Sunday, December 09, 2007

Recruiting gay graduates into Investment Banking

Savoy hotel, LondonIn mid November, I received an email from a gay undergraduate in the UK asking for me for some advice, because he'd been invited to an event in London aimed at encouraging guys like him to apply for jobs in investment banking. Some aspects of investment banking do have quite a straight alpha-male reputation, so I think it's a good idea that such events are organised to counteract that image.

I had to laugh when I read his email in detail though, because it WAS the Alex carton: the guy wanted any thoughts that I had which would help him get an internship at an investment bank for next summer! He was also interested in any advice I had on what he should wear for the London event.

The truth is that although I work in a bank, I'm a long way from the recruitment process, so I don’t really have much idea what anyone has to do to get an internship. But at least I was able to give him some advice on what to wear. Many banks are 'Smart Casual' on their trading floors these days, so I think 'Smart Casual' is acceptable IF one can be confident without wearing a suit. If not, wearing a suit is always safe. However I reckon that if people aren't used to wearing a suit then they can look awkward in them, especially if it's a new suit, and in that case 'Smart Casual' might be better after all.

My reply to this guy would have been the end of the story, however a week later I got a phone call from an ex-colleague who's also gay. Once the main point of his phone call had been dealt with, we start chatting about getting together to catch up with each other.

"So are you going to the gay interbank drinks next week?" I ask him.

Inside and out logo"Actually I can't make it this month," he replies, "but I'll tell you what, are you free the following Wednesday? The bank I work for is involved in this event aimed at encouraging gay undergraduates to apply for jobs in banks. Would you be interested in going to the cocktail reception afterwards? All you have to do is to chat to the students and tell them that being openly gay in a bank isn't a problem these days! I'll be there too of course, so we could catch up afterwards :-)."

In fact, I probably wouldn't have gone except for the email that I'd received the previous week. I reckon that I probably should know a bit more about the recruitment process, so getting peripherally involved in the recruitment of gay undergraduates seems like a good idea.

On the day of the event, although the students are there for most of the afternoon, I don't have to be there until the cocktails start at 7:30pm so I've got time to visit my gorgeous Japanese masseur beforehand :-). Afterwards, feeling suitably refreshed, I make my way down to the Lancaster Ballroom in the Savoy hotel where the event is being hosted.

Inside and Out event in progressI arrive while the last session is still in progress. Each table is being hosted by a gay investment banker with a different type of job, and the students are rotating around the tables to find out a bit about each job. I can't see my ex-colleague anywhere so I get chatting to one of the other gay bankers there.

"It's interesting to see what students look like these days," I start, "and what they wear to this kind of event!"

Of course, I'm trying to work out whether I gave the guy who emailed me the right advice! Probably about 80% of the students seem to be wearing suits. But then as I'd expected, quite a few of them look a little uncomfortable in them!

"And they also don't look as young as I expected," I continue, "I'd thought that I'd feel like their grandfather, but for some reason they don’t look quite as fresh-faced as I'd been imagining".

Before much of a conversation can develop with this guy, the students start leaving the tables and since we both feel we should have a go at chatting to them, we decide to head in opposite directions.

During the course of the evening I probably end up chatting to about a dozen students. And not one of them asks me about what it's like being gay while working on a bank's trading floor. Perhaps that was covered at length during the course of the afternoon. However, at one point I also get talking to one of the organisers:

"So are you enjoying the event?" he asks me, just after a couple of students that I'd been talking to head off to get themselves another drink. "I'm involved in organising this event so do let me know if you've got any feedback :-)."

"Yes I am enjoying it actually," I admit. "It's a long time since I was a student, so it's interesting to connect again with what going on at entry level."

"Actually this event has four purposes," he tells me. "Helping the banks recruit obviously! But then it's also a networking opportunity for you guys who work for all the banks. Thirdly, it's a dating service, and lastly ...."

"A dating service?" I say in disbelief, "Surely all the students come here for career purposes?"

But then, as though on cue, one of the younger looking students suddenly comes up to us both.

"So how are you getting on?" the organiser asks the student, "are you glad I encouraged you to come?"

"Oooo, it's very good," says the student, barely containing his excitement, "I was just chatting to this really cute banker who works in sales or something, and look, he's given me his business card :-))."

With that, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the guy's card as though he's won a minor trophy. All the students that I'd been talking to previously seemed very sensible, but then I guess there are bound to be a few like this guy who get caught up in the drama of it all!

Even though I haven't found out the fourth purpose of the event, I decide to leave them to it and head off to find my ex-colleague who I can now see standing on his own. People are starting to leave so we decide to head off too.

The morning after, before I go to work, I email the student who originally told me about the event to see what he thought about it.

GB: Hi again, I actually ended up going along to the event that you asked me about. I'll do a post on it at some point, but I'd be interested to hear what you thought, so as to get a student's perspective.

A couple of hours later, his reply arrives:

Student: I thought it was pretty good. The panel bit dragged on a little, and some of the questions seemed a little obvious, but the guy from Stonewall was great. The 5 min Q&A things were really good as it let you have a broad overview of a number of areas of a number of banks, and it was cool to see some senior people there too.

He certainly sounds like a satisfied customer :-). However there's one question I have to ask him:

GB: Glad to hear you got something out of it. But did u wear a suit in the end?

Student: I did wear a suit, it doesn't fit well as I bought it a few years ago but at least unlike most of the students and a surprisingly high number of the bankers it doesn't look like it was made from polyester. It was good advice they gave in the talks, though most of the stuff about interviews could probably be summed up by them saying "don't be a fuck up"!

I laugh at such a simple, direct, concise, but accurate summary of how to do well in interviews. If that guy wants a job in investment banking, I feel sure that he'll get one!


MadeInScotland said...

GB - thank's again for your very generous donation to leukemia research!

Made in Scotland: Christmas Arrived


Unknown said...

So, GB, I've been having a career crisis lately - think there's room for me in investment banking, or should I stick to what I know?

GB said...

Dunno mate, at the sharp end, investment banking can be creative, perhaps you should give it a go?

GB xxx

mountii said...


Soul Seared Dreamer said...

HAHA, loved this post. Students nowadays... dating at a recruitment event.. thats a new concept.. hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Stupid question, I know, but was the gay banker thing aimed only at men, or were there any lesbians there at all? Do you know if similar events are put on to attract lesbians to investment banking?

GB said...

This event was definitely aimed at both gay men and gay women :-). I myself spoke to a couple of gay women, so sorry for not making this clear.

GB xxx

PS: Although I may not have very many lesbian readers, I know from emails and other comments in the past that I probably have more than one!