“The most important thing in life is the feeling that you have worked fucking hard to achieve something” – Dennis Dijkstra, Co-CEO of Flow Traders
Rostra Economica is starting a new series named “How Close Can You go”. This will be a series of interviews with top executives, partners, recruitment professionals and other interesting people. We will talk about actualities, and the business they are in, but mostly about us; the students. How was the student life of the CEO of Flow Traders? What were the most important goals of the CFO of your dream company back in the days? How did they got the motivation to work so hard to become what they are today? What is in their eyes the perfect student? All these kind of questions will be reviewed during an interview, and will be published right here in Rostra Economica. Anyway, welcome to the first edition of How Close Can You Go!
This time, I had the pleasure to chill at the headquarters of Flow Traders and talk to Co-CEO Dennis Dijkstra, Head of Trading Pieter Entius, and Corporate Recruiter Floor de Wit. Very inspiring people with a broad background, and a very fresh and interesting look at the financial business, and especially the young professionals of today.
Flow Traders is a listed leading global technology-enabled liquidity provider specialising in exchange traded products (ETPs). Flow Traders provides liquidity in ETP markets 24 hours a day while seeking to stay market neutral at all times and without having directional opinions. While Flow Traders does not have any clients, they enable investors to buy and sell ETPs efficiently by quoting bid and ask prices. Thereby Flow Traders seeks to earn small amounts of money on large numbers of individual transactions based on the differences between our ETP prices and the prices of the underlying or related instruments. They provide liquidity in over 4,000 ETP listings across the globe, tracking all underlying asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities and currencies with access to over 90 trading venues in 36 countries. The company has been named Europe’s number one Trading House for ETFs in the EFT Risk European Rankings over three consecutive years – 2013, 2014 and 2015. Flow Traders is headquartered in Amsterdam, with trading offices in Asia and the US, covering all time zones.
So, that was the sales pitch, but when I asked Mr. Dijkstra to describe Flow Traders in only one sentence he answered: “Conscious pushing oneself to the limit. We are the Google of the financial markets. You can deduce this from the way we interact with each other, and our remuneration policy.”
When I walked trough the entrance, a smell of fresh carpet, new desks, and young ambitious people came into my nose (if that even has a smell). That all has its reasons; Flow Traders is just a little older than ten years. It came off the ground like a space rocket and almost doubled its revenues last year (from 240 to 400 million euros). And guess what? It is still growing.
I asked Co-CEO of Flow Traders, Dennis Dijkstra, about the reason of this phenomenal growth over the last couple of years. What is in your opinion the most important reason? “This is because of the focus we have on what we do. Day in, day out, we have such a focus on the product. Another reason might be that we started in a niche market, the Exchange Traded Fund market. This market has grown exponentially in the last couple of years, so we definitely took advantage of it. However, in my opinion, the most important reason is the culture we have created around Flow Traders. I can say that we were, and are, very successful in this.” According to Floor de Wit, Corporate Recruiter at Flow Traders, it is also really important that Flow Traders is really strict in selecting the right people. “We only select people who will be staying for the long-term, that is because we want to invest a lot in our people. This has ensured that Flow Traders could add value in a high phase. I think at Flow Traders, the people make the company. It sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. Everyone who is active here is so entrepreneurial and driven, that is what makes this company so beautiful and at the same time successful.”
So, what are you looking for in your candidates? “Well, mainly we are looking for candidates who got excellent numerical, analytical, and creative skills. Candidates must be very entrepreneurial which can be deduced from its CV. Also, they must have a master degree and an obvious affinity with financial markets.” When I asked her for her opinion about the upcoming trend of companies who only hire young professionals with cum laude master degrees she responds with one simple answer: “Not only your grades say something about how good you are as a trader. We want to hire people who have the competences of a good trader. Such as entrepreneurial, as I mentioned before, but competiveness is also a really important factor. If we would like to invite you for an interview, you first need to take a numerical assessment and IQ-test before you are invited, so if you pass the assessments, you are already at the correct level. Also, a large amount of our traders have played a lot of poker. This game has many similarities with trading, think about risk, strategy, and money. This reflects the kind of person behind the CV and motivation letter. This shows that we are looking for much more than only grades.”
Later that morning I had a chat with Head of Trading Pieter Entius. He studied international business administration at the VU and started as a Junior Trader at Flow Traders. I asked him what his most convincing argument was to make this choice? “This function fits my personality. Back in the days I played at lot of poker, which I really enjoyed. I searched for a job which has a similar enjoyment. I came out on a job as a trader. Once you are a trader, you need to be good to have a lasting motivation. You see that most traders who have received a negative job review will leave a job as a trader behind and try to find another, more fitting, job. It simply is not a satisfying job if you are not good enough.”
Back to Co-CEO Dennis Dijkstra. What are his positives and negatives? “I think I can see things really quick. I see the connection between events, and I am not afraid to think different, be different. Also, I am stubborn, and not afraid to take risks. In this all, there is a good aspect as well as a bad one. It is just about the balance between those two.”
After he studied business economics, at our own faculty at the University of Amsterdam, Mr Dijkstra began as an accountant at Arthur Anderson. After five years he started his own hedge fund. Then he became Vice-President of structured finance at NIBC, and thereafter started his own mortgage bank and became CFO and Co-Founder. At that moment, Flow Traders was just five years old, and Mr. Dijkstra became very interested in this company. This caused his latest move when he became CFO, and later Co-CEO at Flow Traders. I asked him about his student life back in the days. “I studied at the UvA and was a member of A.S.C., the biggest student association in Amsterdam. At A.S.C. I came in contact with a lot of diverse people. I played hockey at a high level and surrounded myself with inspiring and motivated people. I think this is a really important factor in your student life. Your motivation needs to come from inside, but if this is ensured, you need to surround yourself with motivated and inspiring people to keep this motivation running. When I became Co-CEO of Flow Traders, it was a challenge for me to find the balance between my personal life and work, but in the end these two do not even differ a lot. For example, I do not see any difference between taking care of my people here and taking care of my wife and children at home. If you take your leadership role very serious, in the end it will be almost equal.”
I asked him about the trade-off between graduating cum laude and extra curricular activities and his answer was really inspiring. He answered: “If you really want something, and you have the required motivation, you can get both. You need to do things you like, and when you like something you are automatically motivated to do this. Well, you know what is the most important thing in life? The feeling that you worked fucking hard to achieve something. That feeling, that is the best feeling you can get!”