Life of a Treasury Dealer
A Typical Dealing Room
The Interview Room
*This is my journey to becoming a dealer. My daily life starts at the text titled "Calls calls calls" below.
Before I was able to see a dealing room for the first time in my life, I was asked to be seated on a sofa outside a meeting room. Sure enough, there was someone being interviewed in the meeting room. A few minutes later, a young lad came out from the room, standing by the door and asked "when will I be notified of the results?" A man seemingly in his fifties then walked out while replying "3 weeks". I thought that was a rather fair waiting period for interview result.
Subsequently, I was asked to go into the "interview room". The interview lasted for less than 10 minutes and very little questions were asked by the interviewers. I just thought all my preparations including the "mind games" that I used to portrait myself as confident as possible didn't work... Nevertheless, I got a phone call from the HR department in less than a week's time asking if I was still interested in the position. Right there, I decided to begin my career as a dealer.
Around 1 month after the interview, my first day in the bank finally arrived. Again, I went back to the building, took the same lift to reach the same floor. But this time, I turned left walking out of the lift (instead of right, where the meeting room was) and (TadAAAAA!) it felt like people were filming a wall street related movie (or, I was watching one)!!!
I was so excited knowing that I will be working in the room full of screens showing charts and numbers changing almost every second and couldn't help but noticed some guy "holding" a loosen headset to his ears with his right shoulder while furiously typing on a rather odd-looking keyboard, which gave me an idea of how face paced the environment could be. The idea, turns out to be exactly the truth.
Structure of Treasury/Global Markets
*This is for the soon-to-be dealers where I would briefly go through the structure of Treasury Department, or as some banks call it, Global Markets. My daily life starts at the text titled "Calls calls calls" below.
The structure of most Treasury Departments in commercial banks would most likely be product orientated, i.e. there would be Spot Desk, Swap Desk, Bond Desk, Derivatives Desk, Funding Desk, Money Market Desk and Sales Desk.
Spot Desk - Proprietary Forex trader that takes FX position on behalf of the bank in order to make a profit from the movement in exchange rates, as well as to cover the FX positions taken by the Sales Desk.
Swap Desk - Engage in swaps trading/funding.
Bond Desk - Engage in bond trading while managing the bank's bond portfolio.
Derivatives Desk - Engage in trading of derivatives and/or structured products (some banks has a separated desk for structured products) to make a profit from the movement in prices, as well as to cover the derivatives position taken by the Sales Desk.
Funding Desk - Manage the short-term and long-term liquidity (and cost of funds) of the bank, as well as making sure that the various liquidity ratios are in compliant.
MM Desk - Manage the deposits by the bank's retail customers, corporate customers and financial institutional customers (and cost of funds).
Sales Desk (Treasury Sales) - Caters the bank's clients needs in terms of FX requirement, deposits and other treasury products that suits the clients' risk appetite and reward expectation.
The (more realistic) dealing room
"Calls calls calls"
To begin with, I am at the Sales Desk in charge of Forex. So, what is treasury sales? We are the currency exchange guys that help our clients in converting their holding currency into the desired currency.
Here, I will focus on the retail and corporate clients as financial institution dealings just aren't as exciting as they may sound. Practically, the sales guys will buy or sell currencies to/from the retails, corporations and financial institutions and cover their positions with their counterparts at Spot Desks. Most Treasury Departments in my country start operating at around 8 AM to 9 AM, Monday to Friday.
The days in dealing room hardly repeat itself, even when the exchange rates stay relatively constant for a few day as businesses can only drag their payments and receipts to a certain extent. When psychology comes into play, some clients might even choose to hedge forward at a worse rate than previously available. This mimics the cut-loss mentality we are more accustomed to in trading and speculating.
Around 9AM to 10AM is when the phone calls start swarming in and the hunting line with more than 30 phone lines may be easily occupied. This is when we start using another headset and talk to two clients simultaneously...
The first thing I do as I walked into the dealing room every morning is to look at the exchange rates to see if there was any big overnight movement. A big overnight movement would generally mean a higher demand for the rest of the day either on the bid side or ask side.
Importers generally desire a stronger local currency with exporters hoping for the opposite. To illustrate, if USD strengthened against the local currency for 400 points overnight, most sales guys would expect a profitable day as exporters would gladly convert their USD into local currency or hedge their future USD receipts at a higher conversion rate.
But we would expect a quiet day (in terms of retail and corporations) if the rates haven't been moving for (say) three consecutive days and there's no long weekend or holidays in near future as there really isn't much incentives for businesses to make FX remittance/conversion other than those arising from their bona fide trade transactions that are due.
Around 9AM to 10AM is when the phone calls start swarming in and the hunting line with more than 30 phone lines may be easily occupied. This is when we start using another headset and talk to two clients simultaneously (or just to let the other client know that we'll give them a call once we are done dealing with the current client).
And you guess it right, it doesn't stop there.
The phone calls only start dying down as trading hours for the day reaches the end. This is why most reporting or data consolidation duties are to be done before or after the trading hours.
There's no room for number pushers in the dealing room anymore.
We sell service, not currencies. For Real.
Essentially, a sales dealer's job is to quote his client an exchange rate that he thinks is fair to both parties, whereby the bank will make reasonable amount of profit from the deal while keeping the client satisfied with the rate quoted.
However, in today's competitive environment, most clients would expect more services from their bankers. This is where it makes a difference -- building a relationship. In most cases, a client would ask for the dealer's view on the future movement in FX prices. The dealers will then provide their analysis on forecasts of future exchange rate movements to their clients. Most likely, the dealers will do so based on their findings in technical or fundamental analysis (or both). Some Treasury departments would work closely with the bank's Economics team to come out with a more comprehensive picture of future FX prices in order to provide for the needs of their clients.
The analytical services are provided today simply because some retails and corporations do not have the resources to assemble a team of analysts just to do the forecasting for the company. Consequently, constantly providing a reasonably accurate analysis along with appropriate suggestions on the use of products to hedge the client's FX risk is what sales guys are actually striving to achieve, day in, day out. There's no room for number pushers in the dealing room anymore.
This is where it makes a difference -- building a relationship.
So... do we shout?
For the record, yes, we do shout in the dealing room!