Morgan Stanley: the graduate diaries 2013 | Investment banking on The Gateway

Morgan Stanley: the graduate diaries 2013

Two analysts offer readers of The Gateway regular updates on how their working lives are going

Meet Mariam and Alastair. After successful internships at Morgan Stanley, they both joined the bank this summer as first year analysts. To show what life is like at the global investment bank, Mariam and Alastair will be sharing their diaries with Gateway readers online.

Mariam

BSc Economics at University of Bristol

Securities Lending in Sales & Trading

Securities Lending in Sales & Trading is a trading desk that works in connection with the lending of equity-related securities by one party to another.

Alastair

BBL Business and Law at University College Dublin

European equity sales

European equity sales involves advising investors on investment opportunities and market trends concerning the sale of equities.

22 May

Mariam

"It's dividend season at the moment, and one of our desk's main responsibilities is analysing and estimating what different companies are going to pay out.

So you've got to keep up to date with the companies you cover, both the fundamentals of how their businesses work and how they've performed over the last year or so.

We've recently had first-year students coming into the bank for Spring Insight week. I had some of them sitting with me and explained what we do, introduced them to people on the desk, and showed them what it's like working on the trading floor.

I remember what it feels like to be in their position, so it was good to meet them and to see how they got on.

One thing I said to them is that they don't need to know everything about banking and careers here at the stage they're at, but should just be patient and curious and they'll eventually discover where they might fit in.

Since I started at Morgan Stanley I've become a lot more comfortable with expressing my opinions and asking for advice when I need it.

I've also come to appreciate the challenges of the job. I would be bored if I came in and did the same thing every single day. When I get my systems up in the morning and the market opens I don't know what's going to happen. That can be challenging at times, but it's also what excites me about my future here.

Alastair

I've recently been given a few more clients - I'm enjoying the added responsibilities and the trust my team has put in me.

I've learnt that you have to work differently with different clients - for example, some like you to ring them up and talk to them, while others prefer to get research reports by email.

The earnings season has just finished so we've been quite busy, but because it was the second one I've done it didn't feel as hectic because I knew what to expect.

I think the summer months are generally a little quieter, but I haven't been here at this time of year yet so I'll have to wait and find out!

Over the summer I'm going to be involved in working with our interns. I'm looking forward to playing a part in helping to introduce them to Morgan Stanley and the different opportunities available here.

Looking back, my time at Morgan Stanley so far has been pretty good in terms of getting really involved in my team's work and gaining new experiences.

I've learnt so much - how to work with other people, how to deal with clients, and how to stay on top of a large workload.

My plan for the future is just to progress through the ranks, making sure I meet everyone's expectations. I don't know exactly what I'll be doing in three or five years as this industry changes so quickly, so I'm just going to do as well as I can and see where it takes me."

19 February

Our other Morgan Stanley diarist, Alastair, was away on holiday this week.

Mariam

"This is currently the busiest period of the year for my desk as lots of companies are beginning to report their earnings.

When I started last summer, I was often told that summer is relatively quiet compared to other times of the year and now I know why!

It's quite fast-moving at the moment so I'm doing my best to stay on top of everything. I need to keep up with the news being reported by various companies and judge how our clients will want to react as a result.

This week was made a bit more unusual by the Tube strikes in London. It's important that we're well prepared for events such as this one, and that we communicate with each other and stay on top of our workload so that we can continue to service our clients as normal.

Over the past few months I've felt more and more comfortable in my role and with the responsibilities I have within the team. I now feel comfortable helping cover other people's markets when they're on holiday or away on business.

We all understand what each other are doing and are constantly communicating and sharing information we feel others would find relevant.

We've recently been talking about spring weeks and internships as the spring week students will be here in the coming weeks. I'm looking forward to meeting them, particularly as I interviewed some of them over the telephone as part of their application process.

We've also recently had internship applicants visit the bank for their assessment day. I'd like to be involved with them over the summer as I feel I have a lot to share about my work and my experience."

3 February

Mariam

"We have dividends season coming up from March to June, which is when the majority of companies pay out to their shareholders.

It's the busiest time of the year for my desk so I've been busy preparing for it. As it's my first time experiencing it, there has been lots of new information to learn so I've had to work slightly longer than usual and spend time at the end of each day consolidating what I've learnt.

Dividends are important to my desk as we have to be able to predict to clients how companies will act.

Some years, companies will pay more than they did the year before and sometimes companies might decide not to pay dividends at all. We have to take an educated guess and approach the situation from an analytical perspective.

We share knowledge across our desk a lot, as it's important for everyone to learn about each other's markets.

I was surprised to learn that there are differences in trading between different markets so you can't often take the same strategy and apply it to every market we cover."

Alastair

"We're approaching earnings season again when companies release earnings data, so my desk is beginning to get busier.

Having gone through the process before, I now know the best person to speak to for analysis of particular earnings reports. It takes one step out of the process which makes things easier and quicker for me.

I'm still working on establishing a relationship with my first client. I'm now performing a couple of tasks for them on a consistent basis.

As they are fairly junior at their own firm, they're still taking some time to decide on the best way to move forward, but as things get busier over the coming weeks I'm expecting that relationship to evolve.

As it's my first client, sometimes situations come up which I need to run by other people for a second opinion.

I'm able to speak to the people sitting beside me who have more experience and get their perspective on the best way to do things. It's comforting to know I can refer back to them for advice on handling clients.

Even though I've been here a while, there's always something new to learn."

20 January

Mariam

"Before finishing for the holidays, we had to wrap up for year-end and make sure everything was in order.

At that time of year there were also lots of events in the evenings which were really good fun to attend. I got to meet people from lots of different banks who work in my area and put faces to names.

It was really helpful as it now means I've met the people I have to call up through work which makes a huge difference.

When I came back at the start of the year, it was initially very quiet with not a lot of activity in the markets.

Since then, it's got a lot busier. I'm also excited to have two new people on my desk, one from client brokerage and the other from our New York desk.

I've been involved in the recruitment process for our spring week this Easter and have been interviewing candidates over the phone.

It's been really interesting to be on the other side of the phone call and to try and spot people who will be good for the firm.

The most impressive people have been those who are able to be chatty and warm. Those who were really interested would ask me a question towards the end which showed a desire to learn more about the firm. Doing so really helped them stand out."

Alastair

"I've recently been given my first client which is really good. Hopefully it paves the way for me to be given more further down the line.

Having a client means you get to go out and about as you have meetings outside of our offices. As he's my only client, he obviously gets a lot of my attention; I make sure I do my best to get him anything he wants.

He's only just started in his current role, so the senior staff on my desk thought it would be a good idea to pair me with him as we're both at a similar stage in our career development.

As he's only started recently, I've told him to take some time and to figure out what he wants from Morgan Stanley and from me so we can then go about making sure that happens. It makes more sense than me trying to guess what he might want and being incorrect.

The next objective is to try and get another client. I'm working in the background on a few accounts at the moment with the hope that I'll be given full responsibility for them in the future, though predicting when is difficult. It's good to have a goal, and to know it's achievable.

In addition to this work, I'm still doing my usual day-to-day tasks, as well as a few different projects. With everything, I try to take as much responsibility as I can as I want to keep challenging myself."

25 November

Mariam

"As processes on my desk become more automated, less time will need to be spent dealing with market noise and clutter, which don't help us add any value. Instead, we'll be able to spend more time focusing on the things that matter.

Since I started in the summer, I've become more brave and confident in my own work. Everyone has their own way of doing things so it's been a case of finding my own method for managing my book.

I'm starting to get there now and don't feel I need to always be asking people for confirmation that what I'm doing is right. It means people take me more seriously and have been more likely to ask me questions when they need help.

I've realised that there's no time for being lazy in this job as there's always an opportunity to be doing something that adds value. It took me a while to realise that I could be more pro-active and initiate trades rather than waiting for someone else to come to me.

Also, if I do make a mistake, I've realised it's just part of the learning process and I shouldn't let it ruin my day. Instead, I re-apply myself and focus on how I can correct it."

Alastair

"One of the greatest things I've realised is the importance of using every resource within the firm that's available to you. I can tap into the knowledge of each person who works here, as we're all ultimately working towards the same goal.

When I started in the summer, I was a bit reluctant to ask for help sometimes, but I then realised people are more than happy to help and talk me through how things work.

Even though I was on this desk for some of my internship, I didn't get fully exposed to everything we do as the summer can be a bit quieter for deals.

Now I've been here a few months, I can see how everything links together, both on my desk and in equities in general. We have lots to offer clients and being able to utilise the bank's expertise across different areas is very important, as it makes the most of what we can do.

Looking ahead to next year, I hope to take responsibility for my own set of clients with whom I can build a strong relationship and add value. Helping our clients to achieve their goals is at the heart of what we do."

18 November

Mariam

"As we head towards Year-End, my team and I are beginning to receive invites to client events. I'm really looking forward to attending them as I'll be able to meet lots of my peers in the industry which should be really useful.

Around now students will be working on job and internship applications. I think it's really important to make sure your application goes into some detail about the banks you're applying to rather than being generic.

Students should go to careers fairs and employer-run campus events and speak to bank employees about their experiences as it will help you understand what makes each bank different.

I was attracted to Morgan Stanley after hearing employees at an event speak about the culture and friendly atmosphere there is here, and I think I really benefited from being able to use that detail in my application.

A lot of students worry about having enough financial knowledge, and while it's important to know something about what's going on in the markets, you don't need to be an expert.

Instead of trying to understand everything, make sure you can talk generally about some recent developments and explain how they've influenced your desire to work in a specific role.

For instance, the work I do in sales and trading has a really close link with stories you read about in the news and events in the wider world, which can make it very exciting."

Alastair

"I'm currently working in a slightly different role to previous weeks as I'm helping out more on the special situations desk.

Special situations are when an investor is motivated to trade based on particular circumstances in the market, such as an upcoming merger and acquistion (M&A) deal.

Part of my morning routine now involves checking the information we've received overnight for any signs of activity that may be of use to clients.

In addition to this work, I'm also performing my regular duties on my own desk. Here there's a gradual progression towards dealing with clients directly, so recently I've been doing mock phone calls with other people on my desk. Doing this, as well as listening to their client phone conversations, allows me to practice how to interact with clients.

There's an extraordinary breadth of stocks which a client might want to talk about so it's important to know about all of them and to have an opinion on them. By reading all the latest reports I am able to understand and absorb the information quickly.

Students are beginning to send applications into the bank for internship and graduate schemes.

It's really important to apply as early as possible as most places for these are filled on a rolling basis. Leaving it too late means you'll be competing with more people for fewer places."

11 November

Mariam

"One afternoon this week, a group of young people supported by The Prince's Trust visited the bank. Morgan Stanley works closely with lots of charities, and a desire to give back to the community is a big part of the culture here.

This week's event was a workshop for young people who had developed their own business ideas, and gave them the opportunity to present their ideas in a Dragons' Den-style scenario.

Our role at the event was to offer advice and become a long-term contact for them should they need help with their idea in the future.

All the staff on my desk were given the opportunity to take part in the event, and a lot of senior managing directors also took time out of their schedule to come along. It was amazing to see so many people there, and to see the passion of the young entrepreneurs of the future!

Before I did my internship here, I knew a bit about Morgan Stanley's social responsibility programmes but I didn't realise how big a part of working life here they are.

There are emails sent to employees every day to let us know about the various events and opportunities we can get involved in, and every employee performs a day of service giving back to the community every few months. It's always a really nice thing to do."

Alastair

"It's still earnings season so everyone on my desk is still spending their mornings focused on that. This week there have been thirty to forty companies issuing reports which is an increase from the week before.

I've continued to work alongside our analysts assessing the markets. There have also been a couple of new initial public offerings (IPOs) recently which has been exciting. It's meant that I've had to read up on these new companies before they enter the market.

My equity sales desk is located on the same floor as the other equities desks, each of which has a different specialism.

While mine focuses only on investors interested in European markets, other desks focus on markets further abroad and globally.

We talk to the clients and advise them on investment opportunities but when they actually want to execute a trade they'll talk to the sales traders rather than us.

Work on that desk is quite fast-paced and is similar in many ways to working as a trader; the two are even located directly next to each other on the floor.

While on my internship, I got to work on three different desks but I naturally gravitated towards European equities. When I applied as a graduate, this was the desk I was hoping to join so it was really pleasing to do so."

4 November

Mariam

"There is a problem-solving element to my work which I really enjoy, so when a new or unexpected challenge occurs it provides a reminder as to why I was so interested in working in this industry. No day is like the one before it so you always have to be ready for anything.

For example, this week my desk had to resolve some issues which occurred in my markets. Everyone was helping each other out and the experience taught me a lot about how traders deal with unexpected events.

I also feel like I'll now be better placed to spot patterns in our desk's research and anticipate potential market changes. Such challenges are what makes this job so exciting and interesting.

In dealing with my markets, I'm often required to pick up the phone and interact with clients and other brokers.

To start with, talking to people you've never met in person and asking them for advice or assistance can seem daunting but I'm now extremely comfortable talking on the phone and liaising with various people.

Doing so definitely gives me a better appreciation for how the various parts of the investment banking industry work together."

Alastair

"As it's earnings season at the moment, the mornings have been particularly busy.

Companies have been releasing their Q3 reports which the markets use to judge how well a company is performing compared to expectations. Companies might also give predictions for future growth, so often markets will react to those too.

Quarterly reports give a good insight into what a company is thinking which is why the market pays so much attention to them.

Lots of clients are focused on companies they own in their portfolios and also companies on their radar (that they are potentially looking to invest in).

When there are lots of companies releasing reports simultaneously, it can be pretty hectic but the trading floor is full of energy and I have really enjoyed it.

Since starting I've come to learn how important it is to utilise the resources around me.

This is a big bank with a lot of bright people, so it's rarely necessary to sit at my desk struggling through a task as there are always people you can ask for advice who will be specialists in a particular given field. It sounds quite clichéd but everyone here is on hand to help each other out."

28 October

Mariam

"On my desk we each have a book to manage - which is basically a record of all of our trading positions.

Much of my time so far has been focused on building my knowledge and experience and I feel I am making good progress here, as evidenced by the increased speed at which I am able to complete tasks. This gives me more of an opportunity to focus on optimizing my trading book.

Managing a trading book can be challenging for many reasons, especially in the fast-paced environment of securities lending.

However, it's this problem solving that interests me most - I'm fortunate to work with teams in New York, Paris and Frankfurt who I can call upon to ensure I am able to effectively manage any challenges or issues that arise.

Every day one person on my desk sends round a summary of which stocks are performing well and which ones are performing less well than expected.

If any of those are in my book, I'll look for alternatives and communicate these to the rest of the desk in case they should also require them."

Alastair

"Each day on my desk, we assimilate our in-house research on a number of companies and provide an interpretation of this information for our clients.

We know our clients well enough to know what particular data they'll be interested in so we create a tailored news flow just for them.

Our relationship with clients is really important, so if we see something developing in the markets which might affect a client's holdings we get in touch with them as soon as possible. That way, they trust you as a reliable source for information.

At the moment I'm working with one of the analysts from last year's intake which has been really helpful.

As she's only just ahead of me in terms of experience, I can use where she is now as an indicator of how my own workload is going to gradually increase over the next twelve months. It's been a nice reminder of how my career is going to progress over time.

I've also been doing a bit more work with the special situations desk, which is a more specialised version of our equity sales desk focusing on event-driven trading ideas (for example, mergers or IPOs).

A lot of big IPOs have been happening recently so it's been interesting to work on something so topical."

21 October

Mariam

"There are two new people on our desk now. Although they've been at the firm for a few years, they're new to trading and securities lending so the three of us are training together.

I've only been here seven weeks so can remember what it was like to be in their position and have been offering them tips on what I did when I first started in order to learn the basics.

This week, I was at a careers event in Bristol. I enjoy being able to offer my thoughts and advice at these events, especially on the jobs available within investment banking and how to approach getting them.

I find that many of the girls are especially interested to hear about the opportunities within the industry.

I recently spoke to female brokers within my area at other firms and we're organising a girls' night out for the recent starters.

As we're all doing the same thing and are in a similar position, we all help each other out and offer support."

Alastair

"I've found the culture here at Morgan Stanley to be really good. Right from the start I was included in the team as opposed to being the young person who's just joined.

On Wednesday we had a firm-wide charity football tournament. It was funny to play alongside senior staff and I think it demonstrates how accessible our senior employees are. They're happy to chat and answer questions if they're free.

At the moment, I tend to write a to do list every morning when I start and work my way through it during the day. It's a nice feeling when I get to the end of it! In my role, it's very important to manage my work load and prioritise important tasks.

One recent task involved dealing with a client request for one of the senior people on my desk who was unavailable. She passed it on to me and the task involved me, as quickly as possible, liaising with our research and strategy departments for market data that we could provide the client.

Sometimes the questions you're asked can be quite obscure but if you take a step back you can normally find an answer."

14 October

Mariam

"This week a few people have been away, including the primary trader, so I've been given the chance to do more work independently, including the opportunity to make markets (setting both bid and offer prices for an asset based on its market value).

It's amazing because I knew I'd be trusted with extra responsibility at some point but it exceeded my expectations that it came so quickly.

As my skills develop, I feel I'm becoming more of an asset to my desk. For example, if I'm away from the office, my absence will have an impact on the rest of the team's workload.

Although it means more work for my team, in a strange way it's nice to know that my absence has an effect on the desk.

When you start working, you want to take on as much as you can because you want to impress but you also don't want to underdeliver.

It can be hard to get that balance right and be confident in prioritising your workload. This week we had a training session to address this issue, which was really useful.

It's great the training here is ongoing because it helps you develop while you work."

Alastair

"I tend to have a regular morning routine. I'm in the office early so I can begin reading the research published by our research department overnight.

I'll then take that and summarise it into a "morning mail" that I send to various people within the bank who need it for their interactions with clients.

Each day tends to be slightly different to the day before. I've been gradually brought into email conversations with clients to deal with any questions they have and it's been really enjoyable to be directly helping someone.

You can't dive in and handle ten clients straight away, but helping other people and covering colleagues while they're on holiday means you get exposure to clients gradually and can build a relationship from there.

I was working at a careers event in Dublin this week and it was really interesting to be on the other side of the process.

I noticed how important it is to make a good first impression, and to research the industry well - those people who had really stood out for me."

7 October 2013

Mariam

"My first six weeks consisted of internal training and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) exams that authorise me to work in sales and trading.

I've been on the desk for four weeks and it's going really well. It took two weeks after the FCA exams before I was approved to speak to clients so I initially spent my time trying to learn the basics.

Now though, I'm talking to clients and have been given responsibility for the Scandinavian markets with oversight and guidance from a senior trader on the desk.

I'm very happy to be given these responsibilities so soon as I feel it offers me the opportunity to develop my skills and understanding at an early stage in my career.

Last week my desk wanted to introduce me to some clients. They felt this was best done sooner rather than later so I can build relationships with them.

I've already been able to go on three outings with my desk, which has been amazing. The discussions that went on really helped me to understand more about the client-bank relationship.

Having met clients, I'm now trying to keep up those relationships by speaking to them as much as possible."

Alastair

"The first couple of weeks have been about getting familiar with the various systems we use, but now I've been here a month I already have daily set tasks.

I work within European equities covering a whole host of countries and companies in different sectors, which means I have to do a lot of research.

With the depth and breadth of information available, my role is very challenging, but sitting in on various meetings with people from different business areas is helping me get up to speed quickly.

For example, one way I'm learning is by setting up meetings with research analysts.

I'll sit with them for thirty to forty minutes to gain an understanding of the sector they cover, which really helps me in getting my head around all the information.

As for actual work, I currently work closely with my team administrating client accounts.

Once my knowledge and experience is at a good level, I look forward to being given my own client accounts to manage. It's important to be organised and make sure I don't make any mistakes.

An exciting project I'm working on currently is organising for one of our research analysts to visit some clients in Edinburgh. It's crucial for us to spend time with clients in person, which we do throughout the year."

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