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Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to work in The City?

By Adam King, Editor & Head of Marketing, CSS Investments

Interview with Daniel Sawyerr, Senior Stockbroker, CSS Investments

Too few times will a firm that works in financial industry open its doors to outsiders. As a result it has an image problem built on media stories, dodgy banker bonuses and the many preconceptions of what goes on behind closed doors and the people that work in it.

It’s easy to see why, from the outside looking in, that it can seem like an alien world where money talks and that is the bottom line. I for one don’t come from this world and held many of these views before I began working in this industry a little over 6 months ago. However in this short time I’ve discovered that not everyone is a banker on multi-million pound bonuses. Not everyone works for large International firms. Not everyone spends their days shouting over each other waving pieces of paper in the air.

So what really goes on? Who are the people that work in this world? If you’ve ever invested in the markets and had these kind of questions then I hope you’ll enjoy our forthcoming series of interviews with those that do so day in, day out, and gain an insight into what it’s really like to work in The City.

We start this series talking to CSS Investments Senior Broker, Daniel Sawyerr. We dig deep into what it takes to get into this business, the commitment and training required, what motivates him and reveal the on-going pressures and challenges he faces on a daily basis.

So let’s begin!

Adam: Tell me a bit about how you became a stockbroker?

Daniel: In 2007 I saw an advertisement for a trainee stockbroker position. I applied for it and was taken on as a trainee/account opener as a group of 13 individuals. During the time I was an apprentice/trainee I was sponsored by the firm I was working for to take my regulatory exams, which after I passed I began to develop my own client base.

Adam: How did you find the exams?

Daniel: The exams take a lot of time and effort. I found them useful as they enabled me to do my job more effectively as they improved my understanding of the role that I was taking up. I started my qualifications by passing four exams covering; Financial Regulations, Investment and Risk, Securities and Derivatives. More recently to prepare for post-RDR I passed the Level 6 PCIAM Exam (Private Client Investment Advice and Management). The PCIAM is broadly equivalent to an undergraduate degree level of difficulty and was good to study as it further broadened my knowledge base.

Adam: When you qualify and become a stockbroker how do you keep up with the ever changing rules and regulations?

Daniel: We complete two CPD professional refreshers each month; they are just that, they refresh you on particular areas of finance. They focus on various aspects from tax policies and fund management to anti money laundering and price stabilisation. There is also the daily reading of the financial press and listening to Bloomberg. Day to day we are at our terminals so we do see the news flow as it hits.

Adam: Is stockbroking something you always wanted to do?

Daniel: I always liked the idea of working on a trading floor. When I was younger I always played a lot of sports. In terms of a career out of sport I feel that a trading floor is quite comparable. It is exciting, there is a buzz. I like the idea of working on a market that is live and you are participating in the larger picture. I have always found that interesting.

Adam: How does the modern day trading floor compare to the image that I’m sure a lot of people have in their head of the trading floor with people running around with paper slips in their hands.

Daniel: It is nothing like that, there is only one open outcry floor left in London, The London Metal Exchange, which is just round the corner from us here. Everything now is done on screen.

Adam: What does your typical day consist of on the trading floor?

Daniel: We arrive in the office before the market opens, usually around 7:15am. We read through the financial press, we have a morning meeting at 7:40am which is chaired by a different broker each day. We go through the moves in Asia and the US overnight, we discuss any companies of note that are reporting that day and any major economic announcements that we should look out for. We tend to create a plan of what to expect throughout the day. It is then a case of implementing that, keeping an eye on your clients’ positions, keeping your clients updated and making sure we are advising them on positions, whether it be a to buy, sell or hold.

Adam: When it comes to speaking to clients, do you speak to all of your clients every day?

Daniel: It will vary client by client. The clients that are looking for a short term strategy will be more time intensive as their positions require a bit more attention.  There are clients that prefer quarterly updates on their portfolio and are not interested in day to day movements. I think that is one of the key benefits of working with CSS. We are able to cater for both, we can tailor a plan and a strategy based upon an individual’s requirements, as opposed to a one size fits all approach.

Adam: What do you do after a long day in the office to wind down then? You mentioned sports previously, is that something you still enjoy outside of the office?

Daniel: I do try my best! I like to go to the gym and keep fit. I am also becoming a father for the first time within the next coupe of weeks so a lot of my time is taken up preparing for the new arrival. I also enjoy spending time with my friends and family.

Adam: Congratulations! Do you know what you are expecting?

Daniel: We are expecting a little girl.

Adam: Do you have any names yet?

Daniel: We are going to call her Pearl.

Adam: What a lovely name! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today Daniel.  

So there we have it, a small insight into Daniels’ world and what it means to be a stockbroker in The City. I apologise that you were not given stories of expensive dinners, wild parties and lavish holidays. The truth is that his life probably seems quite…. normal? Although not quite the 9-5 job (make that 7-6), the contrast of the modern day stockbroker to the image portrayed in movies like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is clear to see.

Daniel goes back to his desk on the trading floor, Bloomberg chatters away in the background, there isn’t any shouting, running around or paper waving and he gets back to work. Whether he is preparing for his next conversation with a client where he gives a short update on the markets, a trade recommendation or discusses their strategy, or whether he’s continuing his on-going research, it is all part of his daily routine.

I’m not sure what you would have expected from this interview, but I know that before I started in this industry, I probably held similar views.

As we add to this series of posts that allows you to understand the culture and people here at CSS you will get to know us, probably more than you know most firms in The City. This isn’t intended to be self-indulgent, but to do something that historically hasn’t been very common from firms in The City. That is to be open and transparent about what we do, who we do it for and how we work.

CSS Investments believes it has a responsibility to anyone who wishes to better their financial future, and whether you ever join us or choose another avenue to invest, we hope that you do so from a better and more educated position.

So expect more stories about hard work, long hours and nothing about throwing a dwarf around the office…  Sorry about that!


What did you think of the first interview post? Useful? Interesting? Please leave your comments below.


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