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Should I work in financial data or investment banking?

What's the difference between working at Bloomberg and an investment bank? Head of Front Office Derivatives at Bloomberg shares his experiences of both
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Financial data

For graduates interested in a career in finance, working at Bloomberg provides an exciting alternative to joining an investment bank. The Gateway caught up with the Head of Front Office Derivatives to hear his story, and find out the differences between the two.

Karim Faraj graduated with an engineering degree from one of France’s top universities, Ecole nationale supérieure des mines de Paris, and joined the investment bank BNP Paribas in Paris as part of the bank’s equity derivatives structuring team.

He later went on to join Barclays Capital and Goldman Sachs in London, working across different areas of derivatives structuring and pricing, as well as risk management. 

After a successful career in the industry, Karim made the decision to change course and move to Bloomberg, a leading global provider of financial software and information services.

We spoke to Karim about his decision and how his work life has changed since joining Bloomberg. 

Making use of my mathematical ability

“I’ve always has a deep-rooted passion for maths. As an engineering student, I knew that my career path had to support this interest if I was going to be happy in my work.

 “My first role out of university was as a ‘quant’, working in the Derivatives Structuring team on the Exotic Equities desk. My job was to help design and price new financial instruments and products for our traders and their clients. 

“During my career in investment banking, I had the opportunity to work with a range of different products and asset classes; these included equities and fixed income, as well as foreign exchange (FX) and interest rate derivatives.

“Working in financial markets is a bit like being a scientist: you’re carrying out experiments in order to find a solution to a problem, only these experiments are taking place at a rapid pace and over a much shorter cycle than they do in academic life. 

“I’m a naturally inquisitive and analytical person and the work was very much suited to my personality.” 

My previous experiences with Bloomberg

“After seven years in investment banking, I had to go back to Morocco briefly for family reasons. 

“On returning, I had job offers from several banks. But, it was at the height of the financial crisis and two weeks before my proposed start date, the company I was going to work for went bankrupt and introduced a total hiring freeze. 

“It felt like an act of fate and convinced me take to a step back to reconsider my career options and think about where I wanted to go next.

 “Bloomberg was renowned as being very active in controlling risk and providing market transparency. I had worked with the firm on a number of occasions in the past and remembered having been hugely impressed by the people working at Bloomberg. 

“It was only at my interview with Bloomberg, however, that I realised the sheer wealth of data and technology they had at their disposal. They were also investing in many new ideas and had a phenomenal network of clients.

“It was obvious they were set to play a significant part in the recovery of the financial services sector. It offered the chance to play a key role in reshaping the industry and in preventing the next crisis.”

Bloomberg vs investment banking

“Much of the work I’ve been doing since joining Bloomberg has been closely linked to my previous roles in investment banking.

“I am still very much involved in designing and structuring derivatives products; the only difference is that now I’m on the other side of the fence, coming up with products and solutions for the types of people I worked with previously.

“The role is a lot more diverse in this respect, as I’m working with a range of market players across the investment banking landscape. The firm also works as an advisor to non-banking derivatives users, who include hedge funds and insurance companies. 

“There is a growing demand for products that help firms manage their risk. The challenge lies in coming up with bespoke, cutting-edge solutions that meet the needs of each individual client. 

“At Bloomberg we serve the entire global market – we have customers all around the world – so no two projects are the same.”

The cultural differences

“One thing that has really impressed me since coming over to Bloomberg is the culture of the company and the way people here think. 

“It’s a huge organisation, but in many ways it has the atmosphere of a startup. The changing nature of the market and the clients we work with means we’re having to constantly innovate and find new approaches to problem solving. 

“It’s all about collaboration and working together as a team; from new joiners to the senior managers, everyone is thinking about the long-term impact of their work and how it will help to grow the company. 

“It’s the same attitude we take to our clients: it’s about working towards a long-term goal and building a lasting relationship with our customers.

How you should choose

“Whatever your career aspirations and wherever your interests lie, the important thing for any graduate is to make sure you are doing something you love.

“The first step is to figure out what a particular job involves and whether it’s the right option for you. 

“I completed several internships before leaving university which confirmed my interest in financial markets. If you’re thinking about a career in investment banking my advice would be to go and try it out and to see whether it’s a good fit.

“You also need to make sure your first employer gives you the space to learn and to develop professionally. 

“When I joined Bloomberg I thought I knew everything there was to know about the industry, but there was a whole world out there that I hadn’t yet come into contact with.

“At Bloomberg, you’ll have incredible exposure to the various market players and asset classes; it’s an amazing opportunity to learn everything you can about the industry and to figure out where your long-term interests lie.

“Bloomberg is also a growing company and one that will continue to evolve over the next few years. We are sitting on phenomenal amounts of data and technology – there’s no limit to what we can do with it and the kinds of innovations we’re able to bring about.”

Bloomberg are currently recruiting for their global data graduate scheme.