Adrien Lévy, Class of 2012, is sales trader at Banque Populaire. He was attracted to the world of finance early on. He told us about his student years in the Financial Engineering major at ESILV and his career history in Paris and in the East of France.
Adrien has been Forex, Fixed Income and Investments Sales-Trader at BPALC since 2013.
ESILV and the Financial Engineering major
I graduated French high school with a scientific Baccalaureate and a mathematics option. At the time, I did not know what I wanted to do for a job, but my command of maths and computer science had me think about studying in an engineering school. I got in a “Maths Sup/Maths Spé” preparatory class in 2006. During these two hard years, I started to get really interested in the world of finance, which I discovered through the news and TV reports.
I got in touch with professionals who have confirmed my will to work in finance but who told me that I could absolutely not do without strong skills in computer science and maths.
As a result, I looked for an engineering school offering a general curriculum with a finance major. This is how I found out about ESILV, whose assets were obvious: accredited by CTI, located in La Défense business district, acknowledged by finance professionals and also, I knew that many students were offered a job before graduation. I filed an application form, took logic tests and an oral exam and got in.
During the oral examination, I explained that my goal was to major in Financial Engineering. One of the professors in charge that day recommended I started in the second year rather than the third to make up for my lack of knowledge in probability and programmation languages, subjects that are not taught in preparatory classes. As I was never held back during my school years, I decided to follow this piece of advice which turned out to be precious. This is how I became part of the Class of 2012.
A good balance between theory and practical work
ESILV brought me a lot because I gained a great deal of knowledge in finance and programmation. Many classes are taught as projects, which helps creating an interesting balance between theory and practice. Pôle Léonard de Vinci recreated a trading room equipped with a dozen Bloomberg terminals. The school also recruits professionals from prestigious trading rooms to teach, for instance the “Advanced Fixed Income with Bloomberg” class. Very popular among students and recruiters!
I have excellent memories of my years at ESILV. I learnt a lot and met wonderful people that I still see to this day. This engineering school made me an acknowledged professional.
My time as an intern was really instructive too because it gave me the opportunity to put into practice what I had learnt at school and get a first glimpse of what professional life is like.
I did my final-year internship in the BRED’s trading room, on the Exchange Rate desk. My missions included creating and valuing structured products, creating and improving the pricers, automatizing tools such as VBA and assisting the sales-trader throughout the day. Doing this internship convinced me to go into finance, it made me want to do what I do now and taught me a lot!
Leaving Paris to take part in the opening a new trading room
After my final-year internship, I was offered a permanent contract at BRED. Even if getting in such a great bank was a chance, life in Paris failed to fulfill me. I got job interviews at Banque Populaire Alsace Lorraine Champagne, which was looking to recruit a sales-trader to strengthen a newly opened trading room. At first, it was very different from what I had experienced so far because it was an opening. We had to implement many things: establishing processes, creating contracts, contacting counterparties and above all gaining confidence from clients and coworkers.
Every day starts with a morning meeting prepared by our intern most of the time but then my day-to-day at work is never the same, all days are different! We work with companies on three areas: variable rate loan covering, foreign exchange risk coverage (exchange rate) and placement products (structured products and bonds).
Work hours vary but clearly, we don’t count them. The amount of work is large and not linear: one must think fast, prioritize tasks and stay focused when the pressure is high. The trading room world is demanding: the smallest mistake can cost a lot. As a result, it is true that salaries are higher than in other engineering specialities.
I have found a good professional/personal life ratio: I think I’ll stay on my desk for some time. I might go back to the South of France too or give in to the beneficial salaries of the neighbouring Luxembourguish banks.
My advice for students who want to work in sales & trading
Be particularly attentive to the programmation and capital market classes. Use your free time to follow MOOCs, take the AMF certification, get training on Bloomberg… Also, take great care when choosing your internships, they are the only professional experience you will get when you start looking for a job. The final-year internship is particularly important: seize the opportunity to ask a lot of questions on the desk and in the other departments of the bank. To sum it up, I would advise you to be operational even before graduating from ESILV!
Are you interested in the Financial Engineering major? Find out more here.