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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Finance: INSIDE NOMURA: Day in the life of a junior banker

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Meet Agnes Valencic, a recent graduate who works on Nomura's asset-backed securities desk in London.

LONDON – Meet Agnes Valencic, a recent graduate who works on Nomura's asset-backed securities (ABS) desk in London.

After completing a degree in French and Art History at UCL last year, Agnes joined the 10-week intern programme at the bank and landed a job in ABS sales.

Her job is to support the desk as it matches European buy-side clients, such as pension funds and asset managers, with the right asset-backed products at the right price.

The securities are backed by pools of mortgages on residential or commercial property, similar to the structured products blamed in the US for starting the credit crunch in 2007.

That didn't put her off. The products' risky reputation is unjustified in Europe, she says, where default rates were low both before and after the crisis.

The securities are often complex, and she tells her friends to watch the Big Short to understand the basics about how they work.

Agnes is in a sales role, and enjoys the focus on building relationships with people the most. Unlike a lot of people attracted to a role on the global markets floor, Agnes did a humanities degree, rather than economics or finance. She hasn't found that a problem so far, and likes following the constantly moving market.

Here's how her day unfolds, and what the office is like to work in:

Nomura's London HQ overlooks the river near Cannon Street, in a historic part of the city that was home to a self-governing enclave of merchants, part of the so-called Hanseatic League, until the late 16th century.



Agnes gets in for around 7:30 a.m., when she checks news sources such as Bloomberg and the Financial Times for news of overnight developments in the ABS markets, or any relevant changes in the macro environment, such as an interest rate hike. She'll forward the interesting ones to clients. After that, she'll grab a quick coffee and breakfast from the in-house cafe.



Once the trading day begins, Agnes is in almost constant touch with both clients and the other salespeople and supervisors of the ABS desk, which manages the whole process of a deal, from the initial client interest to making sure the trade is completed at Euroclear, a clearing house.



She has to keep up contacts both externally with clients and internally with middle office managers, who she has to chase to make sure transactions go through on time and as planned. Agnes conducts most of her business over the phone or via Bloomberg chat, which is a messaging service used by Bloomberg subscribers.



She sits in the middle of a block of around 8 desks surrounded by the rest of the ABS team. The atmosphere is pretty light and friendly.



If it's a sunny day, and Agnes has a moment to get away from her desk, she might visit The Terrace – Nomura's big canteen on the sixth floor – for lunch around noon or 12:30pm.



As the name suggests, it features a huge terrace with views over the Thames. A pop-up bar opens up here every Thursday evening for after-work drinks.



One of the big attractions is the kitchen garden.



The garden includes a habitat for bees and other bugs.



Lots of vegetables, which are used as ingredients in the meals.



And even Hakurei turnips, a Japanese variety of the root vegetable.



So as you might expect the canteen is full of healthy options.



Such as this sushi.



And this extraordinary gluten-free, chia seed, almond milk, and granola pot.



There are also plenty of more substantial meals on offer.



Including a build-your-own burger section.



Which features cumberland sausages and chicken schnitzel.



For those who like a snack, there are both sweet and savoury options.



With the emphasis on sweet.



This frozen yoghurt, and assorted toppings, are a must on a hot day.



If Nomura's London employees are still hungry after all that then there's a sweet shop that doubles as a dry cleaners.



The office has a decent gym for working off visits to the frozen yoghurt machine, with all the weights, spinning classes and running machines you could ever need.



As well as a lot of kettle bells.



In the afternoon, Agnes will deal with the US-based ABS desk, connecting UK or European clients with American salespeople and products. There may also be a coffee with a client and a team member to attend.



Agnes leaves work around 6pm and rarely works later, which is one of the benefits of working in markets rather than an advisory business such as M&A. That said, sometimes she goes to team-building drinks and dinners with clients after leaving the office.





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