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France's student traders optimistic despite crisis

Latest update : 2008-09-30

The global financial crisis and ensuing lay-offs hardly seem to be a deterring factor for student traders. In their twenties, these traders-to-be are impatient to leave their study halls to experience the thrill of the stock markets.

On the fifth floor of the Université Paris-Dauphine, France's Mecca for finance studies, a dozen odd students are locked in discussion. Newly admitted to the Master's course in Financial markets, commodities markets and business risk management, these freshman traders start college within a particularly tense business atmosphere. How does one find an internship when foreign banks are laying-off by the hundred? And how, indeed, does one obtain employment when even banks in France have frozen their recruitment programmes?

Carole Gresse, programme director, guarantees that the low morale in stock markets is not spilling over to business colleges. Even though the applicants are apprehensive over the current financial crisis, the number of applications is as high as previous years.

"Of course, it's very distressing", says 23-year-old Harold, who has come down from the southern French town of Toulouse to pursue his studies in Paris. But the real complications are expected at the end of the year, when the students start working in the markets. "Getting hired after an internship has become more difficult. Before, this was almost automatic". But today, "the internship periods are extended". Furthermore, one should no longer hope to work for Lehman Brothers or HBOS after obtaining one's degree.

Long live the crisis

Even if the academic year for these student traders begins on a sour note, Carole Gresse says that it was “worse for the previous batch”, who saw the subprime scandal grow to become a global financial disaster.

The finance students at Paris Dauphine seem to be optimistic. “It comes in cycles. It’s just a question of time”, says Harold.

Selim, a qualified engineer turned to finance, goes further - “it’s even more motivating under these circumstances”, he says. A kind of ‘long live the crisis’, seen as a challenge for these future traders.

“It teaches us not to repeat the same mistakes,” says Caroline, who would like to work in London, seen as the world’s trading capital. Asked whether the numerous layoffs following the crisis frightened her, 22-year-old Caroline displays youthful optimism. “We’ll see if they hire”, she says.

Fanny is just back from a summer internship in London at Goldman Sachs, a bank that has, until now, been quite resilient to the financial storm. “It’s impossible for them to raise salaries until the end of 2009”, says Fanny, who is, nevertheless, optimistic about her own future in trading. Her parents, however, are worried, and would like their daughter to choose a more stable field.

The end of pure trading

A specialist in financial markets for over 15 years, Carole Gresse admits she has never before experienced such a crisis. Financial ventures have now changed in nature, and are concentrating on low-risk sectors. “During the crisis, there will obviously be fewer jobs in pure market trading, especially in the share markets,” she says. Banks will have more job openings in property management, alternative investment fund management and risk analysis. A “return to the basics”, says Gresse.

This year, the financial crisis will be a part of the college course, as the director plans to adapt the students to the current context and prepare them for a difficult job market. This would allow the students to concentrate on less volatile financial sectors.

The idea, however, is not always to the liking of these young traders-to-be.

“Repositioning? Certainly not! This is our last year!”

Date created : 2008-09-30