We spoke to Joshua Bright, a former child prodigy who passed six GCSEs aged 10 whilst growing up in London’s Hackney. Joshua, who graduated aged 17 with a first class degree in mathematics from Queen Mary University London, joined Goldman Sachs as an operations analyst. Four years later, he quit for a front office job in the debt capital markets group at Lloyds.
Alongside his banking job, Joshua runs Capital Moments, a website which aims to educate students and young professionals in commercial awareness and current affairs.
We asked Joshua some questions about his career and how he makes time for everything. This is what he said.
You didn’t attend the London School of Economics, Oxford or Cambridge, and you grew up in Hackney. Do you think this made it harder for you to get a first job in finance?
“From my own experience, no. What banks like is a story. When I applied for the analyst role at Goldman I had that story. – I’d completed my GCSEs and my A levels earlier than most people. That made me interesting – it was something that made me stand out and it gave me something to talk about in the interview so it wasn’t an issue at all.
I also knew quite a bit about banking thanks to my mentor. – When I was at college in Hackney I was allocated a mentor who worked for HSBC. He explained all the different areas of banking to me and after supplementing that with my own research, I was pretty familiar with the industry.”
When you joined Goldman, you went into an operations role. Was there a reason for that?
“I joined Goldman in 2011, so it was not long after the financial crisis. Fundamentally, I wanted a job and I didn’t feel that the market was strong enough for me to able to pick and choose. It seemed too risky to pass by the offer from Goldman in the hope of finding a front office job somewhere else. I wanted to start in a solid place for a few years and then look at moving on later.”
Was it a challenge to move out of operations into DCM?
“Yes, it was. Once you’ve got some experience in operations you have a bigger hill to climb if you want to get into the front office. – People tend to pigeon-hole you. Even to this day I get called up by recruiters offering me operations roles.”
Did you try moving out of ops and into a front office role internally at Goldman?
“No. I didn’t want to upset my team by trying to do that. It seemed a better idea to make the move externally.”
It’s unusual to spend four years in operations before joining another bank as an analyst. How did you manage it?
“Determination! There might be a time when you think you’ll never be able to make the move. It’s hard – there are always other graduates coming up behind you, but it can be done. My network was the key. A recruiter I’d stayed in contact with from years before put me in touch with a hiring manager and it all went from there. For me, it’s all about being determined. If you know you’re good, don’t give up.”
Any advice for other students in Hackney who want to go into investment banking careers?
“It’s about drive and discipline. Studying hard is a given – if you want to reap the rewards, you’re going to have to work. You also need to be commercially minded. If you make it through to a banking interview, you’re going to be asked a lot of commercially-focused questions, which is the purpose of Capital Moments – to educate people in this.
It also helps to go to networking events and to reach out to people already working in banking. You really need to know which area of the bank you want to into. You need learn about the different sectors of an investment bank and to see what the pressure points are there. It’s very easy to say you want to work in investment banking, but if someone asks you what you want to do exactly, you’ll come unstuck. This is where people with relatives who work in banking have an advantage – you need to compensate for that by doing a lot of research yourself.”