☰ Menu eFinancialCareers

GUEST COMMENT: At times like these, you need to hit on the people you went to university with



One of the major ways to differentiate between those who do well in the City and those who don’t is the strength of one’s university alumni network.

Some networks are very good – hosting regular drinks, which people make time to go to no matter how busy they are. They also foster the idea during one’s degree that everyone should make time to help out recent graduates. This can open doors which would otherwise have remained closed.

Others are frankly awful – churning out young people who seem convinced that the key to success is keeping their heads down, working hard and waiting to get recognition for their dedication to the bank’s return on equity targets.

My experience suggests that graduates of elite universities such as the French Grandes Ecoles, Oxbridge and the US Ivy League, are far better at participating in alumni networks than graduates of lesser-known institutions. Equally, people who’ve read arts or social sciences are often more diligent players of the alumni game than scientists.

Graduates of Imperial College (my alma mater) is a good example of this. Its graduates (scientists, engineers) are in high demand in the financial sector because they’re numerate & hard working. However they’re not naturally outgoing & sociable.

Interestingly, the opposite applies to the French engineering schools (Centrale, Polytechnique etc). From what I’ve seen, these institutions produce incredibly smart and technical people who don’t settle for the middle and back office roles that most Imperial alumni end up in, but go straight for the very analytical front office trading roles. They are also extremely entrepreneurial, with no fear of moving their entire teams to another bank or even spinning out and setting up on their own if the opportunity to make money is good enough.
In contrast, in the UK it is the Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduates from Oxford who seem to have an almost Mafia-like grip over some areas of the City. This includes both of my bosses. And it’s not even a rigorous degree.

So, next time someone contacts you hoping to leverage the university connection, take the call. Everybody needs a break from time to time, and offering a short piece of advice won’t kill

The author works in the financial sector in London

Comments (2)

  1. because they will make you grit your teeth just as much now as they did then. French Grandes Ecoles (yeah, Egalite, I get ya), Oxford, Cambridge, I Paahked The Caah In HaahVad Yaahd and all that. You need me more than I need you. But I will remember. And you will pay up, chummie.

  2. Is it me, or is the writer so up himself that most of us would rather die than give him a job/leg up in the business? What a bunch of generalisations and/or elitist crzp. Sorry chum, anyone who uses an ampersand when writing for a professional publication/website would get a mega thumbs-down from me. Even if he (and I have a sneaky that it is a he) is so obviously deeply impressed by his time at Imperial (are you sure this isn’t a punt by their admissions dept?) He needs me more than I need him – because he needs to realise that those who work hard, keep their heads down and play the team game might not make the megabucks, but they have a longevity in the business that the supernovas don’t.

The comment is under moderation. It will appear shortly.


Screen Name


Consult our community guidelines here