COMMENT: I was told I needed to know an MD or a VP for my first job in banking
I’m a student at a top UK university and I want to work in banking. No one in my family works in banking and finance. Nor – until recently – did I know anyone who worked in the industry. Even today, that can be a problem.
When I rang around, looking for the sort of short placement that has become a necessary prerequisite to a summer or even spring internship in an investment bank, I was told by one major European bank that I needed to know a managing director (MD) or a vice president (VP) for my request to be processed. I knew neither – I didn’t know an analyst at the bank, let alone someone so senior.
It was hugely disheartening. It seemed that my family background would prevent me from getting into finance. I was wrong. Two years later, I’ve completed internships at Caxton Hedge fund, the Bank of England, and an upcoming summer internship for 2020 at Barclays Investment Bank.
It hasn’t been easy. Some of the behaviours and mannerisms in banking can seem alien to people like me. Etiquette and dress codes can be a challenge and a lot remains unsaid.
But people want to help. There are a lot of resources available to help underprivileged students enter into the financial services industry. In the UK, upReach, SEO London and RARE recruitment do a lot of work to help underrepresented students get into banking. The training and advice they offer is vital in giving underrepresented students the best opportunity to gain a banking internship and further employment. – Make the most of it.
Similarly, there are plenty of free resources you can use to find out about the financial industry. I watched Bloomberg on YouTube, listened to the Financial Times podcast on Spotify and followed feeds such as Fiminize. Banks are impressed when you can show that you’ve made an effort to learn about the market. Similarly, you can learn how to code and how to use advanced Excel – both things that are highly sought-after by banks.
Nor is it impossible to meet bankers when you don’t know any. By attending insight days and meeting employees at career fairs at university I developed a broad network that have helped me. - I don’t mean just adding professionals on LinkedIn, but proactively engaging with them, and using their knowledge to better prepare myself for the challenges of gaining an internship. Personally, I am fortunate to have a Bank of England mentor. I am given access to her wealth of knowledge, which is very beneficial in a brutally honest industry. Her advice has made me better prepared for internship applications and assessment centres, which I am very thankful for.
In finance, as in other industries, people who are not privileged can start off at a disadvantage. But you can still get in. You must create your own doors to open, and to multiply those doors until several of them open. It takes hard work, but it is possible.
Trevon Scott-Geohaghon is an economics student at the UK's University of Warwick.
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