Leila Esfahani - Commercial Scheme
Degree: BSc Business Management, University of York
Role: M&G Commercial Scheme graduate trainee - I work in the Equities Business Management team, which means I work on the marketing and business management of some of our equity funds.
The first thing I do is get myself a cup of tea and breakfast from the staff canteen. On Fridays, I meet up with some of the other graduates and have a full English!
I check my e-mails and respond to anything that has come in overnight. We have a number of clients in East Asia, and it's important that I respond to them before the close of their business day. I review my calendar for today, and draw up a "to-do list".
I attend a meeting to discuss a project plan I have written that outlines the impact to M&G of the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) (an FSA initiative which aims to create a more efficient retail market for the benefit of UK customers) and how we should respond to it. People from across the business provide input, and I make notes on the changes that need to be made before it's submitted for approval.
The meeting finishes, and I make the required amendments to the document.
I meet some other graduate recruits for lunch in the canteen. This day of the week tends to be "Curry Day" which is always a favourite among the grads! In the first five weeks of your role at M&G, all new recruits are sent on a training course to provide everyone with the same basic level of financial knowledge, which allows all of the graduates to form a network across the business that we have maintained.
I head to our auditorium for a "fund awareness session". These sessions are held once a week throughout the year, and are open to anyone who is interested in learning more about M&G's products. An investment specialist gives a presentation on a specific fund, outlining the investment philosophy of the fund manager and recent performance numbers, and answers questions.
We're in the process of writing the 2012 Retail Business plan, which outlines M&G's key strategic initiatives for 2012-2013. Today I'm drafting a section to explain the changes in organisational structure that have occurred over the last year and the reasons for them.
I attend a franchise meeting. These are meetings are arranged for each "franchise" (a group of funds with a similar investment philosophy) on a quarterly basis. They are an opportunity for fund managers and sales people to discuss future distribution and marketing - it's important that there's a strong relationship between these two teams.
I send an e-mail to all of the attendees detailing the key areas discussed and points for further action. It's my responsibility to follow up on progress over the following months, which is a great opportunity for networking.
Before heading home, I check and respond to some emails that have come in. I also think about my upcoming deadlines, and the meetings I have scheduled for tomorrow.
Andrei Mihu - IT & Technology Scheme
Degree: BSc Computer Science, University of London
Role: IT & Technology Scheme graduate trainee, which means I work on the maintenance and development of the complex IT systems needed at M&G.
An invigorating morning commute by bicycle means I arrive in the office alert and ready for my day! I have a stack of emails waiting for me. Some are notifications from the various systems my team and I look after, others are alerts regarding system failures, and some are requests from colleagues. I respond where necessary, and move on to checking current system statuses. A large volume of information is processed during the night, and many failures can occur.
Krishna, my manager, approaches me with an urgent task. One of our cash transaction processing systems has flagged errors and I have to investigate them and implement a permanent fix to ensure it doesn't happen again.
My proposed fix is nearly ready, and I'm off to speak to my colleague Alister to make sure it won't affect the system's workings.
I have a quick phone conversation with another colleague, Stuart, who would like me to give his team a quick refresher on a few issues. We agree on the overall presentation sections and a rough date. Meanwhile, Alister has confirmed with his team that the change I intend to make can go ahead.
I meet with my fellow graduates to grab lunch. We divide our days fairly evenly between eating on-site and going out. Today is a lovely day, so we decide to take a walk to our favourite Vietnamese takeaway and eat on the bank of the Thames.
After returning to the office, I dedicate the next hour to testing the code fix to ensure it functions as intended, and prepare it for release. I check to see if anything requiring my attention has occurred over my lunch hour. Everything looks in order, so I decide to make a start on the presentation for Stuart.
I've made good progress on the presentation and confirmed certain details with the relevant managers, which I incorporate into my presentation.
I turn my attention back to the code fix as it is now ready to be applied to our systems. This means that all relevant teams need to be notified of the tasks that must be performed. All relevant sign-offs have been obtained, so we can now proceed.
Updating the system has gone smoothly, and the new code is ready to be used. Since I started at 8:00 this morning, 16:00 is typically the end of my working day, subject to my workload. Today I continue working on my presentation for a bit.
It's rare, but sometimes my team and I have to stay past 18:00 to advise on system changes that can only be performed out of hours so that they don't affect system availability. But today, I'm off to meet my fellow graduates again. This time we're going out to whichever one of many City venues catches our eye this evening.
Jonathan Lahraoui - Risk Scheme
Degree: BSc Maths with Financial Maths, University of Manchester
Role: M&G Risk Scheme graduate trainee, which means I'm involved in monitoring the risks to which our funds are subject and in ensuring that our investors are protected against them to the extent possible.
I meet a colleague in the gym for a quick weights session.
I prioritise all new emails and draft a to-do list for the day.
A large portion of my time is spent developing a performance attribution model for a particular fund, which will assess which market factors have the most effect on its performance, including shifts in equity values, interest rates and currency strengths. I use specific risk software to obtain the performance numbers, and then transfer the data into Excel and look for the reasons behind the performance.
The risk monitoring team informs me that the new risk report for a large institutional fund is ready for inspection. This report is requested weekly by one of our institutional pension clients. Before any information can be released to them, it has to be sense checked by a risk analyst. I examine the report for any anomalies. The first figure I check is the Value at Risk (VaR) number - this is the theoretical maximum amount that the fund could lose in a month. If the VaR has moved significantly, it indicates that the either the holdings of the fund have changed (for example, an increase in the number of "less risky" investments in the fund) or there has been a shift in the market (for example, US equities have fallen sharply). Once I've checked the report, I send back confirmation that it can be released.
Most days, I'll grab a bite to eat in the canteen with my fellow grads. However, since it's sunny outside today, we head across London Bridge to Borough Market for some top-quality Thai curry.****
I prepare notes for my monthly meeting with a fund manager. In our previous meeting, we concluded that the fund was overexposed to shifts in foreign exchange (FX) rates. To overcome this, I have been investigating various patterns in the currency markets to recommend a currency hedge that should reduce his exposure to FX shifts. I condense my results into a table and head up to the meeting.
After discussing the risk profile of the fund, the fund manager requests that the report is modified to include a new stress test - the event of a downgrade to the US's credit rating. I present my currency hedging investigation to him and he decides to hedge his US dollar position by using Japanese yen.
I generate a set of new risk scenarios following a request from my line manager. He wants to see how certain funds would perform if the 2008 banking crisis were to happen again today! He is planning to take the results to a directors' meeting tomorrow, so I dedicate the next two hours to preparing a presentation, complete with detailed assessment for each fund.
I meet some of my colleagues in the foyer. Five-a-side football tonight! We head off in high spirits.
We lose 16-2.
Oriane Auzanneau - Investment Scheme
Degree: Masters in Finance and a Masters in Management
Role: Recently completed the M&G Investment Scheme. I currently work for M&G's UK Companies Financing Fund in the Alternate Credit division, which means I work on analysing potential transactions which the fund I work with could invest in.
I arrive at the office and start with a review of the news. I look at items relating to the economy in general and those concerning companies and sectors in which we have invested in, or are currently dealing with. I read through any financial updates, press releases or market reviews available.
Most of my day is then dedicated to working on current deals. I start off with a meeting with two of my colleagues in the transaction team to discuss progress on some ongoing transactions. We discuss what additional information is needed for one deal which is at the due diligence (disclosure of information and research) stage. We then comment on the proposed term sheet for another deal. We agree to discuss the business plan of a third company we are in talks with within the next couple of days once we've had time to review and reflect on the information.
We call our lawyers to discuss the term sheet we reviewed earlier. We highlight some commercial points still in discussion, and talk about the envisaged structure. They flag certain areas which will need to be dealt with carefully at the documentation stage.
I draft a list of questions to the company's management for the first deal we discussed this morning and send it through to my colleagues for them to comment on, and so they can add any additional questions they might have.
I usually stop around this time to get some lunch, either from outside or from the canteen. I tend to eat at my desk while going through the daily news or carrying on with the tasks I started in the morning.
I start looking at the company's business plan which the team will discuss within the next two days. While going through the financial projections, I write down some questions for management, and send them a quick e-mail to put a time in the diary for a call tomorrow to discuss certain points.****
We receive a mark-up of the term sheet from the lawyers, and go through it again before it's sent back to the company.
We have received an enquiry from a company showing interest in potential financing by the fund. It's a public company, so I gather information from Bloomberg and the company's website, including their most recent accounts, in order to be able to put together a quick summary which the team will discuss later.****
Most evenings I manage to finish around 19.00, which leaves some time to enjoy life outside the office. I meet friends for an early dinner before going home to relax.