I grew up in Suffolk, in the English countryside, where my father was a private client solicitor. I could perhaps have followed in his footsteps, but early on I took the view that his was a boring, solitary job and I didn't want to do anything similar.
At 16, having finished my GCSEs I had a month of mandatory work experience. Dad put me in contact with friends of his in the City. I landed a month's work placement in the commodities broking division of Merrill Lynch. It was buzzy and exciting. They were trading coffee and sugar futures, and I got the bug.
I decided then to see if I could find a trading job when I graduated. I studied A levels in Leicester before going to the University of the West of England in Bristol to study International Business Studies with German. It was a four-year course, and in the third year I went to Germany to study at the Berlin Economics School.
My year in Germany ended in May, which gave me six months to twiddle my thumbs before going back to Bristol. I called the guy I'd worked for at Merrill Lynch, but found he'd moved to ABN Amro as an MD on the futures desk. When I tracked him down he invited me to come and work with him, and at the end of the six months offered me a place on their training scheme for when I graduated.
I started in the futures division of ABN Amro in 1998. They were trading fixed income futures, short-term interest rate futures, index futures, stock options (equity derivatives) and derivatives of commodities and metals. I rotated around a few trading desks and eventually landed in the middle office, where I did a bit of everything, from settling trades to dealing with corporate actions (assembling company information that could affect the way a stock is priced or traded, and disseminating it to clients).
Most traders do time in the middle office, but after a year I didn't find it a challenge anymore. I could see the real action was on the trading floor and made noises about moving on. The futures desks were full, so my boss suggested I move to the equities side: a position had come up in small and mid-cap market making. I already had some experience with equity derivatives, and agreed.
Market making is about using the bank's capital to provide liquidity for clients. Clients ask which price I'd make a market for shares in say, MFI, a British furniture retailer. I'll quote a two-way price: the price at which I would buy stock in MFI and the price at which I would sell it. If I buy stock the bank would be taking on the risk: it would be up to me to unwind the position (sell the shares on). Alternatively, the client might leave one million shares with me to sell on their behalf. In that case I act as an agent: it's up to me to go around the market and find a buyer.
I spent three years in the equities team at ABN Amro. After 18 months my boss moved to UBS to run their mid-cap trading team. He suggested there might be a position for me at UBS in the future if I was interested, but advised me to spend more time at ABN learning my trade first.
I moved to UBS 18 months later. It was a step up: UBS was number one in mid-caps at the time. It could have been a great long-term career move, but after two years I was offered something even better.
A broker called and said Andy Holmes, who runs the mid-cap desk at Morgan Stanley, wanted to talk. We met and discussed the proposition. Andy explained that Morgan Stanley, which was already number two in FTSE 100 equities, had a long-term commitment to building a mid-cap business, where it was less strong.
Moving was a no-brainer: Morgan Stanley had ambition and momentum in the UK market. I'm still friendly with ex-colleagues at UBS. Ours is such a tight knit community, it's no use having enemies in this market.
Getting on with people is a huge part of being successful in this kind of job. It's about being friendly, energetic and open to change. There so much going in our market, from regulatory changes to trading methodology, that it helps not to be too rigid: if you're an open-minded, lateral thinker you can go far.