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Meet a certified ERP

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Jason Williams

Dallas, Texas, United States

Job at time of interview: Commodities Derivatives Specialist

CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO IN YOUR CURRENT JOB?

I work for an OTC brokerage firm specializing in the trading of physical and derivative energy contracts. My clients are producers and consumers requiring hedges, proprietary firms making markets and speculating on outright price and volatility, and banks working on behalf of larger commodity users and producers to execute hedges. I am responsible for the accurate and timely execution of all option trades in the OTC space. My primary coverage includes crude, natural gas, natural gas liquids, petrochemicals, and biofuels.

HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR WAY TO THE ENERGY INDUSTRY?

I have been studying finance and trading since the age of 13 and in time discovered a passion for commodities that seems to grow exponentially. The more I learn in the field, the more fascinated I become.

WHAT WAS YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND PRIOR TO SITTING FOR THE ERP EXAM?

I had been working as an OTC broker for just over 4 years. Brokering was my first job right out of college and it has been a great experience getting to see firsthand the interaction between hedgers, speculators, banks, locals, and other market participants across a wide variety of commodities.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SIT FOR THE ERP EXAM?

I decided to take the ERP Exam because I felt I would be better equipped to serve my clients if I had a more thorough understanding of their needs and goals when deciding on a specific trade or series of trades. Additionally, since leaving college, I had missed the challenge of education and expanding on a subject matter that I felt very passionate about. I believe the ERP has made me a more valuable member of my firm, my team, and provided more value-added services to my clients.

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACED IN PREPARING FOR THE ERP EXAM, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?

The biggest challenge in preparing was sifting through some of the more unfamiliar concepts where I lacked direct knowledge or experience. Luckily, I have a broad network of traders, brokers, and analysts in the commodity space who were wonderful guides and tutors when I came across a problem or situation that required clarity.

WHAT STRATEGIES DID YOU USE TO STUDY FOR THE ERP EXAM?

I decided relatively last minute to sign up for the Exam, so I had only about 2 months to prepare. Given the lengthy amount of preparation material, I needed to read at least 2 papers a day if I wanted to leave enough time to review any material areas where I felt my knowledge was insufficient. This translated into 4-5 hours of reading during weekdays and 6-8 hours during weekends.

YOU HOLD NFA LICENSES IN COMMODITY FUTURES AND OFF EXCHANGE FOREX, AND ARE A SHIPPING & LOGISTICS MBA CANDIDATE. HOW DOES THE ERP COMPLEMENT THOSE LICENSES AND YOUR ANTICIPATED GRADUATE DEGREE?

Over the course of studying risk in financial markets, the strategy I am most fascinated with is that of arbitrage. Currency and freight markets are mediums of price discovery as it relates to arbitrage. For example, one may have several dual listed assets all denominated in different currencies and the only way to derive value is through cash or futures currency pairs. Likewise, when looking at physical arbitrage, the best means of deriving value is using freight markets between two given ports. The ERP is a great complement to my professional and academic background as I move to get deeper into international physical arbitrage across products, grades, and time periods.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE CONSIDERING TAKING THE ERP EXAM?

Plan ahead of time and structure your reading to leave enough time at the end to review any weak areas. There were a few papers that I was not able to finish in a single day, whether because of length of dense content. If I had to repeat the process I would certainly try to read over these specific papers at least several times.

IN WHAT WAYS DOES THE ERP HELP YOU WITH YOUR DAILY RESPONSIBILITIES?

One of the best aspects of the ERP Program is that it has provided a broader context for the industry. Prior to my sitting for the exam, I still executed trades for the same clients, but I did not have an understanding of their motivations and goals with those trades. The ERP has been crucial to allowing me to carry on conversations with clients, ask the right questions, and dig even further into the industry I love.

IN YOUR VIEW, WHAT SKILLS AND INSIGHTS WOULD A CERTIFIED ERP HAVE OVER A JOB APPLICANT THAT DOESN'T HOLD THE DESIGNATION?

Energy risk is a very specialized practice and ERPs seem to be very dedicated to their craft. I have had the pleasure of talking to ERPs around the globe who, despite previous obstacles and limited direct involvement in energy, were able to study the material and eventually pass the exam. I believe this shows a high level of aptitude, commitment, ambition, and a desire to engross oneself in a subject.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR CAREER PROGRESSING, AND WHAT PART DO YOU THINK THE ERP WILL CONTINUE TO PLAY?

I would like to move to a logistics and operations department within a physical trading firm after I receive my MBA and I believe the ERP will be a means to that end.

HAVE YOU PARTICIPATED IN THE ERP CPD PROGRAM, AND IF SO, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE?

I think the CPD program is a great requirement from GARP. It is comforting to know that when I talk to other ERPs, they are up to date on the current regulatory and trading environment.

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