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A day in the life: Anne Devlin

22 August 2019
A one-day diary, from morning latté to lights out
20Cs staff Portraits / trading floor

Anne Devlin, 43, is a crude oil trader for bp international. She lives in West Hampstead, London, with her husband and two children, aged seven and four.

My alarm goes off...

... At 6.40am and I’m ready by 7.10am. I wear a dress as it’s an easy decision, then heels or flats depending how I feel. I make the children breakfast while drinking coffee, then do a spelling test with my son and wait for the nanny before heading to the Tube. I have custom news alerts too so I can keep up with the events that affect the markets when I’m out of office.

I'm responsible for...

...Buying and selling the physical cargo of crude oil. In our part of the world, crude oil is moved on ships and I’m responsible for pricing it, then either purchasing it for BP oil refineries to be turned into substances like petrol, or selling it to processing plants. A shipment can be up to two million barrels and priced up to 100 million pounds, so it’s a big decision. I also visit producing clients: Venezuela was fascinating, as were Baghdad and Istanbul. You are schooled in geopolitics. My type of trading involves relationships – so it’s vital to know the history of the country your trading partners are from.

I got the job...

...Because I wanted to travel. I was studying business at an international business school in Berlin in 1996 when a friend showed me the BP ‘eurograduate’ scheme. I loved that it moved across different countries. I started in London in logistics. It didn’t occur to me to try trading; 16 years ago it was even more male-dominated, but my boss suggested I give it a shot. To be a trader, you have to be a self-starter – one critical thing you can’t learn is sheer energy.

My typical day...

I arrive at 8.45am and start with a morning meeting between the nine other traders on my team to discuss the market – it moves so quickly. Then I go to my desk on the floor. I have a large phone for trading, with lots of buttons, which I use to call people I am buying oil from, or for selling to [counterparties] and colleagues. It’s not like Hollywood, there’s no standing in a pit and waving your arms around. It’s desk-based strategy, phoning people and negotiating the price of the oil, like chess. It’s an adrenaline rush. At lunchtime, I tend to eat a salad in front of my computer. I’m usually out by 6pm as the US takes over.

My most memorable work moment...

... Was the first time I started making money. I must have been 26. I took a decision and suddenly made $400,000 for the company. I started checking everything – I couldn’t believe those numbers were associated with something I’d done.

The worst part of my job..

... Is when the software used to log trades doesn’t work properly. It means you lose time and money as the market moves so quickly.

The best part of my job...

... Is building a bond with a counter- party in somewhere like the Middle East. There’s a popular view that to make money, one side always has to lose. That’s not how it works. Everyone can be happy.

After work...

... I have to actively slow down. Trading is a rush, but my children can’t cope if I’m in the same pace at home. I help them with homework and tell them stories, then have dinner with my husband and try to practice the cello. Then I’m usually in bed by 11pm.

My Plan B? Aid worker...

I would help with the refugee crisis. A few years ago, one of my tankers rescued 120 migrants. the crew sent pictures to me. One was of this absolutely exhausted woman and her daughter, the same age as my little girl. Despite everything, the girl was smiling. I found that incredible.

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