business

Swapping Boots for Barclays

Former British Army officer Rob Dornton-Duff used his MBA to score a job at an investment bank, helping multinationals manage their debt

Having completed a Barclays Capital MBA rotation program, I'm now a member of our U.K. derivatives coverage team, which structures and sells interest rate derivative products mainly to FTSE 100 and multinational companies. My specific role is interest rate risk management for the bank's structured-financing areas, which includes Private Financing Initiatives (PFI), structured trade/export financing, and project finance.

What exactly is interest rate risk management? Simply put, it helps companies to protect themselves from fluctuations in interest rates. For instance, USD interest rates have ranged from 1% to 7% since January, 2000. We give clients advice on the best strategy to manage that risk in the future. Instead of paying floating interest rates on a bank loan, a company might substitute these for a fixed interest rate via a derivative transaction.

The team comprises nine client-facing staff with only three levels of management between the head of my team and Bob Diamond, chief executive of Barclays Capital, so as you can tell, it's a flat structure. There's no hierarchy within the team, and each member's goal is to grow and run his own "mini-business," comprising a portfolio of similar clients, or in my case, the risk-management knowledge required for a specific type of financing structure. This team structure provides excellent opportunity and incentive, as everyone has the same opportunity to grow, based on ability.

Although my job is in derivative sales, it's not your classic sales position.

TYPICAL DAY

7:30 a.m. -- I'm not a morning person! I live 15 minutes, door-to-door, from our offices in Canary Wharf.

8:00 a.m. -- I arrive to my desk just before 8:00 a.m. to see what's happening in the interest rate markets and what economic data is coming out during the day. I try to clear my in-box before 9:00 a.m., when the phones start ringing with calls from both clients and internal teams working jointly with us on live transactions.

9:00 a.m. -- It's Monday, so I receive the bank's weekly markets analysis for the three main interest rate markets (Sterling, U.S. Dollars, and Euros), to which I'll add my own commentary and send to my clients. If there are any big developments during the week -- for instance, if the U.S. Federal Reserve or the Bank of England unexpectedly decides to lift interest rates -- I'll send our clients a quick update straight away, which sometimes leads them to do an opportunistic trade.

9:30 a.m. -- My normal transactions have several months' gestation from our initial pitch for the financing to final close, and risk-management input will be required at several points in that process. I can have more than 30 transactions in various stages of development at any one time. Today, I receive a call from our investment-banking division about a mandate they've won to finance an infrastructure project. We meet for an hour, draw potential structures on a whiteboard, and agree what each of us needs to do to optimize the overall financing structure.

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