Meet Cassandra Austen, a 24-year-old Associate working at J.P. Morgan in Sydney. We chatted to Cass about what it’s really like to work on a trading floor.
Describe your job in a nutshell: As a trader in the Fixed Income team, we trade (buy and sell) fixed income products such as bonds or foreign currency. Clients like banks or fund managers will buy or sell products with our trading desk. I then go to the market to try and sell or buy them back. It’s very fast-paced – prices can change quickly and we deal with a wide range of product types so I’m always on my toes. There is no “typical day”. You aren’t working on long-term projects in trading, everything is immediate and there are lots of different tasks to be performed in the same day. I have a lot of interaction with clients and am accountable for my book’s daily profit or loss. This means I can see the immediate result of my work!
What are your qualifications? I pursued a Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies) at the University of Sydney where I majored in Finance, Economics, and Financial Math. In year 12, I studied Math Extension 2 & Economics. Although I enjoy numbers and problem solving, you don’t need pure maths to do this job, you just need to enjoy working with numbers.
What interested you in finance? At university I knew I wanted to work in the financial services industry but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at the time. Working for an investment bank like J.P. Morgan seemed like a great option to help me figure out my career path. I thought this would mean long hours and minimal work-life balance, but I can tell you this isn’t the case in my role. It’s fast paced when the market opens at 8.30am but once the market is closed and my trades are all booked, I’m usually out the door by 5.30pm.
Tell us a myth about finance that you can bust. Historically, there has been low female representation out on the dealing floors but this is improving and our firm’s environment has been very supportive. I joined my trading team as their first female graduate and they went out of their way to welcome me and make me feel part of the team. The firm continues to work on recruitment efforts and retention of female talent across our Financial Markets group.
Where could this job take you? Anywhere you want! There are so many different roles and businesses within J.P. Morgan in Sydney and globally. I have friends in the firm who have moved all over the world including London, New York and Hong Kong.
What has been the coolest work opportunity that you’ve had? I spent seven weeks in New York City with all the global J.P. Morgan graduates for our training. It was a chance to learn a lot, meet people from all over the world and have fun!
How did your degree prepare you for this role? In my role, you learn most of what you need on the job. People come from all different backgrounds and didn’t necessarily study finance at university. There is no expectation that you must know everything from the beginning. When you start, you’re given a lot of on-the-job training such as shadowing people throughout the day and you may start with smaller tasks to get you prepped. As you progress with your career, you’ll be given more responsibility to keep you challenged and allow you to develop.
What are the essential skills for working in finance? You need to like working with numbers, be able to work quickly and adapt in different scenarios, and make decisions quickly while backing them up. A keen interest in markets and the world around you is important.
What is the recruitment process like? You apply through the J.P. Morgan grad program, typically in your penultimate year at university. There is a screening process, an interview with Human Resources, and then interviews with senior managers. You’ll be asked behavioural questions and perhaps a few technical questions like brain teasers to see how you think. You can check out interviewing advice and tips from J.P. Morgan here.
Tell us about your office environment and the workplace culture. The trading floor can be very exciting, especially when a noteworthy event like Brexit occurs. You have a set desk (mine has six screens – all of which I need!), and you’ll sit with your team (my team consists of ten people). You work primarily with your team but there’s a lot of crossover with sales, research, middle office and technology teams. There’s no hierarchy – you can chat with seniors and managing directors whenever. The team has a mix of ages though, at the moment, I’m the youngest in my team. Socially, the team goes out for dinner or drinks about once a month (last year we also went go-karting), and when it’s quiet we chat about whatever is going on in our lives. There’s also a lot of opportunity to connect with other graduates in the business.
What is your biggest achievement at work so far? I won the Rising Star award from J.P. Morgan’s Women on the Move Interactive Network, which was exciting! I’ve also helped to build out an inter-bank Sydney group called Junior Women in Markets to connect young women in finance through events, networking sessions and information nights.
Pitch us your job. Financial markets never get boring and you are always learning! There’s opportunity to be rewarded well financially, something I’ve found women don’t think about enough when they are at university. You can love your job and be paid well for it.
If Cassandra’s job sounds like it’s right for you, check out all the graduate opportunities available at J.P. Morgan here.