I want to answer a few of the questions that concerned me while I was a student and hopefully give you a better insight into how it is to work in the financial industry. My post will be centered around the role of a sales person in Nordea Markets where I spend my days in the credit sales team. In this post I will go through what I typically do and some of the questions I had before I decided upon my career path. Please keep in mind that my description of the sales role is generalized, and that there are large variations between different sales roles in Markets.
The credit market is the market for corporate debt, where my team focus on corporate bonds issued by Nordic companies in different currencies. When a company wants to borrow money they can choose to either borrow money from a bank or sell debt in the market, and my job is related to the latter options when investors look to borrow money from the financial markets (there are clear differences between these two borrowing options, but I don’t want to bore you with too many details). As a sales person in the credit area my role is to both help companies sell new debt to financial investors as well as to help investors buy and sell corporate loans that are already in the market. This post is however not about the credit market, so let us talk a little more about the role as a sales person.
Graduates in the sales organization at Nordea Markets start as assistant sales managers, and in the beginning a lot of emphasis will be put on supporting the rest of the team and understanding the financial products. However the main task of the sales person is to service clients and work as an intermediate between the client and our trading desk. A typical day for me involves talking to both my clients and the traders at Nordea to find out if the interest of the two parties can be aligned (i.e. my trader is willing to sell something my client wants to buy), but also to share different views on the market. Furthermore, I discuss trading ideas with my colleagues from sales, trading and credit strategy (a part of research) in a continuous effort to try to find value in the market.
Next I would like to answer a few questions I typically get from students about sales.
1. How long does it take before you get client contact?
It depends on a few factors, but the complexity of the products you work with is a huge factor, because some products is quite easy to understand (at least the basics) while other products will require a lot of time to understand. It is instrumental to understand the products before you speak to clients, so it is often the first step when you start. The most honest answer to the question above is that it is largely up to you, my experience is that you will get the opportunity fast if you are ready.
2. Who are your clients?
Different teams have different type of clients and it is often separated by the size of the clients portfolio and how familiar the client is with the different investment products. Different clients also require different type of skills, as service to a wealthy individual who invests his own money will differ quite a lot from service to a financial institution or a large asset manager which invests on behalf of others. If you consider a career in sales or the financial business this is not something I would worry too much about yet though.
3. What is the typical skill set of a person working in sales?
There is of course no general recipe here, and it really depends on which team within sales we are talking about. A few things I would mention though is that you need to be able to work independently, have an analytical mind set and be outgoing and comfortable with client interaction. A short explanation might be appropriate. It is important to be able to work independently, because as a sales person you are very much responsible for your own results and even as a graduate you get a lot of freedom in your everyday work. An analytical mind set is important to be able to discuss the market with clients and come up with good trade ideas, which both are corner stones to become a successful sales person. The need to be outgoing and comfortable with client interaction should be self-explainable.
4. How long do you typically work?
This varies from team to team and is also largely up to yourself. As a sales person your working hours depend a lot on your clients, but I normally work from around 7:30 to 17:30
This was my attempt to give you a short introduction to the role as a sales person. Finally I would like to give you some last advice, try to keep an open mind when you look for a career. When I was about to finish my graduate studies I was unsure where I wanted to work and what kind of role I was looking for. At the first assessment center with Nordea my heart was not firmly set on becoming a sales person, but as the process went on I became more and more confident it was a good fit for me. So I guess my lesson was that it never hurts to give it a try and go to an interview to see what it is all about. A really good thing about the assessment center for the Nordea Markets Graduate Programme is that you meet people from sales, research and trading. Consequently, you have the opportunity to evaluate all these roles as a potential career path, and the representatives from the respective departments will also consider if you are a good fit for their team. In my opinion this set up will give you opportunities that you might not consider in the first place, and increase the probability that you end up the right place, where you enjoy your work and are able to thrive.