Good sport! | Investment banking on The Gateway

Good sport!

Morgan Stanley's employees have excelled in many different fields. Finbarr Bermingham speaks to four sporting stars to find out how their achievements have helped them in their careers in finance

Jennifer Ahle

  • Sport: Taekwondo

  • Role at Morgan Stanley: Associate, oil trading

"For me," says Jennifer Ahle, "the most important thing in life is to never become bored." After 20 minutes of conversation with the oil trader, we're inclined to think boredom isn't a feeling overly familiar to her. Jennifer is a black belt in taekwondo, and has competed internationally for her homeland, Sweden. In the past decade, she has lived and trained in ten different countries, taken up marathon running, and even tried her hand at boxing. The crowning glory of her sporting career so far, though, was becoming the Swedish taekwondo champion in 2000.

"Five years of intensive training and professional competing culminated in that point and I was on a massive high for a long time afterwards!" she beams. "Another of my most memorable experiences was spending four months training at a temple on a mountain, deep in the Chinese wilderness. We trained for 12 hours a day, after which we'd trek for another hour to use a freezing cold shower. It was the toughest thing I've ever done, but it helped me find out a lot about myself."

Both Jennifer's most successful moments and darkest days in sport have helped her to prepare for life as a trader. Says Jennifer: "The ability to bounce back is essential in both martial arts and trading. I've spent months - sometimes years - training for a competition only to be dumped out in the first round. It's heartbreaking, but you need to dust yourself off and carry on. Being able to do so has been invaluable to my career. My job is to buy and sell oil, which involves quick thinking and precise management. Sometimes you'll make mistakes - everyone does! The important thing is to learn from them and come back stronger."

Nikki Acton

  • Sport: Figure skating

  • Role at Morgan Stanley: Third year associate in electronic trading (equities)

The average two and a half year old totters along unsteadily, slowly getting to grips with walking. By that age, though, third year associate in electronic trading (equities) Nikki Acton was donning her first pair of skates and embarking on a sporting career that would span 14 successful years. "Some parents want their kids to do ballet, but mine wanted me to do something different," she says. "I was a pairs skater, and represented my local rink and competed regionally. It's a gruelling sport: I was on the rink at 5am every day all the way up to my GCSE year, at which point I gave up competing in order to focus on my studies."

Since then, Nikki has gone on to play lacrosse at school and netball at university (she captained the LSE side and still turns out for their alumni team). And having to balance all her sporting activities with a successful academic career has given her an excellent foundation for working at Morgan Stanley. "I had so much going on in my life and it would have been easy to concentrate on just one thing, to the detriment of the others. But from the moment I joined Morgan Stanley, I realised my experience would stand me in good stead. It's helped me to strategise, develop a game plan and ask big questions: what can I achieve this month, quarter and year? At the same time, I need to keep on top of my daily tasks. My sporting background has given me the discipline and diligence do both."

It's also allowed Nikki to develop excellent communication skills. She explains: "As a skater, I was always asking my coach whether I was on track, constantly referring back." In her role at the bank, where her job is to provide clients with the information required to make informed investment decisions, these skills are vital: "I set my goals and strategy, then check back regularly with my manager to make sure he's happy with my progression. It's a model that's worked for me!"

Charlie Glyn

  • Sport: Netball

  • Role at Morgan Stanley: Research analyst

Charlie Glyn has achieved the uncommon feat of balancing a demanding role as a research analyst at Morgan Stanley with competing in her chosen sport at a national level. Charlie plays netball for London-based Cumberland Netball Club, who have just been promoted to the England Netball Premier 3 League.

Charlie joined the club in 2010, but had to wait for her chance to make an impact. "The Premier side had been together for some time, so I was surprised to make it into the team and at first was mostly on the bench. We had three games to secure promotion to the Premier 3 division and I didn't play in either of the first two. The final game was to be the hardest and I'd already accepted that I wouldn't play when the coach told me I was starting. We won and were promoted to the top flight! I played really well and remember thinking it was a payoff for all my hard work and perseverance."

Charlie joined Morgan Stanley's fixed income research desk this summer where she's charged with researching European banks and providing investment advice to the sales and trading teams. She's been determined to replicate her success on the court at the bank. "Since starting to play at a higher level, I've had to use new skills and I've drawn parallels between doing so and my career. I've needed to deal with an increase in intensity, just as I have done at work. There's more preparation involved for games, and preparation is absolutely essential in research! At Cumberland, we've had to pull together as a unit more than any other netball team I've played for. And at Morgan Stanley, I work as a member of a small group and collaborate on project work, further honing my teamwork skills."

Goran Trapp

  • Sport: Football

  • Role at Morgan Stanley: Managing director, commodities trading

Goran Trapp is twenty-one years into his career with Morgan Stanley. He's also a former top flight under-21 footballer in his native Sweden. "There are many aspects of playing football - and sport in general - that can be correlated with banking," he tells me. "Both are highly competitive - in banking, the market is your field of play. On both fronts, you get immediate feedback, which enables you to figure out whether what you're doing is working. You then need to think on your feet and make snap decisions to alter or continue with the manner in which you're operating. My favourite analogy, though, is that if you have a football team comprised of only goalkeepers, you'll never score - the same goes in banking. It's essential to have the right balance, with the right people in the right positions."

Goran was a centre-half and he compares himself to former Arsenal defender and England captain Tony Adams, saying: "Adams was a naturally great leader, and I think leadership is one of my best qualities." Which modern day footballer does he think would make a successful investment banker? He suggests we'd need a well-rounded individual who is equally at home supporting their teammates as scoring a goal to save the day. As a Chelsea fan, he doesn't take long to conclude: "It has to be Frank Lampard!"

Goran previously headed up Morgan Stanley's global oil trading operations, but now works in an advisory capacity, acting as a senior resource for the group. He still plays 90 minutes of park football every week and he cites camaraderie, sportsmanship and the ability to deal with disappointment as areas in which his hobby has influenced his work. But he thinks such qualities can be acquired through other pursuits too. "People have all sorts of pastimes at Morgan Stanley," he explains. "Anything that provides you with a challenge can be very useful for a career in finance."

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