If you have ambitions to work in investment banking, it helps to come from a middle or upper class background. This is not simply because a good education opens doors to the best universities, which are hunting grounds for the top investment banks, but because parental pressure and more switched on careers services in top schools will alert you to the opportunities available in the sector.
Even academically bright students from poorer backgrounds miss out on investment banking roles because of a lack of awareness and a failure to jump through the right hoops in the prelude the recruitment process, such as internships and extracurricular activities related to finance.
J.P. Morgan believes that its programme will give students from low-income backgrounds a leg up. It’s teamed up with the Social Mobility Foundation to offer 50 A-level students the chance to spend two weeks at the bank in revenue-generating areas of the business – investment banking, treasury and asset management – followed by 12 months of mentoring with senior staff at the bank to enhance the students’ career prospects. It’s called the J.P. Morgan Residential Internship.
Such a scheme is not unique – Credit Suisse launched its Steps to Success scholarship last year, Deutsche Bank has a Cambridge University Mentoring Scheme and Lloyds Banking Group’s Scholars project resulted in 30 job offers last year. However, unlike the majority of these programmes, J.P. Morgan’s targets students from outside of London.
“The financial cost for a student from a lower-income background from outside of London accessing opportunities within investment banks in the City can seem high and this, combined with a lack of awareness, means many miss out,” said Hang Ho of J.P. Morgan’s corporate philanthropy team. “The programme breaks down the preconceptions of investment banking and also allows academically gifted young people to access new career opportunities.”
The ultimate aim isn’t necessarily to offer these students a place at J.P. Morgan, but to open doors to careers in business for them, said Ho. Mentors at J.P. Morgan will provide advice, but will also be able to help create a network of “informal acquaintances” to assist with their job searches, she said.
Investment banks’ graduate recruitment processes remain covertly slanted towards those from a more privileged background. All firms target specific schools – usually those in the Russell Group in the UK or the Ivy League in the US – and if students don’t get on track to a place from year one by targeting Spring Insight weeks, summer internships and the ever-attractive extra-curricular activities, then they can miss the boat. J.P. Morgan’s mentors can point poorer students in the right direction.
“Mentors help provide a starting point for advice and guidance, which these students need to progress in their career,” said Ho. “Young people from more privileged backgrounds often have determined parents alerting them to job opportunities or career paths, or better career advice in their schools. Mentors can bridge this gap to some extent.”
The programme is now in its second year, and the latest intake of students will do their internship in the first two weeks of August. Students don’t get paid, but J.P. Morgan covers all travel and accommodation expenses.