Everything you've always wanted to know about becoming a trainee trader at Trafigura

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Last week we spoke to Greg Hertault, global head of graduate recruitment at commodities trading firm Trafigura. Here's what we asked, and here's how Greg replied.

1) How many graduates does Trafigura hire in Europe each year?

We take around 30 graduates globally onto our graduate programmes each year. Students join in Houston, London, Lucerne, Singapore, Stamford, and Shanghai, but London and Lucerne have the biggest intakes.

2) What can graduates do at Trafigura?

We have two main business areas that we take graduates into: oil and its derivative products; and metals and minerals.

In oil and its derivative products, we look for fresh graduates or people in their final year of university. In metals and minerals we prefer graduates with a little more work experience (usually around 6-24 months'). The experience doesn't have to be in commodities trading, or even in finance, but it will help if it's in a related area.

The oil programme hires specifically into London, Houston and Singapore. The metals and minerals programme hires mostly into Lucerne, Stamford and Shanghai.

We also occasionally hire graduates directly into specific business areas, and will sometimes take people on an ad hoc basis in our offices in Geneva and Amsterdam.

3) Can graduates who want to join you apply for work overseas?

Yes. We hire from, and accept applications from, all over the world. We are global, and understand that people are interested in working in different regions. Language skills will help if you want to work in non-English speaking offices.

4) Do you offer internships?

Yes. We have a 10 week summer internship which is open to penultimate year students. We aim to source several full time graduate hires from this internship to start the following year.

5) How many interns do you hire?

It changes on an annual basis. If we get a large number of good applicants, we'll hire them as interns. If we don't, we won't.

6) When's the deadline for graduate hires and internships? And where should students send their applications?

Applications for all of our graduate programmes need to come through our website: www.trafigura.com/graduate.

We start advertising our graduate opportunities in September and ask that candidates look at our site to look for individual programme deadlines.

We occasionally advertise individual graduate level roles on the careers section of our website www.trafigura.com/joinus.

7) Can you describe the application process for your graduate roles?

After completing a short online questionnaire about academics and skills, we ask students to provide examples of instances in which they've made or saved money, and to suggest any attributes that they feel would be helpful to us as a company.

We don't pre-screen, so these questions are very important in helping us differentiate between candidates. The answers aren't as obvious as they might seem, and they give us a good insight into students' motivation, personality and potential.

From there, selected candidates are asked to complete a short, informal telephone interview before taking the industry standard psychometric tests to assess their numerical and verbal reasoning skills.

From there, they have a first round interview with senior team members from across the business, followed by a final round interview with global heads and senior traders.

8) Do you have minimum academic requirements for your graduate recruits? If so, what are they?

Yes. We ask for a minimum of a 2.1 or equivalent for undergraduate degrees.

9) How is your training programme structured? How long is it before graduate trainees can start trading?

Although we only hire candidates who we feel could be nominated for commercial (i.e. Trading) roles, we don't actually hire traders at a graduate level. Instead, we have a two year training programme designed to give candidates as much exposure to all areas of the business as possible.

Physical trading is complex, and very different to the regular paper trading you might find in investment banks or other financial institutions. Therefore, we need trainees to understand the full lifecycle of a deal - from raising capital, P&L exposure (the deals desk), to the actual transportation and delivery of the commodity (operations/traffic).

Trainees coming into our oils and refined product programme will spend 2 years working across 3 different business areas (finance, deals and operations), and one of those 8 month rotations working in another country.

In this way, candidates achieve a solid understanding of the business, and have the opportunity to develop within Trafigura, in whatever role best suits them within the company.

10) What percentage of entrants make it through your trainee programmes and go on to become traders?

The training programme is still very new, so we can't provide figures as this point.

11) What distinguishes a Trafigura person from the average graduate?

A lot of graduates don't necessarily understand what we do as a company or as a sector. Physical trading is very different from the normal investment banking trading process, and it helps to have an appreciation of this, and to show an interest in our markets. Equally, it helps to be aware of the basic principles of risk and hedging.

Although business is mostly conducted in English, speaking a second language is useful, particularly if it's Mandarin, Portuguese, French or Spanish.

We are a people based business so communication skills are hugely important. A love of problem solving is essential and a real passion for developing a long term career.

We are also still a fairly small company (1,900) so social skills are essential: you wouldn't want to work with someone day to day who you wouldn't get on with.

Most of all, we're looking for an inquisitive mind coupled with a real drive to succeed.

12) Why should graduates want to work at Trafigura? Sell me the merits of your company!

Within an industry that is truly global, fast paced and hugely relevant, we are a leading company that is expanding its reach on a daily basis. The roles we offer provide maximum exposure, ensuring candidates are given the opportunity to learn as much as possible and develop in the most efficient way. A rewarding and highly meritocratic environment means that the best people are given the greatest opportunity to progress at the fastest rate.

Right now, Trafigura is one of the most interesting, driven and ambitious companies to work for. That's why I'm here and not working somewhere else!!

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