FX Is Transforming Rapidly, and So Is Its Talent

In the past, a career in foreign exchange was often synonymous with busy trading floors, where whoever shouted the loudest was the most likely to be noticed. While this kind of environment may have served the markets of the past well, the overriding message from AFME and GFMAs NextStepFX event last week was that the industry has changed dramatically over the last decade. Whether thats through new technology revolutionising how trading is done, a revamped approach to conduct and culture in the wake of the financial crisis or a greater focus on working collaboratively to achieve the best outcomes both for firms and their clients.

Our speakers had several different perspectives on this issue. For Robbie Boukhoufane, aportfolio manager at asset manager,Schroders, it was clear that despite the fact that the vast majority of trading now takes place electronically, human interaction and relationship building is still hugely important. For him, the key factor is that we all strive to be more efficient and to get better outcomes for our clients, but that you wont join the FX industry and be sat next to a robot.

Hanna Assayag,a Managing Director in FX at HSBC agrees and said that while, of course, technology and data are important facilitating effective interaction between data and analytics teams and sales, and having the skills to effectively do that, is also vital. Thalia Chryssikou, Co-Head of Global Sales Strats and Structuring at Goldman Sachs, said that for her one of the biggest changes has been the difference in what she spends her time doing day-to-day, with her role today much more varied than in the past. A lot of her focus is now dedicated to developing digital platforms and client solutions.

Diverse skills needed

All of this means that todays FX industry needs, and is looking for, a whole host of different skills – from the more technical side, with expertise in coding and data analytics, to softer skills in communications and creative thinking. Diversity of talent in the broadest sense is hugely important. As the Bank of Englands, Executive Director for Markets, Andrew Hauser argued in his opening remarks, diverse teams make better decisions as they have more ways to approach problems, and are better at self-challenge and diversity also improves a firms connection to, and empathy with its customers. And as David Hudson, Co-Head CIB Digital & Platform Services at JP Morgan, pointed out, diversity of talent, where you recruit people with different backgrounds and prior careers, brings new ideas into your organisation. There is a hard business case too, research by McKinsey, looking at the economy more broadly, has found that the most diverse firms at an executive level are 20 – 30% more likely to outperform their peers.

Attracting women into an FX career

Our event last week in particular focused on why this exciting and fast-changing industry could be an appealing career path for greater numbers of women. I was pleased by the positive response we received from attendees and I had the opportunity to speak to a range of people during networking – some were currently working in a different area of financial services, others were considering a return from a career break – but common to them all was a newfound appreciation of the fact that FX was an industry where their skills and experience were in high demand.

The importance of building networks

Continuing to create connections between industry and the diverse talent that it wants to attract, must be a priority. As Sian Hurrell, Head of FICC Europe and Global Head of FX atRBC argued, in this industry in particular, people will find their careers through their network and one of the most important things that industry can do is to create more opportunities to build networks such as through events, structured programmes or via social media. For Robin Savchuk,International Treasurer at BNY Mellon, individuals should also feel confident to reach out and make connections. She says these contacts dont have to be in a formal programme, I would encourage people to seek out people you respect, want to emulate or whose opinion you value and talk to them, get their advice. With that advice echoed by Emma Norman, Director, Head of e-FICC, Europe and Americas at Westpac. It is clear that both firms and individuals should be cultivating new networks and connections, so that we can all take advantage of the opportunities innovation in FX is creating.