Spot light on Simon Steward, Head European Equity Trading, Capital International
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?
2020 has been unprecedented for so many reasons, over a 20 year trading career I thought I had seen it all but this year has once again surprised me. I am so proud of the way that my desk has adapted to the current situation in what has been a challenging and frankly scary time for everyone. One of the big takeaways has been the speed at which we were able to move to a work from home environment and be enabled to handle both the increased volume and volatility of the markets in those early weeks. It was a team effort to ensure we achieved that across the organisation and huge recognition is due to all our associates across the globe who ensured that operationally & technologically we were able to ensure the safety of our associates & service our client bases needs seamlessly. The other key takeaway for me was around communication, through every crisis that I have sat through you become aware that the group of investment professionals you are trading for changes some are experiencing heightened volatility for the first time some were covering a different sector in previous periods so the effective timely communication becomes so critical and when you lose the ability to walk down a corridor and speak to someone face to face the requirement to be concise and reassuring over another format is essential. The trading group at CG have achieved this throughout this period and I have no doubt will result in stronger collaboration moving forward as both new and stronger relationships have been built.
Which projects have you successfully worked on this year?
Projects in the early part of 2020 for the trading group post pandemic were very closely evaluated. We were obviously in a period of immense volume and volatility for a sustained period of time and at that point the primary objective of all the traders and supporting teams was to be able to get through that period all from a different working environment. As we moved into the summer and things were far more stable we were re assessing technology requirements and ensuring that project prioritisation was where it needed to be. The pandemic and working from home has most definitely provided traders with the opportunity to evaluate what is core to their day to day in terms of applications and with less technology real estate than they may have on the desktops in the office it has also provided us the opportunity to look at order management enhancements which we are currently working through. We have continued the development and enhancement of our TAPE product (Trading Analytics Platform for Execution) as well as our MTR team (Market Transaction Research) continue to provide new tools to ensure we have greater granularity around the assessment of the current market structure and providing our investment group greater quantitative tools around execution monitoring and post trade evaluation. When you also throw into the mix Brexit and the ever changing and evolving regulatory landscape it has been a busy year.
How do you envisage the trading desk of the future post the pandemic?
This is a tough one to answer because the truthful answer at the moment is nobody knows. I would imagine most heads of trading are trying to assess what their desks may look like going forward at this point. My view is that what has happened in the last 8 months has realistically brought our industry forward by around three to four years. The ability to bring flexible working into the trading world will hopefully enable us to retain existing talent and provide us a platform to attract new talent and a more diverse workforce which is without doubt what we as an industry should be promoting. When you overlay these changes with technology developments around automation and process improvements and enhanced communication tools to ensure we do not lose the close collaboration within teams and their respective investment groups you probably end up with the desk of the future.
What are your top tips to inspiring traders about how to reach to the top of their profession?
The market is continuously evolving and you have to evolve with it. Don’t be closed off to any idea’s as what you may not think is important to your business or platform now could be in the future. Embrace technology, it is here to stay and the one consistent over the last 20 years that has never remained static and is a core component for a trading desk to be able to differentiate itself in todays world. Ensure that you engage with other market participants outside of your own organisation as those conversations can be invaluable for validation of your ideas and interpretations. Understand regulation, like technology it will not be going away and understanding the implications it can have on your business so you can have enriched conversations around how the regulation of the future can shape our industry is critical. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, there are so many discussions and areas of opportunity in our industry that you can explore. Finally Listen, probably the most simple piece of advice but one of the most important ones to ensure you are successful.
What top tips do you use to optimise your mental health? #buysidementalhealth campaign 2020 by the Buy-side Trading Community (BTC)?
I am glad you raise this and what a timely period you chose to launch this initiative so thank you! Mental health is clearly very personal so everyone deals with it in their own way but personally I have found over the years having an outlet to talk about stress and tough situations that are weighing on my mind has been crucial. Over the years that outlet has changed between family, colleagues & friends with the simple view that its important to share issues and don’t carry the burden single handed. Work life balance has really come to the forefront over the pandemic with traders working longer hours especially in a work from home environment where it seems tougher to establish boundaries around walking away from your workstation at the close of the day. So establishing good habits be it going for a walk, daily exercise or simply taking a day off away from the screens is essential and needs to become part of your work routine. Finally share the load, I have mentioned about talking around issues but sometimes the sheer amount of work we take on can be challenging and most of us are surrounded by very strong teams who are hugely capable so the skill of delegation and sharing workloads can really stop any issues at the source.
What has been your career path before your current role?
After leaving university I worked for Goldman Sachs Asset Management in their client reporting area predominantly dealing with Fixed Income and currency asset classes the role their led to a lot of engagements with the trading desks and cemented my decision that it was what I wanted to do. I moved to Capital Group in 2000 and joined the investment control group, which again was a role that involved engaging with the trading desk a lot as well as both portfolio managers and analysts. It’s a role that remains close to my heart now not least because it gave me my opportunity and opened the door to Capital Group but since then it has also provided multiple opportunities for us to hire fantastic traders into our group. I moved to the trading desk as a junior trader in 2002 and was fortunate to be mentored and taught by some excellent traders and culture carriers who instilled the values of trading at the start of my career and I have carried them with me throughout my whole career. In 2015 I took on the role of head of European Trading and have remained in that role since. In 2018 I became a Director of our U.K business so I sit on the board there which involves oversight of many differing facets of our business in Europe now which has been incredibly rewarding. I have been fortunate to work for such an incredible organisation for 20 years and sat through many different periods and seen many changes, I am truly excited for the what the future holds for our industry as we enter a new phase post pandemic.