Spot light on Sharon Ruffles, Head of Fixed Income Dealing at State Street Global Advisors 

Head of Trading Champion 2020

What I love about being a Buyside Trader is that no 2 days are ever the same.  Thank goodness, because I’ve been doing this job for 25 years! Imagine a job where you start each day by trying to make sense of what has happened overnight to Financial markets, in politics, both national international and what, if any, news events are having an impact on markets.  And when you have that under your hat, you then need to try to predict what you think is going to happen in the next 24 hours, and longer. It’s a job where collaboration is key and where you share ideas both internally, and externally with your counterparty’s.  Where being right or wrong is never as important as the strength of your conviction, and where you build relationships based on trust and understanding.  And did I mention a touch of cynicism is always an asset, especially when searching for the  ‘best’ price.  

 

For the past couple of years I have been working 1 day a week from home.  What I identified very early on, was that trading from a laptop was not ideal.  In a contingency situation, for a short period of time and with limited trading volume it was a good business continuity option but I opted to use my working from home day as my ‘catch up on the admin’ day.

2020 has been a year of disruption – how has your desk coped with the pandemic? What key learnings can be made?

When Covid 19 struck, I knew immediately that the only way my team were going to be able to work from home is if they were able to replicate their  office set up in their home.  So we ordered each trader a 43 inch monitors and PC Tower and they made a part of the home their working ‘office’ space.  7 months later we find ourselves still sitting at home and we can reflect on how far we have come from those early days of extreme market volatility abated only by the concerted central bank intervention that has helped to calm markets.

We learned quickly that good communication was key not only between the trading team but also with the PM team and the wider organisation.  At SSGA we were already a high volume user of electronic trading platforms so we had the processes in place to continue to  execute our trades seamlessly.

 

Having established a stable working environment, we have been able to refocus on existing projects and new initiatives in much the same way as we would in the office.  We have several internal projects that are proceeding well, and externally we have once again began to evaluate how an EMS can enhance our trade execution in Fixed Income.

 

How do you envisage the trading desk of the future post the pandemic?

 

Without the benefit of a crystal ball it is hard to determine what the trading desk of the future will look like.  In the past, offering a trader the flexibility to trade from home on a regular basis may have been considered to be too high risk. What we have demonstrated during Covid is that it can be done with ease, and the same oversight and surveillance protocols remain in place. So I anticipate many staff will look for a better work life balance where they maybe work from home 1 or 2 days a week.  I also think technology will continue to play a big part in the evolution of the financial markets particularly in fixed income and that we will continue to see new platforms and innovations that will help to tackle market liquidity and transparency.

 

What are your top tips to inspiring traders about how to reach to the top of their profession?

From a diversity perspective I would love to see more women and people from the BAME community consider trading as a potential career.  Particularly on the buyside, Traders work very much as part of a team.  I believe the more diverse the team is the more variation of thought you get and from that comes greater challenge and innovation.

I think Traders should be developing their analytical and coding skills. Being able to consume and translate a vast amount of data into something that can be a valuable input in to the next trading strategy is the kind of innovation our clients and the regulators want to see.  And for the buyside trader, keep as close to the investment process as you possibly can.  Understanding the mandate you are trading for, the PM’s style and the investment objective of the fund will enable you develop an execution strategy per trade and add value to the fund. Finally, and probably most obviously, always consider how you can achieve the best possible price for each trade and make sure you have as many tools on your desk to do that as possible.

 

What top tips do you use to optimise your mental health?  #buysidementalhealth

Looking after our Mental Health as well as our physical health at this time is more important than ever. We all have Mental and physical health,  and it is important to understand that both of them can be good and sometimes not so good.  Having suffered from poor mental health myself in the past I  am so pleased that this is now a subject that we are more willing to talk about.  May I challenge you to ask yourself this question.  How do you respond, and how comfortable do you feel, if I tell you my arm is broken?  Can you find the words to easily to respond? And how easy is it to respond to me if I tell you my mind is a little broken right now?  If the honest answer is it doesn’t feel as easy, and you don’t know what to say you wouldn’t be alone. But by letting those around you know that it is ok to speak about how they are feeling mentally as well as physically, and by sharing some of your own challenges, you could literally be saving a life.  Now, more than ever, we should be reaching out to our colleagues and friends and letting them know we are here to talk.  From experience I can tell you, that just like our physical health can heal, so can our mental health. The first steps towards healing is speaking.