Saturday, February 17, 2018

My stint with Edelweiss Treasury

The motivation
I am in love with being uncomfortably honest with people at workplace. A lot of people do not like to present facts as they are but I like the people who do. It may not be a good risk-reward decision. Why sharing all this so late? Reducing risks to my career and emotional bias in my judgement.

The structure
Edelweiss Treasury is headed by a company secretary("SG" - my manager). It primarily had two groups in 2015 when I joined, one Indian fixed income(FI) and other FX trading(headed by "RG").

A few questionable practices of the group 

1) Book fudging: Treasury officially marks trades under three categories A, B and C. A for arbitrage, B for spread trading and C for speculative proprietary trading. RG (with implicit consent from SG) consistently shifts unprofitable trades from C book to B or A and vice versa to mislead top management about the nature of trades. Most of the trades are speculative. Taking speculative trades is not questionable, but not showing them as speculative is. I am not sure whether top  management allows it implicitly or it is too small for them to care about.

2) Different rules for different people
SG and RG run the show and take decisions on a whim. They hire people, put them on a treadmill of ever increasing unrealistic targets and keep replacing a few periodically. RG has consistently blown money with his poor trading albeit with the backing of SG. He has been taking riskier bets to cover up for his losses. But to everyone's surprise in due course has got additional resources, power and more responsibilities. SG on the other hand had also hired a senior trader from London. Despite of him being consistently underwater has been retained much longer than a lot of others. He speculates daily on his instincts and has been losing money for around 2.5 years without being penalized. He is called the "astute" senior trader by SG and hailed for risk management but his cost to the company is unnecessary drain on other people. He constantly gives projects of tens of Crores of profits when in reality he hasn't achieved a single year of net profit.  

3) RG has consistently got people out of the firm, people who had better degrees and work experience than him, were more professional and even though in loss, lost lesser money than him cumulatively. RG also earns more than 90% in the team even when he loses more money than 90% of the traders in the team.

4) RG and SG also promote people in their network (few not majority though), give them trading books not exactly on merit.

5) RG and SG's intellectual capability is seriously questionable to run a group like this. They are poor at mathematics, risk management and financial concepts and have a history of making losses due to their lack of understanding of basic concepts.

All in all they are taking people for a ride with shareholder's money and their legacy at the firm. They make risky bets through people and follow "heads we win more, tails you lose it all" approach. Thanks to a good set of traders in the Indian fixed income group their game is still going on. Time will tell for how long. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sustainability and Scalability

A child never wants to go to school but it probably must. Investment into what's not so pleasing today is very important for a better tomorrow. There has to be a constant balance between what we do for our future and what we enjoy today. This is the theme I would like to point out to myself and youngsters.

There has been lifestyle and behavioral changes in the way people in 20s lead their lives today. Living life to the fullest and change have been the buzzwords when it comes to Indian youth today. Rightly so in some ways because the country hasn't seen so much liberation at such a young age. Youngsters now are independent, they might have fewer pressures of responsibilities than their last generations and information access has improved tremendously. But here's all of us must not forget when leading our lives and venturing out into newer things. 

Distractions rarely help in the long term. If there is one common thing among all successful people its focus. But focus alone is not enough. It cannot be that simple. I would say couple it with a Chinese proverb which says "If we are facing the right direction, all we have to do is to keep walking". So focus and direction both are important. So now how do you decide that we are right or wrong in doing whatever we are doing. I would choose "Sustainability" and "Scalability". If things that you are doing today can be done many years from now in an easier fashion and with lot less effort with practice go for it, if you can multiply the returns from the activity with minimal inputs then its even better. 

Nothing sustains itself forever especially when you are talking about individuals so focus on something which can be taken forward irrespective whether you are there or not. Probably that is why your work and creation would be more important than you. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Why I've loved my latest stint

When I came in it all look scattered. Looks can be deceptive, but it was the first place where I wasn't exactly starting as the junior most. It was refreshing for a change. I've usually been so used to being driven and told about the American way of running business and behaving at workplaces that this was both an opportunity and challenge to setup the way you want to have it. We still haven't but we are starting out differently. For reasons thought of and for the way we are and like to be.

So its like a lot of youngsters in 30-odd people group. Its amazing how positive they start out with in the corporate world with college arrogance palpable in their body language. Its also interesting how they are different because of their backgrounds and how they react differently to similar treatments. To help them come up in the right way is a responsibility to relish.

Its also given me the first taste of challenges of leadership. You feel observed and noticed. The casual attitude of carrying oneself has to take a backseat. The negative energy has to be subdued. A lot of not so welcome things have to be ignored. Frankly I had thought about focusing on individual performance and self-improvement first and then look at anything else. But it has gone faster than that. All the past reading has helped and wisdom of oldies is so handy.

Anyways, along with living your dream of achieving your goals it has also become to enable people around to find their sweet spots and model them to act with integrity, discipline and help them take responsibility. It is definitely not as easy as it looked but definitely worth it.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Corporates: Where you need skills to use talent

A lot of it is shit. Make no mistake corporate life as I've seen it is very different in nature from what you see at an institutional level or during your schooling days. Mostly a person who keeps to himself can do well at the school and college level but as an employee you need to have the priorities changed. Yes there are roles where individual work is lauded but as a general rule there are quite few things that need to be taken care of. The interpersonal skills, the body language, the communication, the lifestyle, the leadership qualities, negotiation skills etc etc all are very important. And probably that's the reason behind you find many top performers failing and many frustrated as they enter these phases in their lives. Probably that's why we have people like Steve Jobs and Narayan Murty amongst us. For some of them they can't be employees and for others they just mastered the system and developed skills to conquer it.
A very important point here to note is its not about talent, its about how to develop skills which aligns your talent, your goals and the tasks you do. A person has to compromise somewhere, has to take initiatives, has to be patient, has to be smart how he bridges the gap in what he wants and what the company wants. Please don't be under the impression if you are not a part of corporate culture that there won't be much difference. There is and don't forget you have some monetary as well as other needs which makes it even more complicated. And in developing the above skills more often than not one loses focus of what he really wants to do. Its managing a lot of stuff on a daily basis. If you are not extraordinary enough to invent something or run a company of your from the starting you have to go through all this. And even if don't want to be part of the system you have to be. Because the rules will remain the same irrespective of whether you want to play the game or not.
So to summarize like this blog the corporate culture imbibes in it a lot of shit which you'll have to find a way out if you are not the exceptional one. If you are here to stay make no mistake you'll have to develop skills to get through the system without affecting too much of your portfolio of needs, wants and dreams.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A discussion post resignation

It will be the last nail in the coffin and it will stay with me. It has been a nice experience as an R&D engineer under the new manager till now. More or less everything was fine. So I thought it would not be a problem to get a consideration on one-month notice period required during separation. I was wrong and I should have expected this at Magma. They gave me a date but my manager was keen on salary deduction for failing to serve 1-month notice.
The contract mentions the company reserves the rights in such cases which means its not compulsory to make salary deduction.I am sure Magma won't lose anything because of me leaving earlier. So the move is only my loss and not their gain or something which compensates their losses.
The manager had a lot of arguments opposing my viewpoints which go something like this. First of all I should not complaint as I should be thankful to them for giving/persisting with me in these bad economic times(Should I be? On campus I could have easily got another offer. So in a way I lost out on something better because they didn't give me what they promised). He has to transfer my work to other members in team(I joined him from the other team, and anyway Magma wasn't recruiting anybody for his team. So I was just an added bonus member for him.)
As a fresher they spent their resources developing me into a productive employee(although there was no formal training) and I should be grateful to them they are not stopping me to go (wonder if they can do anything else apart from salary deduction). Also it is natural and exceptions are made for a very few(which I know is not true, its made in many cases with my experience in Magma on 1-month notice).
The differing viewpoints got us to an argument about the action they are taking. I felt it was legally correct but morally wrong.
In the process, I got him lying. He said it is the HR policy which is binding him. When I pointed him the exact words in the contract and said that I can go forward and talk to HR manager he said exceptions can be made but on manager's discretion(which proves it was his decision not HR's to hold back the salary), add to that he said it may backfire if you go to talk to HR(trying to discourage me to talk to HR) and when I did talk HR told me in plain words "Everything related is up to your manager. Sort it out between you and him". So it was quite clear why he was defending the salary deduction when I opposed it vehemently criticizing the HR policy of Magma. Actually its not Magma but him that was the reason.
Another blatant lie that shocked me was when he said one of his former team members (who didn't serve 1-month notice and was a very good friend of mine) was given a consideration as she told him informally earlier. I have got the confirmation from her that she didn't inform him earlier and I could only smile at his lie.
When I quoted another example got another shocking statement by him about the person concerned "During his entire stay at Magma he was unproductive and was lucky to get away with layoffs n firing and he should be thankful to Magma that they persisted with him for so long". The concerned person btw got a 50% hike when he left Magma for a bigger company. So don't know if he should really be thankful.
And that brings me to another interesting point. If I have to be "thankful" to a company for giving me a job after working so hard in life, after doing IIT B.Tech or for that matter if anyone has to be grateful to a company which hires him/her as an employee isn't it sad. Are these US companies doing us a huge favor and trying to buy our integrity with dollars? Sorry but I had to disagree on this. My reply was pretty blunt for him and pretty clear and it went like this
"I am not thankful. Sorry, I'll be not. And if a company hires me or anybody else with this in mind that employee should be thankful to them like its a favor done, I feel its better not to be a part of them. You are not going to prosper as a company or a manager with this attitude. Now I know how wrong my decision was to join Magma and I would be careful in the future"
The discussion ended when he said "Anyways you have a chance to make amends now" and I happily said "Yes".

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Magma: My first employer

Magma is one of the few EDA companies around. Presently with a headcount of around 700(2009-Oct) its a relatively small firm with small business. The company's financials aren't great at the moment. Headquarted in USA and with offices in Bangalore and Noida in India, some parts of Europe with sales offices pretty much across the continents its quite spread for its size.
The people mostly hired are from other companies with very little fresher recruited. The primary reason is Magma doesn't want to invest in an employees training and skill upgradation. It mostly functions as a startup even after a decade since its inception. Its all on the job learning. I have been a part of Magma since 2008 June and its been in tumultuous condition all along I've been here. Just fresh after college a had a lot of observations to make in this a year and a few months here at Bangalore office. At the outset the looks of the office space, the amenities, the food quality and the HR, finance and facilities team at Magma were a big disappointment. The soft skills, the dressing, organization and management of work in the office was/is quite pathetic. It looks like the only skills that most may have in Magma are core technical skills. Many are not bothered and don't give importance to them. And even more sad aspect is that its true for all hierarchical level ie from the cleaner to the CEO. It just doesn't look up to the mark.
I don't know whether its to do with the regions maximum employees belong to. The people from South India and probably also Bengal seem to give lesser priority to skills like communication, management and presentation. Maybe that could be one of the reasons.
Anyways, Magma as a whole also functions as a startup with little focus on activities or investments which give returns in the longer term. Investments in employees in the form of trainings, documentation, technical upgradation or knowledge transfer in between teams almost is non-existent. Mostly people work as individuals and only care about the work assigned in their name and team work, culture, planning, structure and management is quite poor. Its almost impossible to match the skills of most employees to their roles and responsibility given the myriad expectations the top management has from a limited pool of employee resources. If your competitors are many times bigger in marketcap and employee number and you are trying to build the fastest and the best tools in the market its not going to happen unless you hire the best and pay them the best in industry which brings me to another interesting point of Magma. The pay structure here is simply inexplicable. The favorites of manager take most of the hikes and bonuses everywhere and Magma is no different. But the fact they want to get so much work done in a very little time and a very few people coupled with a poor middle management(which essentially means a poor top management) and poorly planned hiring, firing, layoffs and unplanned recruitment and pay structure it spends cash on undeserving candidates or pays disproportionate salaries which in turn affects employee motivation and performance. And this leads to a situation where the best persons aren't motivated to work but to leave and which I feel is a big roadblock to Magma's performance immaterial to say the management is least concerned about it. The only time they show concern for people is when they have another offer in hand.
But as with everything in life, there are some positives too. The smaller company means diverse responsibility, access to information of the tools, products, people and in general awareness about whats happening in any part of the company. The flexibility in timings and work from home option are also an advantage. The pays for some of the people might be a big plus. They may get the best in industry probably best for themselves too and better for their skills and aptitude. And as everywhere although unofficial there is a special consideration for women(a positive point for female employees). And probably the positives end here.
So what's the call then? All in all with negatives clearly outweighing the positives Magma deserves a "SELL" rating. You are better off staying away from this company. Its not recommended [:P].

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Missed ones

Everything seems to be against. The ZS result is like a salt on the wounds. It seems this one would be one of the last chances I would get before planning for an MBA. Let's see if it actually turns out that way. Life is shaping up like its exhausting the options before me. Its interesting how I was talking about a plethora of options to pursue further in life and just after an year I find a very options. Its not because the things have changed or I have lost interest its just that it isn't possible now. The time to settle down is elapsing and so with it the options are becoming fewer, the pressure mounting and desperation is reaching the peak levels. Its amazing how life slowly and gradually pushes you into these situations. Its a lot of time gone by but the magnitude of the complications have reached without realization an imaginable proportion. No no the sky has not fell yet. Still there are ways to get out. But its tough, it'll be tough. Now that's what I always crave for. Let it become a bit tough and then lets take up the challenge. I think the time has come to take up the challenge. As always I am destined to win.
But let me just look back at the series of disappointments(career related) I have had. It all started on that day when I chose Magma over FutureFirst. With it started, and then came the very first and most coveted opportunity in Nov08 and that was JP Morgan. In hindsight I can say I didn't have enough knowledge at that point in time and maybe I have only myself and the timing of the opportunity to blame. Next was Adobe in Jan09 and with little interest and requisites for the job, gave a horribly bad test and a very good surprising interview but at the end of it got again rejected. Next was Chakpak in Feb09, a startup in which I backed off in a few minutes. Then coaching classes, some in Bombay(May09) which I never got a chance to visit and TIME(Jun-Jul09) in Bhopal that gave me great pains but got rejected there too. Now the one in which I was so sure was this ZS in August09 and raised so many hopes but all proved to be false ones. Rejected here too. What to do? Just keep increasing the count and keep trying. But till when? God knows it.
Finding it tough to carry on. Its a tough life at the moment. Just came here to remind my future that I've gone through these bad times so that he can rest in peace and enjoy.