Balancing the Grind with Matt Benney, Trading Lead at IMC

Matt Benney is the Trading Lead at IMC, an international trading firm and global market maker.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I started as a graduate trader at IMC in 2008, which means I have now worked at IMC for over 14 years.  I initially started as an options trader, trading options on Commonwealth Bank, NAB, ANZ and Westpac on the Australian Stock Exchange.  

Since then, I have been fortunate to work in other offices overseas, as well as trade a variety of different financial products on multiple exchanges across Asia Pacific. Currently, I am one of our Delta 1 trading leads. This means that I am responsible for IMC’s equities, futures and ETF (exchange traded fund) trading across numerous Asian Exchanges.  

I also am the trading owner for our trading internship and graduate training programs, as well as for our trading recruitment design. This means I work closely with our HR and recruitment teams to ensure that we deliver high quality recruitment, internships and traineeships. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My role is fairly broad, which means I have a terrific amount of variety in the work that I get to do each day. Making sure my teams are happy and performing well is the most important aspect of my role, so each day I will ensure that I spend time with individuals in these teams, brainstorming about how to improve trading, but also working with them to help them improve as individuals.  

Outside of this, I’ll spend a lot of time working with other teams in the business that work alongside trading, making sure we are aligned on the important priorities. I also like to allocate time just to think. It is easy to get caught up in the grind and I like to give myself space and time to think about the longer term vision and more complex problems. 

Outside of work, my routine is fairly consistent. I have young kids, so I am generally up some time between 6am and 7am and try to be out the door by just after 8am. Before I leave I will aim to exercise at least a couple of times a week (either a run or a HIIT session) and then spend time with my family, getting ready for the day. 

On the way to work I will nearly always listen to a podcast or an audio book  I am generally at my desk by 9am and leave sometime between 6-7pm, aiming to be home for my kids’ bedtime. I like to listen to podcasts or audiobooks again on the way home, and then I’ll generally always read before I go to sleep around 10pm. 

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me, I will know that I have work-life balance when I am performing well in my job and I am also happy with my family and social life.

I know that if I am not performing well at work, that will impact my life outside of work, and if I am not spending enough time with my family, that will impact my performance at work. So I strive to get fulfillment in both of these areas. 

To achieve this, it is really important that I am clear on what is important to me, both inside and outside of work. Then I can make choices to help find balance. Keeping fit and healthy and seeing friends is really important to me,  so this might mean that I leave work early once a week to go and play touch football with some mates. 

Being there for my kids when they achieve something is important to me. If I have a work meeting that clashes with a school assembly, I would ask for the meeting to be rescheduled.

 I work at a global company, and keeping up communication with global stakeholders is critical to ensuring I perform the best I can in my job. 

This might mean that occasionally I need to start early or work late. Finding balance is about making choices and then communicating to others that are impacted about why you have made those choices. 

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4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

There are three habits and routines I aim to maintain. Firstly, I ensure I exercise regularly. I know that this has a big impact on my mental health and that if exercise drops, my happiness both at and away from work also drops. 

Secondly, I leave work at work. This means when I walk in the door at night, unless something is critical, I don’t worry about work until the next day.

Finally, I have focussed on having interests and self-development areas outside of work. In a high performing job, it’s easy to become consumed by work. Having areas of focus outside of my job has actually helped me to perform better in my role.

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I listen to a lot of podcasts spanning a diverse range of content. The current one I am into, which focuses on business, is The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett.

On the audio book front I mainly listen to fiction: Daisy Jones and the Six was a really creative and fun book.

Books relating to business that I have found useful and enjoyed reading are Dan Coyle’s The Culture Code and Ray Dalio’s Principles. For books that are more about trading, When Genius Failed and Liar’s Poker are interesting reads.

6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I would like to read a collection of interviews from successful individuals that offer an array of differing views on what work-life balance means to them and how it’s helped them achieve their goals.  

From business icons like Ray Dalio, Richard Branson and Oprah to sporting legends such as Serena Williams and Michael Jordan

I’d also love to read about what some of the thought leadership greats such as Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek and Brene Brown have to say on how they achieve work-life balance. 

7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

When people think about work life balance, they are usually discussing the appropriate number of hours to work. In my opinion, this is not really what work-life balance is about.

At times people can be super invested in their work, and really enjoy what they are doing, and as a result of this they spend a lot of time at work. If someone is making a conscious choice to be at work because they are passionate and excited about it, this is not an issue.

It becomes problematic when someone feels they have no choice but to be at work and they are grinding through each day and becoming tired, overwhelmed and their mental health is suffering. Distinguishing between this and the above scenario is important. 

As I have gained more experience, I have come to realise the value in spending time to keep fresh mentally. 

There will always be more work to do, but taking leave and spending time each day to clear my mind are important tools to ensure that I can continue to think clearly and innovate. 

It is really hard to be creative and think outside the box if you are exhausted, so being self-aware and understanding when you need to get away from work is really important if you want to perform at a high level for extended periods of time.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.