Q&A: Jacqueline Szeto, Vice President & Director, Debt Capital Markets, TD Securities
Describe your career path.
I graduated with a bachelor's in commerce from the University of Toronto with a minor in Spanish and East Asian studies. My career started in a bank training program where I rotated to different areas within the organization. It was during this program that I was identified as a good candidate for a sales position. I enjoy interacting with people, and demonstrated a passion for the capital markets and closing deals. I spent some time in Calgary where I got hands-on experience in foreign exchange and money markets. When I returned to Toronto, a fantastic opportunity came up to work for TD Securities selling foreign exchange, money markets, and bonds to large institutions in Asia. So I moved to Hong Kong and covered clients in Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong. After a year-and-a-half TD transferred me to their Toronto office, where for the past 12 years, I've worked in money markets, short-term derivatives, and institutional fixed income sales.
Describe your role at TD.
I sell bonds to large institutions such as pension funds, mutual funds, asset managers and insurance companies. I sell primarily Canadian or Maple bonds, such as government, provincial and corporate bonds and structured notes. Some of our clients look for U.S. products too.
What is a typical day like for you?
I'm usually in the office by 7 a.m. My day starts with a review of what happened in overnight markets around the world and how it will impact Canadian markets. I'll participate in conference calls with colleagues where we talk about market and economic news and deal flows. This information helps me communicate with clients. Clients are very sophisticated and looking for good insight and analysis about how recent developments will affect their portfolios. At 8 a.m., I'll start making calls to clients to understand what their investment needs are, make some proposals, and help facilitate transactions. In this highly competitive industry, it's important to differentiate yourself by consistently delivering value and being client focused. It's important to think quickly, be creative and see where different financial products are moving in real time.
What advice do you have for undergraduate students or aspiring sales professionals?
Well, a few things come to mind. You should be familiar with fundamentals like finance, accounting, and economics. These core subjects will help you understand the various aspects of how capital markets operate. Taking the CFA course is also helpful because careers in financial services are in demand, so it's a good idea to get as much education, credentials and experience as possible. Courses like political science are also important because they open your mind to a different way of thinking. It's important to stay on top of current events and understand what impact they could have on the markets. For example, you should have an understanding of the ramifications of an oil spill and how it will impact oil and commodity process, or the potential impact of higher interest rates on the economy. Summer internships and co-op placements are great ways to get an inside look at an organization, its culture and to see what a job is really like. I recommend that you begin to network early in your career - get to know as many people in as many organizations and industries as possible. Be sure to take advantage of the opportunities to meet with companies when they visit your school's campus. And, if you have a chance to job shadow with someone for a day, take it. It'll help educate you about the types of careers and companies that are out there. My advice is simple: follow your passion - success is sure to follow!
What skills are most important to be successful in sales?
To be successful in capital market sales, you must be a self starter, highly motivated and able to work in a dynamic and ever-changing environment. Sales requires you to manage your time and juggle several things simultaneously while being detail oriented - this is especially critical when you're dealing in billions of dollars of transactions every day. Also, you need to be humble and be able to handle rejection occasionally and to not take it personally. A position in sales also requires you to be personable and professional as you'll be working with a number of colleagues and clients to close deals. Everyone is different and has their own preferences in how they like to work with their partners. We try to match salespeople with clients to make sure it's a great fit. In a nutshell, sales is an intense, high energy and competitive environment. So, it's critical that you be hungry and persistent. I like it because I thrive on the excitement - every day is different!