Bloomberg: inside information | Other finance on The Gateway

Bloomberg: inside information

Meet this distinctive global data firm

It's one of the world's leading providers of financial news, data, software and analysis, whose services are used by clients across the globe. It also boasts colourful offices humming with information, zealous employees, and, at its London base, the largest private collection of tropical fish in Europe. So when Bloomberg suggested that The Gateway bring 30 of its readers to spend an afternoon with them, we thought - great idea.

Just after lunchtime on Monday April 18, the winners of our competition to select participants gathered on the electric-blue sofas in the lobby of Bloomberg's City headquarters. Jennifer Terry, who works in the graduate recruitment team at Bloomberg, explained why she and her colleagues wanted to meet Gateway readers in person: "Our biggest challenge is letting people know what we do. We think events like this can give students a real insight into Bloomberg, and how we can give them a different take on the financial industry."

What were the students attending looking to get out of their visit? Most were sure they wanted to work in finance, and were keen to find out what Bloomberg could offer them. There were some more idiosyncratic reasons, reflecting the many facets of Bloomberg's appeal. Harry Stevens, a student at Bristol University, knew how fundamental Bloomberg Professional Service (or Bloomberg Terminal) is to the financial world, and wanted to try a terminal out himself. Brenda Cheah, from Warwick University, said she'd grown up watching Bloomberg TV with her mother and had always been curious about how its information was updated so quickly. Hussam El-Sheikh, also a Bristol student, had read about, and become intrigued by, the vision of Bloomberg's leaders.

Proceedings started with an introduction to Bloomberg from Nicola James Duff, who also works in the graduate recruitment team. First, Nicola talked through some key facts. Bloomberg controls a large segment of the global market for financial data. It makes most of its revenues from the Bloomberg Terminal, the main way in which the company provides market information, news and analysis to clients in the finance world, such as investment banks, brokers, corporates, law firms, newspapers and other organisations in the sector. Bloomberg also produces high-profile media products such as Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio, and magazine titles including Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg Markets.

Nicola also described some of Bloomberg's attributes that she likes, and which attract graduates to careers here. There's the fluidity of its hierarchy - employees have no official job title and multiple career paths open to them. As all Bloomberg offices deal with clients all over the world, they're multicultural environments. Nicola gets to practice her Spanish every day through chatting to colleagues who are native speakers. The training provided is excellent - most graduates study for eight weeks when they first start, and then get ongoing development through the "Bloomberg University". Social commitment is an important part of the culture - the organisation is involved with many philanthropic causes. Last but not least, employees can enjoy free food from the legendary Bloomberg "pantries", areas in each office stocked with complementary soft drinks, fruit and other goodies.

What do Nicola and her colleagues at Bloomberg look for in the graduates they recruit? Firstly, skills like teamworking and communication that are important in any professional context are crucial here. Bloomberg also likes its graduate joiners to be self-motivated, and keen to take advantage of the options open to them at Bloomberg. They also need to display a strong customer service ethos, which is not only assessed at interview but continually reviewed too. A real interest in finance is also vital.

Bloomberg takes on a large number of graduates each year worldwide, and around 400 in London, who could start their career here assisting clients with queries on the Bloomberg Terminal's functions, working on software development, conducting research, or breaking news stories.

Next, a tour of the building offered the chance to explore the unusual Bloomberg environment further - coloured light, the buzzing and blinking of Bloomberg's media output (even in the lift), and the organisation's trademark fish tanks, which are cared for by a specialist team of marine biologists. Guides - and recent joiners - Joana Popova and Denis Andreev started with the top floor of the Norman Foster-remodelled building, and explained that the predominantly glass structure and open-plan layout are designed to encourage staff to see each other easily and to communicate. They are also intended to embody Bloomberg's core standards of speed, accuracy and transparency. Further stops included the Global Data and Research & Development departments, and the London TV studio. Each floor is colour-coded and, as well as workstations, contains art installations and multimedia screens. These screens might play Bloomberg news, supply useful information to staff, or display fun facts - did you know what year JFK became President? Along the way, Joana and Denis, who have both been at Bloomberg since January 2011, talked about how they'd found their time here so far. Joana spoke about how her financial interests and views changed significantly during her initial training, while Denis liked the fact that he'd been able to pitch an idea to the global head of the Analytics department during his first few weeks.

After this insight into Bloomberg's physical landscape came a journey through its virtual one - equities specialist Mike Brisley gave a whistlestop introduction to the Bloomberg Terminal. Each one has over 30,000 functions - but, understandably, no-one knows all of them! Mike, however, was familiar with a fair few. Need a map of all the ethanol refineries in North America? Can do. What about some data on Brazilian corporates? Easy. Next, the latest news stories, a profile of Barack Obama, and some reviews of Jamie Oliver's latest London restaurant. Finally Mike gave an insight into his own work, showing us how he uses his terminal to model equity derivatives in terms of their volatility, strike prices or the exposure to particular investment opportunities they offer. The data which feeds Bloomberg's functions is gathered from a multiplicity of sources, including market information continuously fed in from exchanges worldwide.

The afternoon finished with tea and cakes, and a chance for the attendees to chat to Bloomberg employees and reflect on the afternoon. Some students, such as Brenda and Harry, who'd come with very specific questions about how Bloomberg works now had some answers - and a few more questions! The attendees had noted Bloomberg's centrality in the financial world, and had also appreciated getting a first-hand insight into the organisation's culture. JC Stiassni, who studies at King's, had been impressed by the attitude of the staff members he'd met: "People are relaxed and not stressed, though they're working hard. They seem passionate about what they're doing here - when you have a conversation with them, they convince you that their project is the most important thing ever!"

Finally, the building had made an impression: "The office is fantastic!" said Brenda. JC added: "I didn't know there was an aquarium on every floor", and Yaxin Zheng, a student at Imperial, particularly liked Bloomberg's collection of artworks. Thinking about the office as a whole, Yaxin concluded: "It's amazing to see how Bloomberg brings together talented people and inspires them". By coming through any organisation's doors and exploring its world, you can't fail to learn things about it that you'd never know otherwise - and with its unusual focus on fusing environment and values, Bloomberg is certainly a prime example.

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