The Standard Bank Graduate Programme aims to attract exceptional graduate talent and transform this talent into the future leadership of Africa’s leading Bank. Sean O’Brien, Head of Foreign Exchange (FX) Sales at Standard New York Inc., is proof that the programme is meeting its core objectives. We asked Sean to share his experiences and insights on how the programme assisted him in building his career to date.
- What attracted you to the Standard Bank Graduate Programme? All the information available pointed towards an organization with a great corporate identity, strong work ethic, and high expectations of its graduates and employees. That, together with Standard Bank’s size and status as an employer of the highest regard made it an extremely appealing opportunity.
- What year were you on the programme and how big was the group? I was on the 2002 programme and there were approximately 20 of us. 17 graduates were on the Corporate and Investment Banking Programme and three, including me, were on the Treasury Programme.
- Briefly, what did the programme entail? The programme started with a month of intensive “out of office” training – incorporating public speaking, presentation skills, MS Excel, business leadership training, treasury product courses, etc., followed by a month of rotation through back and middle office. The final six months of the programme was spent rotating around the various desks that comprise a global markets trading floor – in both sales and structuring and trading. The level of competition between the three of us on the programme was intense – we had to complete and present numerous projects as well as learn desk operations and help out where we could. In the end we were all placed in areas we had an interest in.
- What has your career journey been since completing the graduate programme? On completion of the programme I became a structurer on the FX Derivatives desk. I did this for 18 months before moving into a trading position on the desk for four years. In October 2009 I was appointed into an Executive role as Head of Currency Options Trading and FX Structuring. In March 2012 I headed over to New York to head up the FX Sales desk and that is where I am today.
- How do you think the programme assisted you in getting to where you are today? The programme is extremely rounding, focusing on both the technical proficiencies required to work within banking, and the people skills to survive within a complex organisation. That said it is also a great opportunity to discover whether or not the environment is the right fit for the individual – from a corporate identity and individual career goals perspective.
I was extremely naive with regard to the actual skills required to work in a fast paced, highly pressurized work-environment. The programme allowed me unfettered access to those already on the job and gave me an opportunity to pick up the required skills. I learnt that with hard work and resilience, there really are very few obstacles to building and growing a successful career.