Inside View: UBS Derivatives Settlements
Nicholas Syme works for UBS and is currently completing an MBA at Warwick Business School. In this interview, he describes his responsibilities at UBS and explains how his MBA is helping him do his job
There are a huge variety of jobs within investment banks, says derivatives platform manager and Warwick MBA candidate Nicholas Syme of UBS. While an MBA isn’t crucial to get into an investment bank, you’ll be more competitive for at least some of the roles.
Nicholas has worked at UBS for over seven years in a variety of operational, business analytics and project management roles. He started in 2004 in a temporary role as an OTC (Over The Counter) Derivatives settlements analyst, which became a permanent position after three months.
The OTC to CCP (Central CounterParty) programme is the UBS effort to prepare its OTC Derivatives and Prime Brokerage businesses for the new regulatory environment created by the Dodd-Frank Act in the US, and similar European and Asian regulatory initiatives expected in 2012. The regulations aim, among other things, to make derivatives markets more transparent.
“I am a project manager responsible for defining, building and implementing a Credit Checking solution for OTC derivatives, which helps UBS manage its counterparty exposure to clients and other institutions”, Nicholas explains.
“Day to day this means working with Risk officers, OTC sales and trading managers to establish the requirements and uses for the credit checking system. I then work with IT leads to help them design the software and integrate it with other trade management applications.
“I produce regular project status reports showing the issues and risks the project faces and how it is progressing against milestones. I work with stakeholders to resolve issues and mitigate risks as they arise.”
Currently enrolled in the Executive MBA program at Warwick Business School, Nicholas thinks the MBA has already proved useful in his job and it will continue to be in the future.
“In particular, the Operations Management module has been very helpful in requirements design and process architecture. I am also beginning work on my dissertation which will investigate how counterparty risk tolerance is determined and what impact this has on the performance of the Credit checking system we have designed and implemented”, he explains,
For him, an MBA is not “crucial to beginning a career with an investment bank”. However, he adds, “it obviously can't hurt your chances. Banks like UBS have a hugely diverse range of jobs which require very different skill sets and experience”. MBA graduates are better placed in some of these roles.
What Nicholas likes about his job is that his current project “is dynamic... you have to anticipate what the next issue will be and how you will find different solutions to each problem. I also like to know that I’m building something; it gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the project.”
Finally, he likes that his role involves working with people in divisions across the bank, from Sales & Trading, Risk management, IT and Operations.
He thinks the most challenging part of the OTC and CCP Programme is the fact that the US regulations aren’t finalised yet and that the rules haven’t been implemented: “so we have to try and anticipate how the market will work and build the Credit check solution based on those assumptions”.
We asked him what kinds of skills are necessary in order to start a career in investment banking. “It’s difficult to say”, he answers, “Investment banking includes a broad range of activities, and therefore, skills you need.
“Some people need exceptional numeric skills, some terrific strategic thinking about how the market will move, and what business opportunities will arise, while others have strong operational process backgrounds to ensure client service excellence. I would say everybody working in investment banking needs strong client focus, communication skills, problem analysis, drive and commitment”.