What it’s like to work in Fixed Income & Currencies (FIC) at Deutsche Bank

Cristina Oehling works in the fixed income and currencies (FIC) division of Deutsche Bank. Here she explains who and what inspired her to go into finance, and why it’s important that women are represented in this area of the bank and across the industry.

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How would you describe FIC?

We look mainly at the fixed income side of finance, which includes bonds, foreign exchange and credit default swaps (CDS). I work in emerging markets, specifically as part of the lending business where we extend loans to sovereigns [central governments] for infrastructure projects such as roads and hospitals, or for general budgetary needs.

We are divided into sales, structuring and trading. Sales are the people who maintain the relationships with the clients; structuring put ideas together and come up with solutions that fit client needs; traders come up with trade ideas, price them and execute them – their clients are people that are dealing with other traders at other banks and brokers.

What did you know about FIC when you first started thinking about your career?

Nothing in my academic background gave me any direct exposure to finance and I only discovered more in my second year of uni – I studied physics and philosophy at the University of Bristol, and also did an MSc in international development there. My previous knowledge was based on television, and when I first walked into the trading floor here on a Spring Week and it was quiet I thought, ‘Where are the people yelling on phones?’! I learn something new about finance every week – it’s a never-ending business of learning.

What made you opt for a career in finance?

I’ve always been interested in the markets, especially how geopolitics, world events and current affairs affect how the market moves; I wanted that to translate into an actual job. Initially I wasn’t sure I had what it takes, but I applied for just one programme - Deutsche Bank Spring into Banking. That application led me to the Internship and the Graduate Programme. The moral of the story is don’t be scared to do things – I was good enough, clearly.

I considered other options, including the World Bank, but when I was doing my internship here, I discovered that my team, which works on financing projects, has a developmental aspect. I became quite determined to work in a role that combined everything – maths, physics and international development.

How did university prepare you for banking?

You are taught everything you need to know on the job, so the interest and ability to develop your skills in the first two years of your career is more useful than prior knowledge. As a trader, I work with numbers and I’m confident in my mathematical skills. I also do structured trading, which is more solution-based thinking, so studying philosophy and physics have helped me develop ‘outside-the-box’ thinking.

Which of your interests, extra-curricular activities and voluntary work have helped your career?

I worked for a FinTech start-up while I was at uni and developed commercial awareness through understanding a product that was complex, and then selling that to other people. I also did a lot of mental health campaigning at university.

Since university I’ve developed resilience and an ability to manage pressure, and I’ve become more responsible and organised than ever. You might think you are good at delivering to tight schedules at uni but at work it becomes even more important. When Covid hit in 2020 I was barely four months into the job and if I hadn’t managed, we might have lost money. My mathematical skills have become more tailored to what I do; I have gained a lot of knowledge and skills, such as being able to price things, understanding what financial risk looks like in actual numbers, not just conceptually.

How did you manage work during the pandemic and lockdowns and how do you relax?

My cookery definitely became more refined but lockdowns were a challenging time for everyone. My flatmate went to live elsewhere, and the things I might usually do to relax – play a round of golf at the weekend, or go out with friends and have a drink after work – all disappeared. I didn’t feel inclined to watch TV after being in front of a screen all day and it didn’t feel safe to go out for a walk alone, especially after dark. As a junior, the lockdown flattened my learning curve prematurely but from around May or June we could work in the office for a few days a week if we wanted to. Being in the office as part of a team with other people helps me a lot and I’m at my desk five days a week – I feel more useful there. Besides my new obsession with cooking, I love golf and play every weekend.

How do you represent and encourage other young women in what can be seen as a male-dominated environment?

When I joined Deutsche Bank the organisation had just hired a woman to the management board and it was important for me to see that. When you’re a trader you are a risk taker, and studies show that companies that employ women in risk-taking roles are more efficient and less prone to regulatory issues.

I speak to graduates, sit on panels and get involved in the early careers through HR. It’s particularly rewarding to encourage young people who are extremely talented to take a shot at something that is quite daunting in a competitive space. That’s one of the things I’m proud of. As a woman in trading, where there are generally fewer women, I want to show that it’s not just for guys. Everyone I work with is amazingly kind and we collaborate to come up with fantastic ideas. Specifically in my team, because we work in emerging markets, some of the projects we finance make a huge impact to people’s lives in the developing world, which has been a surprising positive.

I’m inspired by…

…men and women I work with, but a number of my senior female colleagues make me I think, ‘Wow, I really want to be like you one day.’

I’m half-German, so (retiring) German Chancellor Angela Merkel is everything I wanted to be when I was growing up. She was a chemist and has a PhD in chemistry, so I aspired to be like her, but with a physics degree. Interestingly, former UK Chancellor Sajid Javid used to sit behind where I sit in my division at Deutsche Bank and was well known here before he entered politics.

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