Not all of us have a head for numbers, or a sense of how to maximize our investments. Little wonder then that those who can—the hot-shot traders, the research experts and the fund managers—have a certain mystique about them. But what does it take to get to where they are? That they cram copious quantities of research, read many reports and can recite stock prices with ease isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that most of them start their day as early as 7.30am, and don’t have enough time to learn skills such as driving.
Associate, institutional equities, Edelweiss, Mumbai
For Samar Khan, landing her dream job in January 2008 came as a mixed blessing. She was happy to get a job, yet scared about her future. “The day I joined Edelweiss as a trainee, the market crashed. We went into a recession,” the 26-year-old sales trader reminisces. “It was a tough time, but when I look back, I realize it meant I got more time at the desk for training.”
Daily duty: As part of the sales trading team, Khan takes care of institutional clients, both in India and the US. Her day starts at 5.30am, since she has to be at work by 7.30am. After a 40-minute commute from Mahim to Nariman Point by train, she starts her day in office by handing in her mobile phone outside the dealing room. Then she scans Bloomberg and checks her email to see if any US-based client has sent a buy or sell request.
At 7.45am, she attends a technical meeting where the team discusses the last day’s trades, the volumes, what the different funds may have bought.
Job progression: Samar Khan wants to assist a research analyst as the next step. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
This is followed by a meeting at 8.05am where the research and sales teams join in. “We discuss the news in various counters (scrips) and the implications it may have on the markets,” says Khan. It is only after this meeting that Khan has time for a quick breakfast—a plate of idlis or toast—which she gets from the office pantry and has at her desk.
By 8.30am, it’s time to make the morning calls, before the market opens. “It’s a very competitive sector,” Khan says, “and we are among 70 brokers on the Street (Dalal Street). If you call up your client first with relevant news in a holding that he has or is interested in, you are likely to bag that trade.”
Post-9am, when the markets open, the day passes in a blur of trades. “My job is to get the best rate for my clients for whichever trades they are interested in,” says Khan. Lunch is a brief affair, supplied by a dabbawala and always eaten at the desk.
Once the market shuts at 3.30pm, there is a final confirmation on all trades that must be sent immediately to all clients.
After 4pm, Khan can collect her mobile phone, deal with emails, and read research reports before leaving for home at 5.30pm.
Leisure: “I don’t read any financial data on weekends and spend time catching up with friends on Facebook.” Khan has not taken any long vacations since 2008 because “you can’t stay away from the market too long”.
Sanity saver: Daily workouts at a gym, straight after work.
Wish I could change: “The early mornings. I can work until 12 at night, but waking early every morning is a killer.”
Skills set: You have to love the stock market and have a head for numbers.
Education: Has an MBA degree.
Salary range: Industry estimates put the figure at Rs8 lakh-12 lakh per annum for this position.
Director, equities, IDFC, Mumbai
“Life is binary,” says Tridib Pathak, “you either decide to buy or not to buy.” It is this simplicity that makes it possible for Pathak, 44, to navigate the complexities of managing Rs1,000 crore public money. Pathak oversees three of IDFC’s equity funds: the mid-cap, diversified and value funds.
In the spanking new Indiabulls building where IDFC has its office, Pathak shares an office, the “Olympic-sized investment room”, with chief investment officer Kenneth Andrade, and his team of three equity traders and three research analysts.
Daily duty: Pathak’s day invariably starts early—his iPhone alarm wakes him at 5.30am. After reading the newspapers, Pathak goes for a morning walk with his wife in the park near his building. He does most of his reading, checks the 300-400 daily mails on his BlackBerry, and makes phone calls during the 45-minute commute to office. If there’s still some reading left at the end of the drive—research reports, and the one annual report a day Pathak makes it a habit to read—he reads during office hours, or around 7-7.30pm, once he has left for home.
After he reaches office by 8.30am, it’s meetings, meetings and more meetings...most days are like that. “One of the first things I do after reaching work is to glance through our office Outlook to check the meetings for the day. These could be meetings we have requested with companies to study more about them or their sectors, (or) meetings companies have requested with us to apprise us of their results or their investment plans. There are also meetings with research analysts.”
The big picture: Tridib Pathak believes that the five years he spent as a research analyst helped him get detailed knowledge of processes. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
The office day begins with an internal investment meeting at 9am. “Because we are long-term investors, we are not concerned with very minute swings in the stock market, though we keep tracking it all day,” says Pathak.
Still, most days are eventful enough. A results release from Infosys, for instance, kept the team busy recently. “I had a meeting with the CFO of Infosys at Four Seasons hotel, where they had come to speak to investors,” says Pathak. The team then undertook a sectoral analysis of the IT sector. “We realized (that) since the Infosys results had exceeded market expectations, and that the operating environment for the industry had improved, we should study the mid-cap and smaller firms in the industry too. If their valuation proved to be higher than their share prices, we as a fund should invest in them.”
Leisure: On weekends, Pathak heads to the Olympic-sized swimming pool 15 minutes from home, at Vile Parle East. He and his 14-year-old son Siddhant also catch movies in theatres or watch them on DVD on Sundays. Saturdays are quiet, as Pathak’s wife is away at work and Siddhant goes for tuitions. “This is when I go through all the international websites and get a chance to catch up with the reading I haven’t done during the week.”
Sanity saver: “We take short breaks to Lonavala once in three weeks.”
Wish I could change: “Nothing. My job is so transparent. The value of the fund is reflected every day in its net asset value (NAV). I love the challenge of understanding the complexity of life and reducing it to one simple thread—to buy or not to buy.”
Skills set: “The ability to make quick decisions. In this job, you are always assessing, so having a strong grasp of topics is important. In meetings with investors—companies or individuals who invest in your fund—the ability to communicate your ideas with clarity and simplicity is a huge plus.”
Education: Chartered accountancy (Institute of Chartered Accountantsof India)
Salary range: It varies widely depending on where you’re working and how you perform. Industry estimates put the figure at Rs50 lakh-2 crore per annum.
Deputy MD, ICICI Prudential Asset Management, Mumbai
Nilesh Shah’s spacious office on the sixth floor of the Hallmark Business Centre, Bandra Kurla, has all the paraphernalia of an investor—a large-screen TV that’s always on, a Bloomberg terminal and volumes of books on financial matters lining the office walls. And then there’s a dartboard.
“I’ve got it recently,” says Shah. “I try my hand at it on some evenings; it provides a switching point for me—a way to move from the equity-related matters from one part of the day to the fixed-income area.”
The Rs1.2 trillion funds that Shah and his team of money managers at ICICI Prudential manage has both these categories of funds. And Shah must monitor both.
Caution first: Nilesh Shah believes in taking minimum risks and earning maximum rewards. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Daily duty: Shah is at his desk by 8.30am and 15 minutes later, he and his team of 25 fund managers, analysts and traders try to figure out what is likely to happen in the market that day.
Communication forms a key part of Shah’s day. Equities come early in the day. Company meetings, with sell-side analysts or investors, follow. At 7pm, there is the daily meeting for fixed-income funds.
At least one day in a week is spent travelling. This could be to visit companies to judge first-hand estimates on growth and profitability. A recent trip took him to Raipur, Chhattisgarh, to visit Jindal Power. But it could be trips to the metros to meet with investors. “On days like this, we have meetings throughout—with officials, our fund distributors, independent financial advisers and investors. I could be speaking to as many as 200 different people in a day,” says Shah.
Leisure: “I don’t listen to music any more during the week. This is one hobby I have sacrificed for the sake of my career. In our profession you are constantly racing against the best in the market… So even when I am on the treadmill exercising, I prefer to use that half an hour to focus my thoughts on the markets and the day ahead instead.”
When Shah is in Mumbai, he seldom leaves office before 9.30pm. Whatever’s left of the evening, after the 30-minute drive to his home in Juhu, is spent with his wife and their two young daughters, Jheel and Muskaan. “They talk about their school, or sometimes I read stories out to them.” says Shah. The family sometimes goes out to eat at a south Indian or Gujarati restaurant, but not often because Shah hates eating out.
Sanity saver: “Not talking much on weekends. During the week I speak so much with so many people that towards the end of the week I just want to remain silent,” says Shah, who likes to spend time on the swing at home, quietly reading a magazine.
Wish I could change: “Nothing. Not even not being able to listen to music. Or the fact that I have no time to learn how to drive properly. I do regret not learning driving, though.”
Skills set: The ability to make things simple. “Investment banking is all about managing your sanity. You should not be swayed by greed nor be swayed by fear. As long as you can maintain that balance, things are fine.”
He doesn’t think a head for numbers is necessary. “Legendary investors the world over don’t come with engineering or accounting backgrounds. Just lots of common sense, and that is the secret of this business.”
Also, you cannot make silly mistakes: “The cost of mistakes is too high.” To ensure this, Shah believes in strong processes and rigid principles—these are enforced by the individual fund managers on his team. “After all, we are in the business of making the maximum reward by taking the minimum risk,” he says.
Education: Chartered accountancy.
Salary range: Industry estimates put the figure at Rs1.5-2 crore per annum for this position.
Every month, we will explore a profession through the lives of three executives at different stages in their careers.
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