A graduate’s education doesn’t end with getting hired

Mads Nielsen has been working with trading at Nordea for more than four months and shares his experience adjusting to trader reality.

Thought you were done with school after graduating from university? Forget it, starting in an actual “real-life” job in Nordea Markets will quickly prove otherwise. In my first-ever blog post I would like to discuss some of the education we get as traders and how this is different from what we have already learned.

My name is Mads Nielsen and I am a graduate at the Major and Emerging FX-forwards desk, trading primarily FX swaps. I have been here for more than four months by now (time flies) and I’m still excited every day I get into work.

But in this post I’ll be focusing on an experience away from the office.

Adjusting to trader reality

Being a trader involves (as you probably know) quoting the best possible prices to the customers within a very short timeframe. Therefore, you are always supposed to know where the market is, and where you would like to head under the given circumstances.

Sometimes the customers will ask for what we refer to as odd dates. These are tenors, or maturities, other than the standard 1-week, 2-week, etc. Prices on such dates might actually deviate quite a bit from the prices on standard tenures due to some technical details, which I will not bore you with. The main issue here is to get the client the right price fast. That’s why we will often use “quick and rough” calculations to get a fast price, rather than systematically calculating the exact price.

This was really an issue for me in the beginning, as it offended my mathematical pride. “How can you put out a price on some quick and rough calculation?” I would wonder. The answer I got from my colleague was simply: “That price is the right one.”

Five minutes later, after meticulously calculating the correct price, I naturally realized that he was right. The price I calculated deviated by a couple of decimals, which really didn’t matter in the end. The point of this little anecdote being that attention to detail should always be outweighed by the benefits it supplies.

Return to the classroom

…. and back to the school part.

Working as a trader of course requires that you know your products in depth. To teach new market participants about the products, as well as the code of conduct in the markets, the Financial Markets Association ACI facilitates courses to teach those subjects.

Together with six Nordea Markets employees and 13 other bankers, I attended a four-day course not long ago. The subjects included:

  • Foreign exchange market
  • Cash money market
  • Options and derivatives
  • Model code(the code of conduct)

The aim of the course was to introduce the relevant products and the theoretical price calculations along with the best practices of behaviour in those markets. The course was located at a hotel, where all participants were hosted for the full four days, since there was quite a bit of homework to do each evening. A nice side effect of being together in the hotel was that we got to do a lot of valuable networking with both colleagues and the other bankers, as soon as the homework was completed. A further perk was the nice food and cake served each day, which definitely beat the alternative in my case: pasta with ketchup!

After four days of thorough learning that Nordea sponsored, we emerged ready to take the ACI Dealing Certificate exam, which all six of us here will hopefully pass with distinction.

In the longer run there are higher-level courses we can and will take. So if you think you are done with school, think again! You still have many interesting and actually relevant things to learn.

– Mads Nielsen

[author image=”https://nordeamarkets.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/mads-nielsen.jpg” ]Hi! My name is Mads Nielsen, 25 years old, and originally from the beautiful countryside of Funen. I am currently working as a Graduate in the Copenhagen office in the Majors and EMG FX Forwards division. Before starting at Nordea, I obtained a master’s degree in maths and economics from Aarhus University. As an assistant dealer, I get to use some of the mathematical tools obtained through my education along with a good economical intuition, which is crucial in the ever-changing FX forwards markets.
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