I was always interested in finance, even when I was deciding what to study at university. The first time I experienced working in the sector was during my GCSE year, which triggered my interest. Then from my degree studies I knew I enjoyed following the economy and the financial markets, so banking seemed to make sense as a career for me. I completed internships while at university, and the more I saw of banking the more I knew it was the path I wanted to go down.
How Meera found the right role in banking
My first year scheme allowed me to see a few different areas of the banking world. For my summer internship I did UBS's Equity Capital Markets Summer Internship Program. I chose this department because of my interest in markets, but at that stage I thought I was more geared towards the project work the equity capital markets team did. This work could include, for example, working on the process of taking public companies through an initial public offering (IPO) of their shares. But once I started my internship, I really enjoyed the exposure I got through day-to-day trading on the markets, so I chose to join the equity derivatives sales team as a graduate.
What Meera does now
My team advises and assists clients who want to purchase equity derivatives, such as equity options and futures, which they buy and sell to protect their equity investment positions or simply to make a trading profit. I'm on what's known as the 'flow desk' where we often deal with a high volume of trade-related requests at a fast pace. For example, if we get a request for a price from a client we'll try to get a quote back to them within five minutes, which we can do because the products we deal with tend to be relatively simple ones rather than those with complex structures. I work specifically in the hedge funds team, so most of my clients are in this category.
What working on the trading floor is like
It can be very loud and manic sometimes when everyone's reacting to a headline or trying to protect their positions. When things aren't as busy, there's a more relaxed atmosphere, and we use these times to call our clients, or to do some research and work on trade ideas, which is difficult to do when lots of people are calling us to ask for prices and place orders.
There are still more men on the trading floor than women, but there are a fair few women here and I work with plenty of female colleagues. There are six of us in my immediate team - me and one other female colleague and four men. But there's no differentiation made between us, or any other reason why gender comes into play, so it doesn't bother me that there are slightly more men around.
What Meera enjoys about her job
In banking there's always something new going on, and things are really fast-paced, which I like. I enjoy my job because I'm definitely a salesperson - I like talking to clients, giving them my opinions on the markets, and working with them to think of a suitable strategy to achieve their investment objectives. I speak to some clients two to three times a week and others around once a fortnight. We always get on the phone to clients whenever the bank releases any pieces of research that they might be interested in.
The challenges Meera has faced in her job
You definitely have to make an adjustment when you start working after leaving university. When I started at UBS a year ago, working life took some getting used to. No matter where you start at an investment bank the learning curve will be very steep and my boss decided to start me working with clients much earlier than I anticipated! I did have training first, but I think the best way to learn was to get stuck in, even though it was challenging at the time. Everyone on my team was very helpful - they'd all experienced something similar when they started so they knew what I was going through.
How women at the bank support each other
There are lots of networking events for women at the bank. They're great for meeting people on different desks and in different departments. There are also lots of chances to get in touch with women high up in the organisation if you want to ask them for advice.
When I did my first year programme at UBS, I was assigned a mentor who I'm still very close to. She's been working at the bank a lot longer than I have, about seven or eight years. She doesn't work in my department, but it's actually great to have a completely fresh view on things. I can always call her for a chat and we go for coffee every couple of months or so. She's been with me all the way through my career at UBS, knows everything I've been through and is a great source of advice. My female colleague on my team is always helpful as well.
How Meera sees her future
For me, my career at the moment is all about working as hard as I can, making the most of my opportunities and, I hope, progressing as far as I can.
I want to become more established within my team by building my client list, learning more about the products we sell, and improving as a salesperson. My team is very encouraging. They give me plenty of responsibility, but if I feel out of my depth or need help then it's never a problem to ask them questions. Recently, I've been feeling I'd like to get more practice in a few aspects of my job and whenever I've mentioned it to someone on my team they've immediately given me an opportunity to do so if they can. So the learning atmosphere is really good.
Looking further forward, I haven't specifically planned out where I would like to get to. I just want to take advantage of the opportunities here and see how things develop.
Meera's thoughts for female students interested in a career in banking
Investment banks, and UBS in particular, are keen to encourage more women to apply to work in the industry. UBS runs lots of events for female students, where you have the opportunity to network with senior females and graduates from across UBS. I would highly recommend attending one of these events if you can!
Before I started going to these kinds of events I found it very difficult to get an idea of exactly what it might be like to work in a bank. I found one of the best ways to understand these things was to speak to people at events. I found you can often keep in touch with them afterwards, and these contacts can be really helpful at the start of your career in banking.
Now I often attend these events as a UBS representative. I know they were useful for me, so I try to go along to them whenever I can to help other people out.