Since joining independent trading firm OSTC earlier this year, Tim Campbell is on the hunt for new hires.
But not just any trading hires. He’s on a mission to diversify the trading floor. Campbell, who was previously head of client services for emerging talent at recruitment firm Alexander Mann Solutions, and has also served as then-Mayor Boris Johnson’s apprenticeship ambassador, is probably best known in the UK for being the first winner of the BBC TV show The Apprentice.
At OSTC, he kicked off a program called Trading Futures talent acquisition to unlock a talent pool in underrepresented areas of society — women, ethnically diverse groups, LGBTQ+ candidates, people with different abilities and those from less mobile socio-economic backgrounds.
Financial News spoke with the London native about his plans, why hiring diverse traders makes business sense, and the boom in retail investors driving those interested in a trader career.
Why is diversity among traders important? Many banks have crushed expectations in the last year yet their trading floors are among the least diverse units in their companies
I think it’s increasingly clear that the importance of diversity, in its many forms, is no longer about justifying ‘why’ but is now an essential conversation across the sector, which for us at OSTC starts with the question ‘Why not?’. This is particularly relevant when it comes to the trading floor, where rates of diversity have historically been low. There’s a clear business case for banks and other players across financial services here too – we know that diversity breeds better business outcomes. Imagine what firms could do by tapping into 50% of population who end up on trading floors in far smaller numbers, women, and by employing candidates from ethnically diverse backgrounds? Specifically, meaningful diversity should help to ensure that organisations avoid groupthink — a focus on a diversity of background and experience, as well as personal characteristics, should therefore be the key consideration. Diversity, and importantly inclusion, shouldn’t be a tick box to make your organisation look good.
How important is culture and/or class when looking at how someone can become a good trader?
“Culture” matters in the sense that employers should focus on the culture they’re aiming to create; that being, one which is inclusive and one which welcomes difference as a source of strength. Ultimately, it’s down to employers to cultivate a sense of belonging to a business’ culture, rather than going out there and seeking employees who are all cut from the same cloth and who automatically identify with one perspective. Diverse-looking groups can still act the same if the culture demands that ‘this is the way we do things around here’. It is vitally important to foster a culture of creativity and autonomy. What makes a good trader is their hard work, the employer’s ability to train and coach them effectively and the shared ambition to be successful – a powerful combination.
Is diversity among traders a moot topic amid the rise in algos and decline in humans on trading floors?
Not at all. Speaking for our organisation, our style of trading will always require humans. Not just because they tell better jokes — asking Siri/Google/Alexa is just not the same! But we believe the human-to-human interaction element inherent in trading is essential and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Trading floors may be on the decline in the traditional sense, but technology has actually brought more humans to the world of trading. It’s a sentiment that seems to still be shared across the industry too — our education business has never been so busy. Finally, as many tech firms outside of our industry are finding, even technology-first businesses cannot ignore diversity. Algorithms are written by people and facilitating diversity among professionals who construct these algorithms is essential to reduce biases which may subsequently present themselves in any algo offering.
How do you make sure traders working at home feel like they’re part of a team?
Connecting via screens has always been a part of our world, so the shift to remote working has perhaps been less of a significant move for us than those in other sectors. Nonetheless, we have a real focus on ensuring that the team remains engaged and that their mental wellbeing is supported — with routine team check-ins, the inevitable emoji brain teasers and remote company-wide events. The seismic shift we’ve seen over the last year has rapidly accelerated acceptance of remote working, but organisations must make sure they don’t forgo the wellbeing of their employees as we all find our way through this ‘new normal’. It’s important to monitor the ‘temperature’ of your people and keep them connected.
How has the boom in retail investors altered the range of candidates, have you seen many young armchair investors looking to become professional?
There has definitely been an uptick in the number of people interested in a career in trading following several high-profile recent news reports, and this increase in numbers has also increased the diversity of candidates who are enquiring about opportunities to train as a trader. This is really positive, as not enough people are aware of what a career in trading actually entails, having only been exposed to it via news stories or Hollywood films and aligns with our proactive efforts to improve our own diversity and inclusion at OSTC by implementing a concentrated recruitment scheme aimed at traditionally underrepresented groups. I think it’s vital that people recognise the reality of trading as a job – it requires great skill, which can be learned with the right teachers. There is a lot to learn, requiring discipline, diligence and dedication, but the rewards for those who are successful can be truly transformational.