Sheila Houghton-Brown is an analyst, senior relationship management in the fixed income sales team in Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Global Markets division. She joined the bank in 2013, having previously interned in its Global Wealth and Investment Management division. She studied Economics at the University of Bristol.
How did you break into your current role?
I started my career at Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a summer intern in the Global Wealth and Investment Management division. Interns are encouraged to network with employees in the different divisions and I was drawn to Global Markets by the buzz of the trading floor and the breadth of roles available. I spent the final two weeks of my internship working with the Equity Research Sales team and I received an offer from the European desk at the end of the scheme.
After graduating, I joined BofA Merrill as a full-time employee on the European Equity Research Sales team where I remained for 18 months. During that time, I learnt about the Senior Relationship Management (SRM) desk in Fixed Income Sales, having dealt with SRM on account management and client prioritisation. I took an interest in the desk for its key client focus and its involvement across all asset classes, sales and trading desks. I applied for a role when the desk was hiring and was offered the job.
What advice would you give to other graduates hoping for a career in global markets?
Keep up with current affairs, macroeconomics, the markets and news about the industry. Global Markets consists of Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities as one division and Equities as another so it represents a broad range of products and roles. It is key to do an internship in order to understand that breadth and to meet the many different types of people who work in Global Markets. A month on a desk as an intern teaches us more than a year’s worth of studying.
What made you choose Fixed Income Sales in Global Markets over another financial services career?
I wanted a job that would allow me to interact with people as much as possible, including our clients. This led me to focus on sales roles rather than those with trading or research at their core. I prefer building relationships to building models, although my background means that I do enjoy a certain amount of analytical detail as part of the job.
The Fixed Income division was particularly attractive to me as I am more drawn towards a macroeconomic approach than I am to bottom up, microeconomic analysis.
How important is it to secure an internship if you have ambitions to work in Global Markets?
It is increasingly more important to do an internship if you want to secure a full time role in Global Markets, given the abundance of graduates, the high calibre of applications and the fact that leading firms look to fill their vacancies primarily via an internship route. The internship is also the best opportunity to properly understand the working environment within Global Markets and to get good insight into the roles that exist and the skill sets required to succeed.
What have you been working on today?
I have been analysing the data we receive from third-party consultants, such as Greenwich Associates, Orion, and Coalition, on our Fixed Income business performance, in order to highlight business opportunities for the bank, client by client, across products.
How would you describe a typical day in your current role?
In SRM, our days are varied, which is great. Much of the work is client project-based as opposed to daily routines.
When I arrive at work, I spend about 10 minutes reading the news, followed by an hour or two dealing with emails and completing any outstanding tasks, such as requests for information from colleagues or clients and preparing materials for meetings.
Meetings with members of the Sales teams (Credit, FX, Rates, Emerging Markets or Equities) might follow, in which we discuss our performance with the key accounts that SRM covers, any relevant changes and our action plans, account by account.
Thereafter, I am likely to be working on third-party consultant surveys, using their data to analyse gaps and identify additional opportunities in partnership with our sales and trading colleagues.
What’s the best part of your job?
It is fascinating working with the leading asset management firms in the industry and dealing with their senior personnel. In SRM, I get a great deal of exposure to senior, experienced people, both internally and within our client base. That provides an analyst with a rich learning environment.
What three key skills do you need to succeed in FICC Sales?
Curiosity and good organisational and communication skills.