HoT: Simon, could you summarise the career path that’s brought you to your current position?
SB: Whilst at university, doing a finance degree, I had a placement year at SG Warburg, attached to Mercury Asset Management. That was quite a broad based middle office role that lasted for about a year and gave me a great introduction to the workplace whilst I was still studying. I actually returned there for a brief period post leaving university, before moving to Robert Fleming, which was a derivative middle office role. I had a brief foray into product structuring, which didn’t seem to be the right place for me, and so I moved onto the portfolio trading desk as a sales trader. That was back in the early days of portfolio trading in 1996. I spent four good years there, really cutting my teeth, focussing on Asia and emerging markets, which was a great place to start in the equity market because it’s more complex there and enabled me to learn a lot of the skills I needed to do the job well. After (four to) five years there I moved on to Merrill Lynch, doing a similar role, global portfolio trading. I think the big difference there was that it was a much larger firm, and we were trading a much broader scope of the global equity market rather than it being just Asia and emerging focussed. I spent five years there before moving to Credit Suisse. Initially that was a very portfolio trading focussed role but then about five years ago I saw an opportunity to branch out into a side line of the global basket trading, which was looking at ETFs and doing the underlying creation redemption baskets. That was basket trading, but on the back of ETFs, serving my own market makers (my own) on the Delta One desk at Credit Suisse, but also looking to provide that service for the ETF specialists, which weren’t (huge) investment banks, and didn’t necessarily have a global equity execution capability. I was trading those global baskets that were directed to me, and over time that moved me more and more away from a day to day portfolio trading role and I gradually became more focussed and increased my exposure to the ETF part of the business. I think during my time at Credit Suisse, I noticed that there were certain structural elements of how the marketplace was changing that would offer opportunities outside of investment banks that motivated me to move to ITG.
I think it definitely changed my outlook. I’d been in the marketplace since 1996 and I’d seen some major events that affected the market, but I don’t think anybody, even people who’d been in the marketplace for the previous two generations had ever seen (such) anything as seismic as the events of 2008.
HoT: What was your experience of the 2008 crash? Did that change your outlook in any way?
SB: I think it definitely changed my outlook. I’d been in the marketplace since 1996 and I’d seen some major events that affected the market, but I don’t think anybody, even people who’d been in the marketplace for the previous two generations had ever seen (such) anything as seismic as the events of 2008. It changed my view on risk. We’d got to a point where (we believed) a lot of the systemic risk in the marketplace wasn’t to the forefront of people’s minds as I think it ought to have been. People felt the likelihood of a collapse of the financial system and of major financial institutions to be a near impossibility. It taught me that you can’t take anything for granted and that what you may believe now isn’t necessarily going to be true in the future. You need to be nimble and ready to adapt as the marketplace changes.
HoT: Do you think the UK should leave or remain in the EU?
SB: This is my own opinion and not that of ITG; the UK has 1% of global population and 3% of global GDP; we’re a relatively small player. Over time (that’s going to change) those percentages are going to get smaller as global population growth continues. Whilst we remain in the European Union we’ve got a much louder voice than if we were that small country on its own. Being part of the world’s largest single market of 500 million consumers is a much stronger place to be, it will give us a much louder voice and will make it much easier to negotiate globally. To do anything that would potentially compromise that position would be to the detriment of our economy.