Just four years after he first took a summer internship with Macquarie, Pei Guo is now a Manager in Agricultural Commodities Trading. But while he was studying at university, a career as a trader for an international financial services organisation was not even on his radar.
“My degree was in Mechanical Engineering, not Finance,” Pei explains. “But I was fortunate to undertake an internship with a US bank as part of my Co-Op Scholarship.”
Pei found himself on the Equity Derivatives sales desk and it ignited his interest in trading. When time came to take the next step he interviewed at several other banks, before deciding on Macquarie.
“I knew I wanted to go into trading, because I’d had exposure to it through my Co-Op Internship,” says Pei. “Macquarie was very attractive to me because they like to convert their Interns to Graduates, who then take on full time, permanent positions. The possibility was there to keep me on beyond the internship.”
That’s exactly what happened. Pei began as an Intern, kept on working casually while he finished his degree, then joined Macquarie’s Graduate Program, remaining in Commodities and Global Markets as a junior trader.
For Pei, having clarity about his career goals and seeing he could fulfil them at Macquarie was one reason he was attracted to the organisation. The other was the culture.
“I still have a great relationship with the person who originally interviewed me for the internship and mentored me,” says Pei. “And I found the atmosphere at Macquarie really friendly, relaxed and down to earth.”
The time Pei spent as an Intern and casual employee was integral in preparing him for his future role. While he describes it as a steep learning curve, it allowed him to hit the ground running once he graduated.
“Despite being an Intern, I always felt the work I was doing was contributing to the business,” Pei says. “The work was real, hands-on and came with responsibility, accountability and ownership right from the start.”
Pei says that the work he performed as an Intern was quite different to the work he did as a Graduate due to regulatory constraints.
“As an Intern I did more of the analytical side of the work, because I couldn’t execute, price or trade,” Pei explains. “While as a grad I was able to take on a trading role.”
Pei says that each of the four years he’s spent with Macquarie have been transformative and he’s progressed from Analyst, to Senior Analyst to Manager, all within the Agricultural Commodities Trading team.
While initially he was taking instructions from the traders, after finishing his first year as a Graduate, he was given the opportunity to manage his own book. This meant he had to make decisions for himself and had responsibility for the pricing, management and exposures of the portfolio.
“I got to decide on the risk positions I wanted to hold at the end of the day, week or month, and that was pretty awesome,” Pei says. “I was accountable for my own profit and loss and had to learn about the industries I traded in-depth as well as develop transferrable skills such as risk management and business development. A lot of junior traders don’t get this experience.”
One year on, he’s grown from one or two clients to a dozen.
“To be given that autonomy to manage the day-to-day on my own was a huge opportunity and showed the great trust Macquarie put in me,” Pei says.
“I really appreciate the huge investment Macquarie made in developing my skills - from my colleagues sharing their knowledge with me right through to formal training, conferences and spending two months in the New York office.”
Pei’s clients include producers, consumers, trade houses, and hedge funds. He provides them with access to markets and products to manage risk. He also arranges pricing and provides complex derivative structures, as well as analysis on what the market is doing.
“We are risk management specialists,” Pei says. “Whatever the client wants, or whatever exposure they have, we help them get the access and liquidity they require and provide them with market colour and knowledge to help them make informed decisions.”
Pei trades in rubber, dairy, palm and other markets located in a variety of time zones in China, Malaysia, Singapore, and also deals with the UK and US. Due to trading in multiple time zones, Pei’s finishing and start times can be varied and include mid morning starts or evening finishes. When he’s not trading, he monitors news feeds, conducts audits and compiles risk reports and profit and loss reports.
Pei says his role involves intensive decision making and that success means accepting, analysing and learning from the failures, as well as the wins.
“You can put in a lot of effort into analysis, and think you’ve made the right decision but still be wrong. Dealing with uncertainty, and not letting that stress get to you has been a steep learning curve for me.”
Pei counts the camaraderie of his team and Graduate network among the highlights of his time at Macquarie so far, and says Interns and Graduates are encouraged to ask all the questions they need in order to gain experience.
“It is a steep learning curve early on,” says Pei. “But even though as a grad you are expected to take a lot of responsibility and be accountable, the team is always there to offer support and advice.”