the next 5-10 years.

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Feb 13, 2020

What about the sales role in S&T? I am strong in sales, should I still pursue S&T? Are there any other areas within a BB, Hedge Fund or PE Firm where my sales acumen would be valued higher than other qualifications/abilities? I tend to prefer a high pressure, competitive, environment.

Feb 13, 2020

If you're strong in sales, there are plenty of other sales type roles in other industries too so keep that in mind.

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Feb 14, 2020
donqua:

What about the sales role in S&T? I am strong in sales, should I still pursue S&T? Are there any other areas within a BB, Hedge Fund or PE Firm where my sales acumen would be valued higher than other qualifications/abilities? I tend to prefer a high pressure, competitive, environment.

+1
You can go into PWM or Enterprise/ Tech sales

  • Associate 1 in S&T - FI
Feb 13, 2020

There is very little "sales" in BB S&T. I would say the job is more distribution and relationship management. Those are certainly part of the sales process but it is not like a traditional sales job, where you are cold calling or prospecting around for new relationships. You will cold call in the middle market world but most BBs don't really have that. That being said many people move from sales roles in S&T to sales roles in other industries. Its a resume marker for other industries that you are decently intelligent and will work hard and understand things that are somewhat complex in nature.

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Feb 14, 2020

I am very curious, analytical and I have good problem solving skills. I have great communication skills and interpersonal skills and I think I am capable of outlining and presenting complex issues in a simple manner.I am good in building great relationships, should I still pursue S&T? What would the alternatives be? I tend to prefer a high pressure, competitive, environment.

Feb 15, 2020

How common is it for someone in Sales to move over to the buyside (specifically HFs)? How much does a CFA help?

Feb 15, 2020

It can certainly happen and depends a lot on product, shop and your relationships. Less and less straight up equity sales people make the jump but I have seen a fair few people in derives make the jump and some in ficc.

Good Luck

Feb 15, 2020
Jamoldo:

It can certainly happen and depends a lot on product, shop and your relationships. Less and less straight up equity sales people make the jump but I have seen a fair few people in derives make the jump and some in ficc.

Good Luck

I am strong in sales, should I still pursue S&T? Are there any other areas within a BB, Hedge Fund or PE Firm where my sales acumen would be valued higher than other qualifications/abilities? I tend to prefer a high pressure, competitive, environment. Do you think S&T and HF are still a good long.term career?

Feb 19, 2020

if you read Liars Poker....the shark (bond salesman) was recently a salesman at credit suisse, and then moved over to run a portfolio at a hedge fund.....so...it happens

Feb 19, 2020

Once again, everything @koalamacro has said is 100% accurate and raw. He is speaking the truth consistently on this forum.

To add to his points above:

I started in this industry less than 5 years ago and I also did not believe what older guys had been saying. I thought they were just dinosaurs who couldn't keep up with technology, but was also wrong and things have drastically changed in the last 3-4 years since i've been around and entire franchises have been cut in the last 2 years which is very scary to think.

Mind you that I have been out of school only a couple years and the vast majority of my analyst class is gone and the rest have one foot out the door. This is S&T and not IB where people do 2 and out; in S&T people traditionally stayed long beyond their 2 year mark so when an analyst class is almost entirely gone after 3 years that is saying something about the industry these days. The bank I started at was a MM and my bonus was awful given the fact my desk had a solid year and I was top bucket; I was shocked as to how small my number was and I asked my MD if it was me and he basically said that was the most the bank could give me and that it is what it is.

As for my analyst class I would say at least 75-80% have left/been laid off already that I can confirm. They're doing all sorts of things but the transition has been challenging because from S&T you don't have that transferable skill set you gain in banking or consulting. Many have had to go back to business or law school and take two years off and well as take on a mountain of debt. For the unfortunate ones that were laid off some are still looking for work, some have gone to work for brokers, some have left the industry entirely. For the lucky ones who made the transition into other fields (IB, ER, HF, consulting, treasury, startup, became programmers), they had to work their asses off because once again, they don't develop those transferable skills headhunters and firms have such a hard-on for.

In conclusion, I would not recommend a career in S&T unless you have a super specialized niche role or are a quant who can program well.

Feb 20, 2020

What about the sales role in S&T?
If HF's were dying, as well as S&T- if that's so, what careers are best to start to pursue? What would you do knowing what you know now?

Feb 23, 2020

I think you have asked this question in like 6 other places on this thread alone lol but see below about product/project/platform management/sales roles.

  • Prospect in S&T - FI
Feb 21, 2020

I'm a junior at a target school who will be headed into S&T this summer at a mid-BB (BAML, Barclays, CS). I'm a CS major and have lots of coding experience, and primarily wanted to try out finance this summer which is why I chose S&T as a way to utilize my coding skills on the job while doing finance. I didn't want the intense lifestyle for quant shops, although I will try to recruit for that for full-time.

All I am hearing now is about how bad S&T generally looks, but what are the bright spots? I feel like I'd do well on an electronic trading team, or quant team, where tech skills are valued because like you said, I want technology to be my friend, not my enemy.

Thanks

Feb 21, 2020

Yes as I responded to someone else, I think those would be ok. I'd rather be on the product management side of things than the pure trading side if you don't want the intense lifestyle.

Mar 30, 2020

I just wanna "clarify" something because people keep saying S&T is bad. It has been slow the last few years because of low vol and low rates. With the Wuhan virus/Trump/Brexit, this could change.
This forum is obsessed with IBD because of dipshits who have seen American Psycho too many times. When the Wall Street movie came out, everyone wanted to be in S&T.

If you're a CS major you could be very useful, even on relatively vanilla desks, like rates trading or rates sales. Even in sales, VBA-knowledge has become commonplace. Any programming skill is a plus, and sales desks have become quite nerdy.

Edit: sorry, been drinking far too much because of the virus lockdown. You should also try: financial engineering/structuring, QIS research, becoming a quant in a bank. These roles have arguably better exit ops than both trading and sales

    • 1
Feb 25, 2020

So what is your plan? Exit now or stick around?

I see more people starting to make this decision right before VP level

Array

Feb 20, 2020

What do you guys think of roles within electronic trading? Less on sales, trading, or sales/trading but more a product role? Think product management?

Array

  • Prospect in S&T - FI
Feb 21, 2020

Would also love to know about this!

Feb 21, 2020

Yes, I think this would be a good place to be if you are still interested in the industry. It will also be something that is applicable to outside of finance as well.

Feb 21, 2020

WTF is "product management" ???

    • 1
Feb 21, 2020
wallstreetnoob2008:

What do you guys think of roles within electronic trading? Less on sales, trading, or sales/trading but more a product role? Think product management?

I am a product manager for an HFT/Algo platform. Most of my job involves finding out the needs of our clients and what features they want built into our system. Based on those discussions I'd prioritize/roadmap what needs to be done and then work with tech to come up with effort estimates and timelines to implementation.

In general, clients are going to ask for a lot and there will never be enough tech resource to do it all - so you'll be spending your time deciding what makes sense. Are multiple clients asking for the same thing? If we build this for client X, can we sell it to client Y also? Is this ask absolute bullshit and are we not making enough money from them for us to justify building it?

You need VERY strong communication/organizational/planning skills to be successful in this role. This is a job that sales could do on their own, or even the developers could talk to the clients directly - Your job is to do this more efficiently than they can, so they can focus on their actual jobs.

I find it to be very interesting work, but like I said, if you're not good at it, you can very easily provide zero value in this role.

In terms of job security, I don't think it's bulletproof compared to the rest of S&T, people absolutely have been getting cut in these roles as well. The difference is that these skills are more transferable to pure tech, some of my former coworkers have moved on to Facebook-type companies.

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Feb 22, 2020

This is great, thanks so much for sharing!

Feb 23, 2020

Pretty much this - you can easily move to another industry entirely. Especially at other companies such as tech, if you're good, that's how you end up up heading up business lines.

Feb 22, 2020

Can someone explain to me why sales is also at risk for a large downsizing? I can understand with trading given increasing automation etc. but surely relationship management roles will continue to be important and less easily replaceable by tech... Genuinely curious, thanks.

    • 1
Feb 23, 2020

Yes while there will be a need to relationship managers, there is a ton of deadweight on most sales desks It is honestly shocking to me how much deadweight there is.

Most banks have some sort of platform where a client can go on and execute small vanilla orders electronically and no longer need to call up their sales guy to do it; basically, it bypasses the institutional salesperson entirely. Sure they will need someone to manage the relationship and stay in front of the client and determine what is working and what is not working, and how they can improve but clearly that is substantially less intensive and requires less man hours then a traditional institutional sales person.

On a side note, there are tons of 'old head' senior sales guys at banks who are adding minimal value if any at all. When I used to work at a bank some of these guys were really not doing anything except managing a handful of accounts and going to dinner with them. They were managing old school relationships from when they started 30 years ago or more.

Feb 24, 2020

Wondering everyone's opinion is on how to get out of the industry if just starting out as a sales analyst in S & T --> is 2 years a good sweet spot to prove I wasn't jumping ship straight away or should I realistically give it 1 year and cut my losses if I come to realise first hand what most of this forum is saying? Just thinking for future employers leaving after 1 year of a job might seem a bit hasty if they are vetting your resume. P.S any ideas on best fits for roles --> PWM, enterprise/tech sales, fintech?? All help appreciated

  • Associate 1 in S&T - FI
Feb 24, 2020

2 years or however long your analyst contract is the right amount of time, give yourself a real chance to see if you like it or the markets business in general, and what your future prospects look like at the firm. Also I think your polish on the phone and speaking with people in a professional setting gets a lot better from year 1 to year 2 so I think you will do a lot better after the 2nd year in an interview and networking. Do not go into the job with the S&T is dead attitude or thinking its a 2 years and out deal. People will notice that from the jump and will not make the effort to really teach you anything or try to get you into the mix. I think fintech is the most natural transition, lots of ex-S&T guys working in various fintech firms. I would avoid PWM until you are like 30, nobody will take you seriously until then in that world. Sure you could be a junior guy on some team or an associate in UHNW/PB world but in that world you want to be the guy who is managing relationships and bringing money in the door and it takes time and years of experience to have a background that people will take seriously. You are better served building experience doing something else than being a junior person in that world. I know 3 or 4 ex-S&T people in PWM and all of them waiting until they were like 30 before jumping in.

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Feb 29, 2020

@koalamacro what are your thoughts about banks profits being driven mainly by s&t in the recent quarter, and the future this might entail for s&t? Will the business get more focus now and investments into ML/AI developments for the trade floor?

Mar 2, 2020

It's misleading. I think the fact that JP Morgan kept its overall bonuses flat to a rather disappointing 2018 (in some cases terrible) says it all while other banks actually saw a reduction in the bonus pool. Flat is the new up. As it's kind of been said, S&T in the traditional sense will never come back. With technology getting better and overall margins being squeezed, banks know they don't have to pay people like they used to and can get away with getting more done out of less in n industry with a declining wallet.

TBH most banks have already started to realize that and have been already allocating resources away from traditional S&T in the form of cost cutting and continued reduction in headcount regardless of performanc. GS becoming more and more of a technology company and MS buying E-Trade recently should be sign of what they see the future is.

    • 2
Mar 2, 2020

wells fargo said they were a tech company and I loled

Array

Mar 3, 2020

What are your guys' thoughts on Equity Derivatives Sales?

Mar 4, 2020

It's one of the less automated desks so that's a positive but I'd love to hear someone's perspective on this. Would a transition to the buyside (HF) be easier on a more quantitative desk like Equity Derivatives Sales?

Mar 30, 2020

A transition to HF sales/IR would be easy. Research or trading, probably impossible, sorry

Mar 8, 2020

Interested in this as well!

Mar 23, 2020

Wow super interesting stuff in this thread. Is it really that hard to find a job after S&T? I find it hard to believe that some of the smartest people on Wall St. (including a bunch of "target school" kids) have a difficult time being recruited. Also, does the doom and gloom apply mostly to struggling Euro banks (CS, DB) or larger and growing names as well (Citi, Wells Fargo Sec.)

Finally, assuming all of this is true would people recommend entering less "prestigious" industries such as commercial banking, corp fin, and product management?

Mar 24, 2020

You know you don't have to focus on this very narrow sliver of finance right? If you really want to do something in banking, structured finance (commodities, air/rail/shipping, mining, project...) might be worth looking into.

Mar 30, 2020

-Is Sales good?
I'm in sales and it's fucking great, but I'd rather be a trader

-Exit ops?
Unfortunately, if you want to get out of banking, it's always sales on the AM side or investor relations (in my experience). What I do is quanty enough that I think I should be considered for research in a small AM, but I'm very much pigeon-holed.

-Move to IBD?
I'd say impossible. I almost made the switch to a very specialised boutique firm for IBD and posted about it here, but it fell through last minute.

-MBA?
I'm in London, and over here yes, although nobody gives a shit about MBAs. But I guess it's different in the US

Mar 30, 2020

Definitely possible to get into an M7 or T10 from Sales. I got into one M7 and a couple of T15 with substantial scholarship. I am a male asian (definitely overrepresented and my GMAT score was 720). My background has been sales in FICC with a short tint in AM/PB all at BBs. You make your own opportunity. PM if you have any questions. Would rather not post more specific given how small the industry is.

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Apr 27, 2020

what is the prospect for quants at BB? Currently i only know Barclays/ubs/RBC have specific quant trading (within S&T) SA program/Fulltime program. is that a sign of the banks are hiring more people with coding/modeling skill? Also, how would the low vol and low interest impact the careers of a those quant trading guys? thx

Apr 27, 2020

which desk/ niche product should they start their career?

  • Intern in Other
May 29, 2020

what desks in S&T are the least quant based? (most simple desks)?

Jun 15, 2020
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    • 1
  • Trader in S&T - FI
Jun 19, 2020
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Jul 20, 2020