Learning through turbulent markets

I started my career in Capital Markets back in 1991. I didn’t go to university or get a degree, I came out of school with very average A-levels and interviewed at multiple places before I landed my first job… a role very much at the ‘bottom’ of the ladder. 

What I didn’t realise for many of my formative years, is how a variety of external factors impacts all levels of roles in an organisation.

Since I started, there have been so many ‘events’ that put stress and strain on Capital Market organisations and their staff. 

Less than one year after I began my first job, “Black Wednesday” occurred when the UK government was forced to withdraw sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). Four years later, the Barings Bank collapse occurred after one of its traders lost $1.3 billion in unauthorised trades. Some years later there was the “dot.com” crash, the Argentinian economic crisis in 2001, numerous Banking issues, multiple bank mergers or acquisitions through to probably the biggest crisis in my career, the collapse of Lehman Brothers resulting in the 2008 financial crisis.

These events, of course, impacted the markets in many ways, but what this taught me was, that regardless of the cause, the markets will likely be highly volatile, and volumes will spike, forcing firms to react and control the effects of these events very quickly.

As I experienced these events and how they affected both the markets and my own personal job, I really began to value those colleagues, peers and especially managers who understood the products, the processes, the controls and, especially, how they dealt with challenging pressures.

Understanding ‘how things worked’ became something very important to me. I realised that knowing how something gets from A to B to C was important, because when something gets ‘stressed’, things don’t always work as they are designed. Therefore, you have to understand where something is stressed/broken and importantly, what needs to be done either manage the risk or ideally fix it…and learning this from real subject matter experts was invaluable in my own personal learning curve.

It is important to recognise that you can never know everything, and knowledge and learning can be gained not only in the good times but also in the bad.

If the last 30+ years have taught me anything, it’s that capital markets are cyclical and you never know what’s going to happen next, but you can absolutely leverage your past experiences to best deal with the next ‘crisis’. 

Dom Amura
Former Global Head of Equities Operations
HSBC Global Markets
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