Is commodities trading a good career path for you?

What job should I have? Seems like a trivial question but we all wonder about it at some point in our lives and careers.

We want to be happy at work, have a great salary, find purpose in our jobs… Well, we want it all. And while flexible hours combined with a great paycheck sounds (very) appealing, I have found out that such perks are sometimes not enough to keep you motivated.

You have probably already heard the famous quote “choose a job that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. A very cliché saying but I am yet to find a more accurate one: passion makes a great career finder and will help you transpass the barriers that come with any job.

If you stumbled upon this article, you have probably assessed yourself and are now keen to learn a bit more about a commodities trading career path.

First things first: commodities trading is one of the most challenging, dynamic, and rewarding careers available in the corporate jungle. Few jobs require that uncanny mix of interpersonal, analytical and communication skills.

If you have already seen some of my videos, you probably know by now that my career led me to the most incredible experiences.

If you are still wondering if commodities trading is a good career path for you, we listed the three main motivations and reasons for you to start in this industry today.

You will be paid to have adventures.

Working in the commodities trading industry will allow you to collaborate with highly educated and highly interesting individuals from all over the world. From Latin America to Asia, you will deal with all kinds of personalities, cultures and challenges. 

As your career progresses,  you may have to travel. This kind of travel will teleport you to interesting and exciting places. You will be immersed in various intense, high-stress, and/or plain-weird scenarios. You will have the chance to have a look at thrilling projects on the spot, work on your problem solving skills, and get to know new cultures.

But most importantly, you will develop a special kind of resourcefulness that is impossible to get behind a desk on a conventional job: a street-smart kind of thing. Let me tell you about one of my craziest life experiences…

The first time I bribed someone.

A few years ago, I planned a business trip to Togo, in Africa. Did I ever think that my job would one day lead me to such a country? Never… But anyway!  I checked the visa requirements and arranged a one-entry visa. I did what I had to do in Lomé – Togo’s capital – and it turns out that while I was there, an opportunity popped in Benin, another African country neighboring Togo. 

This was too good an opportunity to miss! So I left all my possessions in Lomé, grabbed a taxi and went to Benin and spent the day there. 

Roads there are the way you probably imagine it: very basic with very few border checking. I entered Benin easily and did my stuff. 

But things got complicated while I was coming back to Lomé. A border checking was in place. Picture it: a hundred people waiting, kids screaming, chicken chirping… Amidst this funny mess, there was I. The only white dude, wearing a suit with moccasins. Quite rapidly, one immigration agent summons me and brings me to a secluded room.

Border checking Togo – Benin.

He takes a look at my passport and shows me my one-entry visa. “It will not work” were his words. My heart started racing and my hands began to sweat. I had to go back to Lomé as all my stuff (including my money!) was there.  

My luck was that I had one note in my pocket. One note only. I took it off of my pocket, handed it to the agent, stared right into his eyes and said “It will work”. It may sound like a small gesture for some. But I come from Switzerland, one of the most polished countries in the world… I had never bribed anyone as in my culture and upbringing, it is simply not a question. So for me, it was one of my ballsiest moves so far.

The agent hesitated for a few seconds. Those seconds felt like a lifetime. Meanwhile, I was thinking about all my options. Call the embassy, ask the Swiss government to repatriate me, or start a whole new life in Benin…

We even started to elaborate a plan with the taxi driver where he would hide me in the trunk of his car, just in case my entrance to Togo was denied.

I never thought that I would ever experience this kind of situation in my life. Thus, it happened. And thanks to my job. This kind of event makes a good story to tell at a dinner party, for sure. But most importantly, it is a tremendous catalyst of growth. 

In the commodities trading industry, you will be immersed in adventurous and unique scenarios. But you will see that as time passes by, the only situations that will throw you off are the ones that are a dozen times crazier than what you have ever seen. And it is a pretty valuable trait for your personal and professional life. 

You will be stimulated intellectually.

Commodities trading requires a wide range of skills and demands a high level of know-how and expertise.

It is a type of work which is very intellectually challenging. No two days are the same and you are constantly challenged to solve new problems. You will need to think out of the box, that’s for sure.

It never gets boring nor dull and this dynamic work environment favors lifelong learning. This facet of the industry is particularly interesting for people who have high expectations of themselves and their work. It is also something that many, especially young hungry people, can certainly identify with.

You will make money.

I am sure you appreciated reading about my African shenanigans but let’s cut the bullshit… When it comes to choosing a career path, a central motivation is surely the compensation and the prospect of a grandiose salary.

To make the whole thing a bit more tangible with an example, here an overview of a trader’s remuneration at Vitol in 2020:

  • The company smashed a profit record in 2020 with $3.2 billion haul.
  • $2.9 billion has been paid to its executives and staff. Vitol’s employee remuneration bill jumped 67% in 2020 to $1.23 billion, equal to an average of about $495,000 for each of its 2,480 employees.

The world’s largest independent oil trading house is still privately held and not public. So, Vitol has the possibility of executing share buybacks which is Vitol’s main way of rewarding about 350 top employees who own the privately-held company. The trading house has distributed a total of nearly $19 billion in the past 17 years to its partners, according to the company’s audited annual accounts.

If it was divided equally, the 2021 payout would be equivalent to more than $8 million per partner. Quite a nice number!

With the current high commodity prices, current salaries should also be quite satisfying.

Additionally, don’t forget: there are also other trading houses including Trafigura Group, Mercuria Energy Group Ltd., Gunvor Group, etc. with comparable salaries. The fight for top talents do not allow for any supersized differences in this fierce competition.

For more information, do not hesitate to download our brochure. Click here!

This article was co-written by Leon Müller, Renata Würsten and Damien Würsten.

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