While many 13-year-old girls want to be ballerinas or princesses when they grow up, Samantha Page wanted to be a tin trader. After landing a summer job as a stockbroker, she worked her way through the industry, gaining exchange, banking and regulatory experience. She currently works at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), helping the bank’s customers prepare for regulatory clearing requirements of over-the-counter and exchange-traded derivatives. She sat down with JLN’s Jessica Titlebaum to discuss how the industry has changed, what she has learned and her unusual retirement plans.
Q: How did you get started in this industry?
It’s in my blood. My mother was a pension fund administrator and my father was a soft commodity broker. He traded on the floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade. He also worked for Merrill Lynch for many years. When I was 13, in the early 1980s, the metals markets were making headlines because a tin cartel was cornering the market. It was because of this activity that I wanted to be a tin trader. The London Metals Exchange made commitments to work with tin traders and I thought there would be a lot of opportunity for me in the metals markets. Unfortunately, I was a little too young and a little too short to trade metal. There weren’t many female metals traders back then, probably next to none in 1986. It’s also important to note that the metals markets to this day are still traded in the pits so electronic trading hasn’t really leveled this playing field yet.
Knowing my interests, my father recommended I get a job as a stockbroker. I sent letters to every broker I could find and finally got a summer job filing dividend reports and corporate action announcements at the brokerage house Vivian Gray.
Q: When did you get into the exchange world?
I started working for Liffe in the early 1990s and feel very fortunate to have had the experience of working on the LIFFE CONNECT initiative. I worked under Fraser Cowie implementing trading applications that replicated the benefits of floor trading. It was important that the host system was protected and stable, especially as third party vendors worked with our API. We had a very structured compliance program, so not just anyone could write to the host system. The initiatives we worked on have now become commoditized solutions with third party ISV’s who now provide the trading systems for both derivatives and cash equities at most trading firms.
Q: What are some of your current responsibilities?
I work on the prime services team at RBS, a new area that brings together futures, the new central counterparty; prime brokerage model and collateral management repurchasing into one area. This is similar to many other clearing/dealer banks that are bringing these departments into prime services areas together.
We have individuals looking at different processes from beginning to end. We have people facing off to exchanges, people facing off internally to our delivery teams and people facing out externally to regulators, trade associations and then also into clients. I sit on the regulatory and external client side but we all work very closely together.
Q: How has regulation been impacting your role?
I would say there is a direct correlation between the proposed new regulation of derivatives and my role.
Prime Services is a direct response to both Dodd-Frank in U.S. and EMIR in Europe. European regulation is also focused on the clearing member/dealer bank structure and there is a review going on in the UK around the proposed break up of investment banks to ring fence their retail banking units and how that will impact the business model especially with government funding in certain banks.
Our regulatory focus also differs from the focus in the States because you have different regimes there. For example, the U.S. has the Volcker Rule, and instead of that we have proposed regulations like this ongoing review of banking structure.
Q: What’s it like going from an Exchange to a bank?
You do see a different side of the industry. I think it’s a very complementary relationship. I suspect that we will see more people moving from exchanges to banks and banks to exchanges.
It’s helped me with the specific project I am working on now at RBS involving mandated central clearing. Understanding the exchange process has helped me raise awareness internally about how exchange systems and their processes work in terms of meeting the needs of our clients.
This project reminds me strangely of my time working on LIFFE CONNECT because we have to work with current systems to ensure everything works efficiently during these intense rounds of regulatory upgrades.
Q: Looking back on your career, what is one thing you wish you did differently or learned something from?
I learned a lot working on the LIFFE CONNECT project. It was such an innovative environment and, as I said, there are a lot of similarities here. One of the things I learned from that experience is that when you are sitting at a fork in the road and you have option A and option B, sometimes waiting to make a choice is as good as making a decision.
I have learned that you have to take time out to fully understand the full impacts of choice A and the choice of B.
Making the decision to wait until you have further clarity is particularly important in our current environment with all this regulatory uncertainty. We can’t move too far down one specific path because it requires a lot of effort, many resources and a significant cost to customers and to the bank, especially if we have to tear up that solution or not be able to use it after regulations are clarified. I think all Clearing Members are trying to implement solutions without having to tear it up to build another one.
Q: How has the industry changed since you wanted to be a tin trader?
I have been lucky enough to work in this industry during a period when there is more recognition of women in this space. I think that provides us with a more balanced view of the industry. I sit on the Steering Committee of Women In Listed Derivatives, and networking groups like this did not exist when I first entered the industry.
One of the things that has not changed is the response to Black Swan events. There are always lessons to be learned. Then sometimes those lessons are implemented and there are new lessons to be learned. This industry has a constant learning curve.
I have seen a number of challenging times, including the 1987 crash and the 2008 financial crisis. I have seen some amazing personal and professional fortitude. It’s been very beneficial to me in that I saw how people performed under a tremendous amount of stress.
It’s a very circular discussion because it comes back to what I am doing now, which is obviously a more direct response to the most recent crisis. You can see some valid and logical responses but equally you can see some unintended responses to the crisis. Maybe I will see another one, given that it is usually a 20 year cycle and it will be interesting to see how these implemented proposals will affect the next one.
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t in derivatives?
If I wasn’t in the industry, I think I would be a florist. My very part-time hobby is cutting flowers. When I retire, I will probably open a little flower shop somewhere.