Client facing Geeks

Client-facing Geeks: The New Face of Equity Trading, Ofir Gefen

How do you do two jobs at once? Intelligently.

Since the global financial crisis, financial services firms have slashed staffing. The more blunt reductions in aggregate head count have been replaced by restructures, allocating staffing to expanded oversight and a tighter focus on revenue generating businesses.

While the old policy of hiring support specialists alongside the primary business lines is no more, specialist skills are still needed.

These skills, however, require years of training. Many candidates leave advanced training programs, internally and in academia, without a clear career prospect.

Ofir Gefen, Head of Electronic Trading for global broker/dealer and research provider, ITG, shared how he avoided this trap in his career. Starting out as a physicist and missile programmer, Ofir realized his passion of understanding how the universe functions didn’t match his personal financial goals.

His response? Change his focus of study to pair computer sciences with economics. “I ended up in the grey area between economics and computer sciences. Lucky for me, the world changed as I left school,” Ofir said, speaking at the Pathfinder Career Summit.

Bridging the Gaps

As trading shifted from phone and paper to electronic trading, a new breed of traders emerged. “If you ask me today, what are trading desks looking for, they are looking for geeks that can be client-facing. And that’s very hard to find,” Ofir observed.

Today, making yourself essential to financial firms means bridging technical and personal skills. Traditional career wisdom was to choose one talent and focus on it to the exclusion of other interests, but that has proved hollow, because technology needs context, and a technologists need to understand the industry their technology is used in to add real value

It’s rare for people to have equal interest and ability in both skill sets, so how to proceed?

Practically, most successful candidates should identify a complementary skill to add to their existing abilities. Ofir was an engineer, who learned economics. Talented sales people can learn a coding language or study an accounting standard.

The first step is a self-assessment. For many, this involves speaking to a career coach to get an accurate picture of which skills are most in demand. Pathfinder’s experienced team understand financial services firms’ hiring needs and can provide frank, practical guidance on where a candidate’s skills best fit.

Then, get to work. Read broadly. Speak to experts in fields other than your own about the issues in your field. Find events to attend, or present at, where the intersection of these skill sets is discussed.

This is what financial services firms are looking for. More importantly, these are the type of people they are currently rebuilding their businesses around.

Career Summit 2014