Working from home in the strict world of trading and motivating others

Thursday 30 April 2020

CFA UK Insights

Author: Joanne Frearson

Eunice Zhu, CFA, Head of XVA Trading at SMBC Nikko Capital Markets, had to self-isolate twice before the lockdown began in the UK. CFA UK Insights finds out what it was like and how to work as a trader from home where strict compliance rules need to be met

When Zhu decided to head to China for Chinese New Year she had no idea she would be caught in the middle of an emerging pandemic and have to cut the holiday short and come back to the UK to self-isolate. 

Having done her time alone, she decided to go on a skiing holiday to Italy only to get there to find out she had arrived in another place where the coronavirus had taken hold. Again she had to self-isolate on her return. 

Zhu says: “At that time people found it even a bit amusing that I had to self-isolate twice for being unlucky to going to two places where the virus outbreak was.” 

Working from home for the first time

At first she found self-isolation difficult as no one else at that time was living under lockdown. There are also stringent regulatory rules surrounding trading, so working from home was not always easy at first. 

“This is my first time ever in my 10-year career to actually work from home because being a trader,” she says. “It is not convenient and there are stricter compliance for trading out of office.

But through reducing the execution volumes on the trades she was able to comply with the rules and regulations.

Now she is used to working from home, holding meetings over WebEx and motivating her team. She explains SMBC Nikko Capital Markets has been very responsive in helping their staff members adjust and make sure both of employees’ work needs and non-work-related wellbeing are met. 

She catches up with her teammates regularly on both a personal and work level. Zhu says these “can be informal conversations about how is life, how are the kids all those things that are not work related.”

According to Zhu it is important “to keep the communication flow to ensure team members are working together collaboratively even though we don’t see each other and also help to resolve the issue they encounter as soon as possible.”

“The issues can be as small as just an IT or computer issue or big involving some key point in a particular project.”

Dealing with challenging market conditions

Working from home has not made any difference to her team’s performance. They have continued to produce good results even though there has been the most challenging market condition she has even seen. 

“As the pandemic has progressed literally every market has been volatile,” says Zhu. “This is something we have never seen in history, even in the global financial crisis of 2008.” 

But Zhu thinks, with the low interest rate environment and strong support measures from the governments and central banks, there will be opportunities in the market, despite of the volatilities.

The future of work

After the pandemic Zhu expects the way traders work will change and this could include a rise in home working.  “As long as we are compliant to the Compliance and the general regulation rules, it is possible”, says Zhu.

She also expects agile working to increase. Zhu says: “Agile working can arguably make employees more productive, so companies can start to implement more policies like this to enable people to do more agile workings.”

“That is something that we probably would increase in people’s working behaviour in the future, just to make sure the communication is still there and make sure we can check the progress and then point out the issues as soon as we can even though we are not actually physically working together.” 

This interview was recorded over Zoom on Tuesday 14th April. 

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