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Global Trade & Transaction Banking back in vogue but where are the bright young things?

Despite recent press reports warning of significant job losses in the City, the Global Trade and Transaction Banking (GTTB) recruitment market remains buoyant with many banks expanding their teams, most noticeably in London and Asia

Global Trade & Transaction Banking back in vogue but where are the bright young things? 2GTTB which encompasses trade and commodity finance, supply chain finance, export finance and cash & liquidity management is very much back in vogue as institutions appreciate the low risk annuity nature of the revenue streams. As one respondent in a recent sector survey carried out by Global Trade Search (GTS), part of the Corbel Group, commented:  “The investment banking brigade continue to look at us commercial bankers as glorified post office workers, but there is at least now the recognition that we also make some money and have a lower risk of losing it.”  Historically considered as the poor relation to investment banking, GTTB is now being recognised as an important revenue generator.

This is obviously good news for those GTTB professionals already working in the sector as their skills and experience remain in high demand. However, for the sector as a whole, there is an acute shortage of young people coming through – so the challenge for the sector is to attract, train, develop and retain new talent. The recent GTS annual salary survey of the GTTB market indicated that 44% of people working in the sector have more than 15 years’ experience and that they by far represented the majority. Those with less than 10 years experience, were significantly under represented. As one survey participant commented, “It’s a challenge to get a start in an international related career particularly for younger professionals. Everyone I work with has more than 30 years of international banking experience. It’s like a club that’s hard to get admitted to.”
And the truth is that for various historical reasons, GTTB islike an exclusive club.  However, its veterans genuinely do not want it to remain so and are eager to bring on new talent and develop younger members. To an extent, part of the problem is due to poor PR. Despite the global financial crisis, Investment Banking is perceived as a much ‘sexier’ proposition than GTTB which is why the majority of graduates are attracted to it. However, when you look at the technical and personal attributes required of a successful trade professional (i.e. traditional financial engineering skills coupled with a solid knowledge of geo-politics, often involving complicated emerging markets, logistics, commodities, distribution channels, cross-cultural engagement etc) a career in GTTB can be portrayed as an exciting, challenging and worthwhile option.
As one survey participant commented: “If we want to retain the young talent and attract even more, we have to address the status of trade finance in the market, demonstrate its importance and relevance to the modern world and offer interesting and rewarding careers within it.” In a world where banking has to clean up its image, GTTB is the acceptable face as it is a back to basics product that  finances real transactions, enables world  trade and  provides a vital source of financing to emerging economies.
“However, if the sector is to realise its renaissance it will need to address the critical  under investment in its talent pool and become better at promoting itself to the graduate population. ” As many participants in the survey noted, more needs to be done to promote GTTB at universities and colleges so that students are at least aware of it as a banking career alternative outside the well trodden path of investment banking.
Heads of trade finance teams will also have to be more imaginative and vocal in their recruitment strategy. Prior to 2008, the economic environment enabled  front office team heads to be more open minded in their recruitment strategy – recruiting  for junior to mid level positions more on the basis of potential rather than actual relevant experience. The financial crisis changed that and recruitment became highly skills set and experience focused. Given the talent pipeline shortage within GTTB, exacerbated by what younger talent there is being drawn into the corporate world due to perceived enhanced career prospects, heads will need to consider a wider net of potential candidates if they are to grow their businesses, otherwise we could see significant compensation inflation as employers compete over a small candidate pool. This, of course, will require a serious commitment to training, development and on-going mentoring on the part of business veterans, coupled with a concerted effort to improve the status and perception of GTTB with in the banking sector.
Sarah Hutton is Director of GTS – Global Trade Search, a specialist executive search practice which works across Global Trade & Transaction Banking in a range of product areas including structured trade and commodity finance, ECA, supply chain finance, cash management, political risk insurance and legal services. It is part of The Corbel Group, a boutique collection of specialist financial services recruitment practices.