Spot light on Graham Sorell
Head of Equity, Currency & Derivatives Trading EMEA at State Street at State Street Global Advisors
Head of Trading Champion 2020
2020 has been a year of disruption – how has your desk coped with the pandemic? What key learnings can be made?
The challenges that the trading and broader investment teams have overcome have been incredible. If you’d have asked me back in February can we operate 100% WFH on any day of the week, let alone a busy or volatile day, I would have had said it’s not possible. But the resilience and way the team has adapted has been fantastic.
On the technology side; our remote working platform has proven itself to be reliable and scalable. Moving onto our own tech and WFH setups, it’s certainly highlighted that we’re more advanced than we would have thought and we’ve adopted new ways of staying connected and communicating.
We’re far from any resemblance of pre-covid normality, but looking back at the trillions of dollars we’ve traded this year, the way it’s been achieved without skipping a beat, has been a huge success story.
Which projects have you successfully worked on this year?
The largest project is the integration of (the now State Street owned) Charles River platform into our technology suite. It’s a multi-year, transformational project. The end product of a fully integrated front to back offering and the latest technology at our finger tips will be great for State Street Global Advisors. A few other priority projects include:
Roll-out of an additional trading platform.
Further multi-asset enhancements to automation and efficiencies.
Expansion of our Algo Wheel into other asset classes.
A neat structural change to our primary liquidity seeking strategy which has yielded good results.
How do you envisage the trading desk of the future post the pandemic?
I don’t think the pandemic has changed too much of what the desk of the future looks like. Chiefly intelligence capture and use of data, both built into systems and easily consumable by traders and their tools to allow informed decisions. In addition, further automation to allow greater focus on trades/areas that can move the dial or add value.
One area where the pandemic has shone a light on with remote working practises now widespread is how we communicate with one another. Both within and across teams internally, but also externally. There are already some useful tools out there, but I’m sure this will be an area where we will see new offerings come to the market next year as TFH (Trading From Home) becomes a widely accepted practise for the long term. Oh and a comfortable chair in the home office is now essential!
What are your top tips to inspiring traders about how to reach to the top of their profession?
For fear of over simplifying my response; I see it as you should always try to push yourself. If you have an interest in something explore it. Set yourself goals, be prepared for knocks along the way, learn from them, but never give up.
What top tips do you use to optimise your mental health? #buysidementalhealth campaign 2020 by the Buy-side Trading Community (BTC)?
With WFH now widespread, the separation of home and work life can so easily become blurred. This lack of down-time or time away from the screens is not healthy, especially in a pressurised environment. That’s why, now more than ever, it’s important to take time for yourself. Not only to refresh, but also to assess how well (or not) you’re managing. Be open and talk about it, that could be inside or outside of work.
It’s been very tempting to hold onto holiday and use it when ‘we can do something’. But I’ve been keen, both for myself and to impress to my team, the need to make sure we’re all regularly getting that much needed break.
What has been your career path before your current role?
My first job within finance was in Fixed Income trade confirmations. I was equipped with a fax machine, pen and an Access database. I’d input the trade details into a database and manually check that against the printed fax trade confirm. Sounds mundane now, but those were exciting times for me. I felt I had already achieved something getting my foot in the door at a decent house with good opportunities. I look back now with such fond memories from that introduction. I was part of a young, hard working team. The quicker we all worked once the traders had finished, the quicker we all got to the Golden Lion. My time in the Back and Middle office gave me exposure to all asset classes and importantly to trading desks. I learnt a huge amount during that time. A new role as a desk assistant came up and I was lucky enough to get the job, shared with one other from the middle office. It was clear now that if we did a good job, one of us would be next in line for seat on the trading desk. Not long after a position became available and I joined the Desk as a junior derivatives trader. Wind the clock on (quite a bit!) and following a couple of changes in roles I found myself having gained experience trading every asset class, for all investments types and in a senior trader role. From there I moved into heading up a desk and into my current role managing Equity and FX trading for EMEA.