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A complex and challenging sector to get into initially, the rewards for those who stick it out can be huge. Sales is the customer-facing aspect of commodities. It includes building relationships with clients who might be looking to buy or sell commodities, and acting as a middleman between the customer and the trading colleague at the bank to complete the deal. Sales is about discovering what a client wants, and making it happen through the trader.
While a financial qualification is beneficial, and sometimes necessary, commodities sales is more about building and maintaining working relationships, so it is vital to be a good communicator, with a combination of strong verbal and written skills. Trading is where the deals are done. Trades originate from the sales team , and the traders use their knowledge of the market to buy and sell at the right times to make profits for the bank.
Commodities traders need both a generic knowledge of financial products, because much of the trading involves derivatives such as futures, as well as an in depth knowledge of the specific commodity they're working with. This is why you'll find jobs listed on efinancialcareers. Structuring is, perhaps, the most challenging area of commodities to get into, particularly as a new starter.
However, while it is uncommon for banks to hire juniors within structuring, it's not unheard of providing the individual has a strong mathematical background. The role of structurers is to create bespoke solutions that enable the client to manage the price at which they sell commodities they produce, or buy the commodities they need, so that some of the uncertainties they face are removed.
An example would be structuring a product that enabled an oil producer to know in advance how much revenue would be generated from the sale of oil for the next few weeks, months or even years.
Whether or not now is a good time to jump onto the commodities bandwagon is something that's up for debate. You may have heard that many major international banks, including Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan, have sold off parts of their commodities units due to regulatory pressures and a significant reduction in profits - a drop of around 9 billion USD in the past 5 years according to Bloomberg.
This has led to job cuts within the sector. However, it's also deterring some potential job seekers from heading down this route, resulting in fewer applicants per vacancy, and increasing the chances of finding employment within this branch of banking. In the United States, commodities brokers are required to take the National Commodities Futures Exam - more commonly called the Series 3 exam - in order to work in commodities professionally.
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