I joined Vigilant as a Real-Time Trading Intern this past summer while finishing my studies in Economics, Finance, and Math at McGill University.
I remember my excitement on the first day as an intern as my cohort convened in the cafeteria to eat breakfast. While I was setting up my desk and getting access to my Bloomberg terminal, the hustle and bustle on the trading floor – which now feels so familiar – was energizing and made me even more eager to dive into my work.
On the trading floor, there’s no such thing as a typical day, which makes it very exciting. As an intern, my days were at the whims of the market. Of course, there were projects that provided me with structure throughout the summer, but the great thing about the real-time trading team was that I had my finger on the pulse of the global financial markets at all times. My main task was to assist in building strategies for events that were happening in real time. Because of this, my day-to-day work was very dynamic, and my attention was drawn to whatever market participants were paying attention to.
I think one of the most interesting and fulfilling projects that I worked on, and that led me to return as a full-time employee, was laying the groundwork for our Equity Trading desk. This involved a series of different projects that encouraged me to think about the many permutations of factors that can affect a company’s stock price. It was a lot of work, but it was cool to have a ground-up understanding of the desk that I now work on. This has allowed me to influence how my desk trades, an experience most traders my age haven’t had.
Looking back, my favorite part about interning with Vigilant was how much I learned. I don’t think there are many summer analyst programs like Vigilant’s – I had nearly free reign to learn about the things I was interested in. If you have a particular interest in a certain asset class, you are encouraged to learn as much as possible about it, knowledge that pays off since our trading strategies cross all of them. For me, my interest was in equities, but whether you’re interested in commodities, currencies or fixed income, you can add value to the team simply by pursuing what you’re interested in.
As a Real-Time Trader intern on the trading floor, you’re tasked from day one with helping to build trading strategies for sometimes very complex events that are playing out in global financial markets. You’re given all the resources you need to do so effectively, and are surrounded by world-class talent, both on the technology and trading side. It’s an ideal place for someone coming out of college to sink their teeth into the financial markets. I studied economics and finance, and while I graduated with a good understanding of the macroeconomic invisible hand and how market forces impact a particular security, my understanding of those things now has significantly improved from where it was on my first day at Vigilant.
If working on the trading floor is something that interests you, here’s my advice:
First and foremost, I think it’s really important that you have a genuine fascination with financial markets. Being an expert on what is happening in the market is par for the course on the real-time trading team, and so if that is something that you don’t find interesting, your day-to-day tasks will be quite daunting.
Work hard to communicate your ideas accurately and concisely. One thing I appreciated was that everyone, even the most senior traders, are willing to listen to what you have to say. Debate is something that is welcome on the trading floor because at the end of the day, missing a trade or trading the wrong way represents a missed opportunity. But because we operate in such a fast-paced and ever-evolving environment, it is imperative that you be able to express your ideas in an easy-to-understand way. The better you are able to do this, the more value you can add to the team.
Learn from your mistakes. On the real-time trading desk, we set ambitious goals and inevitably one won’t be met. You get instant feedback on both your successes and shortcomings in the form of a price chart, and it’s easy to beat yourself up when a trade doesn’t go your way or a strategy doesn’t pan out. But each loss is a learning opportunity, and it’s important to take each one at its face value. At Vigilant, perfection is not expected, rather it is something to strive towards on a daily basis.
After my internship, I continued as a part-time employee during the school year and took a full-time offer this year after my graduation! Because I knew a lot about how the desk worked and had a fundamental understanding of the strategy it used, it was a natural transition into the equity analyst position. Since taking the position, I have been happy to see the progress that we have made on the desk and look forward to its growth. I can’t imagine a better place to start and grow my career.