The Voices of the London Bullion Market project brilliantly captures and contextualises the changes and development of the bullion market through the eyes of those who worked in it. We have featured the voices of ten people from the market and, in this latest in the series, we reflect on Emma Jenkin's career, which started in capital markets in the early 1990s. Soon after, she joined the bullion market, first modelling trades and later running her own consultancy and training business.
Emma Jenkins was born in Dublin (in 1970). She spent her formative years attending Sutton Park School and Trinity College, where she earned a first-class honours degree and gold medal in mathematics. Emma’s original intention was to become an actuary. After summer placements in actuarial offices, one of her best friends suggested that they apply to join the investment bank Goldman Sachs. Whilst his interview went swimmingly, Emma felt that hers had gone “really badly”, but in a twist of irony, she got the job and he didn’t.
Goldman’s analyst programme gave Emma a great grounding in investment banking and capital markets. However, the gruelling work schedule soon took its toll and Emma jumped ship to join Westpac, a smaller Australian Bank, first in London and then in Sydney, where she continued to work in capital markets, focusing on interest rate derivatives.
Then Credit Suisse came knocking and said that it was looking for a gold derivatives marketer. Emma takes up the story: “Well, I didn’t know anything about gold, but they said they’d teach me everything I needed to know about gold. I basically shook for the first two months of the job.”
So it was that, in October 1997, Emma joined the bullion market in Sydney. Within her first six weeks, the team had executed millions of ounces in producer hedges. According to Emma, “it was just, unreal.” But what she didn’t realise at the time was that those hedges had been discussed and structured for the best part of a year, and she just happened to come on board when the trigger was pulled on an up-tick in gold prices.
At the time, the team only had a gold trader in New York, which meant the marketers in Sydney were working every single hour of the day.
The size of the trades that Emma and her team were doing were large enough to move the Australian dollar interest rate market
Emma Jenkins dwarfed by a mining truck in the US
Meanwhile, Emma’s now husband was an interest rate trader, and his pager was going off all through the night, because the size of the trades that Emma and her team were doing were large enough to move the Australian dollar interest rate market. And of course, Emma could say absolutely nothing. “That was an exceptional time, and then the gold price backed off again and things slowed down. But it was a mad introduction.”
Drawing on her mathematical background, Emma’s role was to put together the spreadsheets to model what were highly complex trades. “When you’re doing the structured stuff, I always say it’s like diving into a swimming pool. You’re going down, down, down, down, and you’ve got all these threads in your head.” She would often get so immersed in models that she would barely notice the phones ringing. “I had amazing tools at my fingertips. You could do in two or three lines what would take weeks of coding. That gave us a lot of power for restructuring, as we could model what would happen if we did this to the trade or if we did that. So it was generating ideas.”
We could model what would happen if we did this to the trade or if we did that, so it was generating ideas.
As the business expanded beyond the Australian gold miners to encompass international business, Emma’s boss, Simon Ford, was asked to move to London with the brief to make it “global”. Emma went with him. The move coincided with the merger of the two gold businesses at Credit Suisse – the structured derivatives part, which Emma belonged to, and the spot, short-term derivatives and physical teams. It was quite a baptism of fire as “we just went after anything and everything, and I got towed around with Simon”. To support the ambition of being a “front-row player”, Credit Suisse recruited the formidable spot trading duo, David Spraggs and David Corcoran, and the respected analyst Kevin Crisp, and bought a seat on the gold fix. “When we did have a big order to do, it was fantastic to just watch how they would orchestrate it.”
There were several key moments in those early London days, with the first being in May 1999 when the Bank of England announced the sale of around half the UK gold reserves.
“I will never forget that day. I had a headache at the start of the day, which just turned into a migraine by the end of the day.” The gold was sold in a series of auctions and Emma recalls that “there was a lot of discussion at Credit Suisse about how we could best manage the process, from our own P&L point of view, but also from the point of the overall health of the market. Those auctions were quite something. It was all hands on deck.”
Emma in the Credit Suisse vault with Neal Johnson, unknown, Doug Borden and Barry Canham.
There was an even more memorable day just around the corner. In September 1999, the Washington Agreement was announced, which co-ordinated central bank gold sales and
leasing. “Simon and I had flown down to South Africa overnight on the Sunday, so we were in Johannesburg when the news came out, and the gold market just went nuts.”
A chance encounter with a director of one of the largest mining companies made for a surreal experience. “We went off to the golf club, and we sat there and we had a drink, and we had the most wonderful, relaxing, heavenly hour there while the gold market was just falling to bits around us. And there was nothing we could do. But I was sitting there thinking, I’m getting married in a month. This is a disaster. I’m not cancelling my wedding.” When she got back to London, it was hectic, but the team rallied around and Emma married her interest rate trader as planned.
By the time Emma returned from honeymoon, the gold market was at the beginning of a period of significant change. The price, which had languished for so many years, had turned around, and several producers ran into difficulties as a consequence. Within a year, a change in senior management at Credit Suisse saw the bank exit the precious metals business. Staff were notified on the Friday and Emma cleared her desk on the Monday morning, and that was that. She recalls: “I had a day off. Simon rang me at home. I’d switched off my mobile phone and taken my parents to the golf at Wentworth as planned. When I checked my phone later, I had two people inviting me for an interview, out of which one turned into my next job.” Emma looks back on that decision to close the Credit Suisse business as a missed opportunity given that it had built such a good team, business was buoyant, it had just bought new vault space, the gold market was about to embark on a long bull run and the birth of ETFs was just around the corner. “But anyway, that was that. So that was the end of us at Credit Suisse.”
Emma on her first mine visit with credit analysts Mandy Purcell and Nicola Ahmed.
Emma heading off on one of her first mine visits from Perth, with the pilot, and credit analysts Mandy Purcell and Nicola Ahmed.
Soon after, Emma joined Macquarie Bank. A significant factor in her decision was that she wanted to join a bank where commodities were a very big part relative to its overall size. As Macquarie expanded its commodity presence in London, Emma got more involved with base metals and later moved over to the energy desk. While she enjoyed the challenge of new markets, she became increasingly disillusioned with being part of a bank. Emma decided the only solution was to be her own boss and take her career in a different direction. So she set up her consultancy and training business, which is still going strong today.
Emma in the Credit Suisse vault on c. 11 tonnes of gold.
Emma takes up how it all began. “I picked up a research project through a guy I used to work with. That was kind of toddling along quite nicely. It wasn’t really planned, but it covered the bills, and it was slightly different, and it was interesting, and it bought me a bit of time to think well. Then in July 2007, I broke my leg very badly falling off a horse, so I was incapacitated for about a year.”
During her period of convalescence, Emma started to explore running training courses in commodities. “And the thing was, I actually couldn’t stand up. So I couldn’t actually deliver anything. But with training, the lead time is often several months anyway. By the time the leg was alright, I had picked up a few training projects.”
The training takes Emma round the world, and whilst it has its challenges, Emma thrives in her new role training across a wide range of commodities. “What’s fantastic about training is you’re not selling anybody anything. When you’re in the classroom, people are there with problems that they want to find out answers to, so they are much more open. You meet such a cross-section of people and things will be applicable from some completely different sector
to their situation. So almost mediating and facilitating is as important as actually imparting the knowledge.”
Emma has been running a series of Loco London courses for LBMA, which have proved insightful and popular in equal measure.
Through her contacts, Emma also built up the consulting side of the business. Emma guides clients through the minefield of due diligence and compliance procedures, as well as explaining the technical language of forwards and options, and working out the pricing side of the transactions.
“You can play a role in just making sure that the client is not overcharged, but you can also play a role in making the client understand why they are being charged so much, because the bank is taking on a significant risk and needs to be paid for it. But there is a fair price for that risk.” Emma also picked up expert witness work on matters relating to commodity derivatives.
While precious metals take up a smaller proportion of Emma’s time these days, her most enjoyable career memories centre around gold – from landing on dirt runways in remote Western Australia on mine site visits, to buying gold jewellery in Mumbai while researching the viability of gold deposit plans in India. And she’s not done with gold just yet. She might have learnt all she needed to know about gold as Credit Suisse promised, but she also knows there is still plenty more to learn.
Emma decided the only solution was to be her own boss and take her career in a different direction
Shortly after Stewart Murray joined LBMA in September 1999 as Chief Executive, LBMA launched its first-ever precious metals conference (in Dubai, in February 2000) at a time when most people in the gold industry had traditionally attended the conference operated by the Financial Times.
Credit Suisse was a big supporter of LBMA and was keen to back the new conference as it was “for the industry, by the industry”. Emma had the opportunity to join LBMA’s Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and was part of the group that got that very first conference off the ground.
She subsequently then chaired the PAC and remembers the endless meetings to decide which speakers would appear on the programme as well as what articles would appear in the Alchemist.
It is an interesting postscript to report that both of these issues are still high on the agenda of the PAC (see Editorial on page 3 by the current Chairman, Tom Kendall, also formerly of Credit Suisse).