An Interview with a Coal Trader

A Coal Trader Speaks to Imperium Commodity Search

What is my experience of working as a Coal Trader?

Job Title: Physical Coal Trader

How long have you been in commodities?

6 Years

How did you get into the commodity markets?

I started in the finance function of a coal procurement desk, managing the day to day accounting and reporting of the business.  After 2 years there was an opportunity to move into a junior trading role which I was lucky enough to be allowed to do by my employer.

What is the core purpose of your current role?

I am still managing coal transport and the purchase/sale of thermal coal into Asia.  In essence I build relationships with buyers and sellers of thermal coal and meet with power generation companies across APAC.

How relevant do you feel your education was to your latter career?

My entry into commodities was more a situation of circumstance rather than a result of my education.  I am a qualified accountant and did a finance degree at university as that was initially what I wanted to do.  After joining a commodity firm in a finance function, I began to fall in love with the markets and entered them from there.  I think the finance degree helped me in understanding the ins and outs of the trade finance and LC function quicker than I think I would have done, however trading is something totally different to what I expected to go into as a teenager.

What is the most enjoyable part of your role?

Meeting with clients and dealing with interesting people.  I find big characters in my role, and meet with some really interesting people.  We have an office in Europe as well so often get to meet with traders there, which allows you to travel often and meet with some cool folk.  

What are the biggest pressures you face?

The changing markets certainly have a massive impact on my role as a trader.  You are constantly at the beck and call of the markets and current events and have to be on the ball to make sure your trades are not adversely affected by changes to the best extent possible.  Of course this isn’t always easy, and can contribute high levels of stress to the day to day.  

Funniest moment?

I think turning up at the wrong mine when I went on my first sales call alone.  It wasn’t funny at the time (except to my colleagues) but looking back it has to be the funniest moment of my career.  I ended up on the wrong side of Kalimantan and had to drive over 6 hours to meet with a confused and slightly irritated supplier!

What advice would you give to somebody looking at getting into commodities for the first time?

Motivate, motivate, motivate.  Motivate yourself and motivate others around you.  You can’t switch off and you have to be 100% on your game at all times and opportunities will open up to you.  

What 3 words would you use to sum up working in commodities?

Fun, Stressful, Non-Stop.