S&T Industry Future Outlook


I am a rising junior intern at a large middle-market s&t firm rotating through their equities floor. I love the feel of the business and the work but have reservations about the future of the profession and if I would be better served recruiting for IBD. I begin recruiting for my rising senior summer in a few months.

The associates that I am interning with state there is a significant reduction in s&t volume in equities and that the future of the industry is at stake (due to easy/cheap liquidity through dark pools, etc). Is this a trend throughout all sectors of s&t or is this only a serious problem with equities? Is FX, credit, fixed-income, etc experiencing this same dry-up?


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Comments (33)

Jun 12, 2016 - 11:14pm

Goldman sold their DMM position to IMC 2 years ago. Barclays sold their DMM position to GTS 6 months ago. Citi sold ATD/their equities arm to Citadel a month ago. That's equities. 80% of the top volume movers in Treasuries are not banks. A European HFT just passed a large number of banks in FX volume.

The last vestige of S&T is fixed income, which the algo firms can't hit as hard yet because of the fragmentation of the market and diversity in the securities. Those days are numbered as massive buyside firms are looking to consolidate and create a centralized exchange for bonds.

Anyone who's been following the WSJ or Dealbreaker knows every bank from GS to UBS has been slashing their institutional sales and trading departments heavily. Is S&T dead? No, obviously not, seeing as the positions still exist. But anyone who says that it isn't dying is in denial. Face it, the computers are taking over.

May 29, 2017 - 4:45am

S&T slowing down...what about IDB? (Originally Posted: 04/30/2013)

Hey, I was hoping that a trader that works with brokers (or possibly a broker at a reputable IDB) can answer this for me.

People are constantly saying that trading is a dying industry and the headcount is decreasing over time. From what i gathered, this is due to new technologies and a stagnant market.

How does the future of brokers at reputable companies (think ICAP Tullet etc.) look? I am assuming that they are in greater trouble as a result of technology?

I am not too sure about this because it seems that some products will have problems becoming electronic (aka need for a broker market). If anyone has any input on these questions, or about the career path in general, please chime in.

May 29, 2017 - 4:46am

I'm not sure if there's already a thread dedicated towards this subject...
But I'm interested in this as well actually!

I'm not concerned with the very poor -Mitt Romney
May 29, 2017 - 4:47am

Brokers are in trouble, but take that w/ a pinch of salt. People been talking about this for years and the brokers are still here, still making out like bandits (at least some of them).

Generally, the relevant concept here is the Chinese "weiji" (yes, it's a misconception, supposedly, but that doesn't matter). All the developments make brokers increasingly obsolete, but, at the same time, offer many of them all sorts of potential.

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May 29, 2017 - 4:48am

I don't know man, seems like the fixed income S&T guys are doing alright.

Source: I'm an investment analyst at a PWM firm and we have to go to fixed income S&T guys to get high yield bonds or international bonds...Pershing's BondCentral system is shit, so we just either call a guy at BNY Mellon Capital Markets, or he refers us to a third party guy who can get us a quote that they can do directed trades through.

May 29, 2017 - 4:52am

Being a broker as long as theres some volume can be VERY profitable, and you will be paid in cash without clawbacks etc as the money you make is risk free and locked in.

The problems arise when volume dries up, and thats when you see a lot of these small brokerage houses die out. The big boys (Tullets, Cantor, GFI, Trads, Exane etc) always seem to do alright becuase they in general will have a guy who is the go to broker for a trader (every trader has 2-3 go to guys they give90% of their business to), and if you have these foundations in place, unless your trader gets tinned you will do more than alright.

May 29, 2017 - 4:53am

So just one follow up question- why do people shit on IDB in this forum? I've seen other posts that S&T is significantly better, not only in terms of salary but just the job in general...

Best Response
Jun 13, 2016 - 1:50pm

Strictly speaking from the credit side of things:

1.) Quants arent 'taking over'. Obviously you need a certain level of technological proficiency- but this market is much more tilted to the fundamentals. When I was on the SS on a HY desk, We only had two guys who were engineer majors. Conversely, half of the MBS team were engineers/tech majors- and the Tsy desk probably had even more.

2.) Electronic trading (on the credit side) isnt really a major 'threat' at the moment b/c fixed income is way too fragmented. We use about 4 different ebroker systems. While they may be somewhat helpful with oddlot trades- they are NO where near as quick/efficient as calling someone at MS/GS/JPM and trading over the wire. Especially if youre trading size.

3.) Regulation is the Killer. Regulation is the one reason why credit is getting hammered. In order to be profitable in IG/HY/distressed, you need to be able to carry inventory. If I cut your inventory/risk in half, I cut your potential profit generation by even more. And when your top line is limited, management starts to focus on the expenses- thus leading to further head count reductions.

Despite what the media may say, 1 is not going to be an issue. 2 could become an issue, but not anytime soon. 3, on the other hand, will continue to hurt the credit markets unless someone repeals Dodd Frank/Vogel etc.

"Sounds to me like you guys a couple of bookies."

  • 4
May 29, 2017 - 5:01am

Job outlook for sales and trading (Originally Posted: 09/10/2010)

I was reading an article in the WSJ titled " Wall Street Layoffs: Meredith Whitney's Case for a Bloodbath". When I came across this paragraph it didnt make me feel warm and fuzzy considering I was wanting to break into the industry upon graduation. What are the thoughts from those in the industry regarding her prediction?

"Layoffs are coming. Layoffs are coming. Forget those high-profile hires , such as CIT Group's former CEO Jeff Peak landing at Barclays or American International Group's former chief Martin Sullivan going to the Willis Group, the legions of lower level traders, analysts and salespeople may be in for a rude awakening. Whitney expects lay offs of 40,000 to 50,000, or 5% to 10% of the U.S. securities industry."

Jun 30, 2016 - 8:59pm

Dear BillyRay,

Thank you very much for the reply. I sat with a BB credit trader a week ago and was blown away at the differences in that side of S&T compared to my current firm. I will ponder your response more and get back to you with any more questions. Do you believe that FX or structured products (two areas I am interested in) will experience this kind of pressure any time soon?

Jun 30, 2016 - 9:24pm

To echo BillyRay, what are called "spread products" are like 20 years away from the centralized exchange / technological advances people always warn about on this forum. The fact is the market is just so illiquid and fragmented it will take ages before people figure out how to make it not so. Regulation is absolutely what's hurting us and what may ultimately be what kills us. However, regulators are shifting their focus to non-bank participants. If banks can't provide liquidity because of capital requirements constraining balance sheets then you would think hedge funds / market making shops would step in. But if they start getting regulated the way bank dealers are then a lot of products just won't be profitable and will either have to be placed privately or stop being issued.

May 29, 2017 - 5:03am

I want to be optimistic, but it looks pretty bleak, especially for sales&trading. M&A banking and private equity should be fine, since there's been a lot of M&A and buyout activity going on.

S&T, however, is a different beast. The financial regulation bill has forced a lot of banks to either transfer traders over into asset management divisions or get rid of them altogether. For example, Credit Suisse laid off 30% of its prop desk, and JP Morgan is getting rid of it entirely. Anecdotally, a friend of mine is starting his second year at Chicago Booth MBA, and he said trading jobs were VERY tough to get.

May 29, 2017 - 5:05am

We shall see.

Jack: They’re all former investment bankers who were laid off from that economic crisis that Nancy Pelosi caused. They have zero real world skills, but God they work hard.
-30 Rock

May 29, 2017 - 5:06am

Depends what kind of trading you're talking about. As other posters above said, prop trading is going away at many of the major banks.

At my bank, we're increasing our sales force. You're going to see a growing trend in trading, where it's harder and harder to make a profit as commissions are getting squeezed. With commissions being cut bymany of the major institutional players, the only way banks can remain competitive and keep their revenues high is by hiring a larger sales force.

May 29, 2017 - 5:07am
Depends what kind of trading you're talking about. As other posters above said, prop trading is going away at many of the major banks.

At my bank, we're increasing our sales force. You're going to see a growing trend in trading, where it's harder and harder to make a profit as commissions are getting squeezed. With commissions being cut bymany of the major institutional players, the only way banks can remain competitive and keep their revenues high is by hiring a larger sales force.

Hey, it makes sense that to rebuild a client-facing trading practice, you'd want to hire more brokers to bring in flow. Two questions:
1) any more client-servicing traders being hired?
2) how is it looking for MBAs? Or are only undergraduates and experienced hires getting love?

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
May 29, 2017 - 5:09am

Bump, would like to hear comments on the 2nd question from jtbbdxbnycmad. What about for MBAs that are attempting a complete career switch into trading (from a non-finance background)?

May 29, 2017 - 5:10am

prop only traders are a fairly low percentage of the total amount of traders. And prop is just going to be mixed in with flow. I know of a couple desks that are called 'flow XYZ" but are basically prop desks that price stuff for clients on the side.

Its kind of like if you have strippers and prostitutes, but you know strippers also do a bit of 'prop' in the back rooms. If you make prostitution illegal you will just see a larger focus of prostitution within strip clubs.

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