Banks compete for e-FX talent

"Relationship management in e-FX is as important, if not more, than it is in the traditional voice sales market. In e-FX, you do not have the luxury of the client calling for prices, so you have to concentrate more on the relationship role," said Andreas Karthaus, head of global e-FX sales at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in London.

As the e-FX industry has come of age, a salesperson must have a broad-based skill-set combining technology nous, product knowledge and sales ability.

In the early days of e-commerce, banks were more likely to hire dealers with an IT sales background – now the focus is much more on ability to provide a full FX sales service, said officials. "Due to the rarity of this skill combination, many banks feel there is a lack of available talent," said Karthaus.

Recruiters seeking to fill e-FX positions agreed banks face a dearth of suitable candidates. "Good e-FX dealers are really hard to find," said a New York-based headhunter. "You need someone with FX knowledge and technology expertise – that’s almost an impossible mandate."

And as volumes on banks’ proprietary online FX platforms continue to grow, these skills become still more integral to their success in the FX market. "Banks have woken up to the fact that their clients are dealing more and more over the internet; they are finding there are potential opportunities that they didn’t see previously, and from a sales perspective it is a tight labour pool," said Tom Roche, global head of e-commerce and agency treasury services at the Royal Bank of Scotland in London. "This is certainly raising questions about the type of individual and the skills they require, and that’s something that’s likely to remain on the radar screen for chief dealers as the volumes continue to grow."

In 2001, for example, RBS was looking for people who could manage connectivity to multi-bank platforms, whereas now it seeks dealers who are still "from a technology world but who are equally strong from a selling perspective," said Roche.

The changes in job role reflect the developing e-FX market, said officials. In 2000 and 2001 banks had only just begun looking at e-commerce. By 2002, many began to question the validity of their investment, and in 2003 volumes started to pick up significantly, so the e-FX role became more important. "All the signs so far in 2004 indicate that that is likely to continue," said Roche, so banks are again assessing their talent in the market.

Recent high-profile moves in e-FX reflect this increased demand. Citigroup, for example, is currently looking to replace vice-president-level staff from its FX e-commerce team in London following the departures of Stuart Peck and James Van Den Heule. Peck will join Morgan Stanley in London early next month, while Van Den Heule is expected to join Barclays Capital in London, although a BarCap spokesperson could not confirm the hire last week.

Citi also lost FX e-commerce dealer Stamos Fokianos earlier this year. He joined RBS on March 4 as head of product development in the financial markets team. RBS plans to add further e-FX sales dealers across all products for e-commerce, said Roche. Forex recruitment has been focused on developing and promoting the bank’s API capabilities for RBS FiX, a benchmark engine for spot and forwards FX rates powered by EBS data, and its FXStream and FXMicropay products as key areas of build-up in terms of customer demand.

Meanwhile, Noel Singh joined DrKW as a senior e-FX sales person on April 26, reporting to Karthaus. He replaces Jonathan Wykes, who joined e-broker eSpeed in London earlier this year (FX Week, April 12). Singh left EBS in London, after five years as an account executive. He also has seven years’ spot FX trading experience having worked at Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank in London.

Officials expect a further surge of demand for sophisticated e-FX staff in the coming months as banks look to add more exotic options structures to their e-trading platforms. "Banks have just started developing yield-enhancing products for asset managers via online platforms," said DrKW’s Karthaus.

"In the next 12–18 months, however, more and more banks will focus on getting standardised exotics structures on their e-platforms. Consequently, e-FX sales people will need a clear understanding of options markets."

But some banks have managed e-FX as an integral part of their FX business for many years, and therefore report little change in their demand for e-FX dealers. UBS does not have e-FX-specific dealers, rather all FX staff are responsible for e-commerce sales and development, said Ed Hulina, head of FX marketing at UBS in London. "Everyone involved needs to understand the e-channels as much as the traditional dealing approaches," he said. "e-FX volumes will continue to grow in this market, and clients will expect banks to have the right people and processes in place to handle execution and manage their relationship, regardless of how the client is dealing."

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