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JPMorgan MD to students: Stop presuming banking isn't for you

Deji Davies is one of JPMorgan's high achievers and high earners. As head of EMEA par & stressed loan trading at JPMorgan in London, he's one of the top traders in London.

Davies has worked long and hard to arrive in this position: he's been at JPMorgan for nearly 15 years, since a brief period at Rothschild after graduating from Oxford University. But Davies is not the archetypal upper middle class banking recruit. 

"I grew up in North London and went to my local state school, where information about potential career paths was very limited at the time," says Davies. For a while, he was a semi-professional football player for Boreham Wood and Slough Town. Then he went to Oxford and discovered the banking industry and how to go about getting a job there. Davies says he was "fortunate;" now he wants to give something back.

"Many have the talent, work ethic and intellectual curiosity to thrive within a front office banking role but lack the access or awareness of how [to go about it]," he says, of students who don't come from communities where banking is a common career. A lot of students are keenly interested in banking but hold "a deep-rooted belief that such roles are not intended for them, despite the fact they may have all the necessary talent and qualifications," says Davies. Because they don't know anyone in a banking job, a finance career, "can appear an unrealistic and unobtainable target," he adds.

Davies is doing his best to help overcome this. He recently spoke to students at Acland Burghley School, the state comprehensive he attended in the 1990s. He's a trustee for the education charity, Future First and an ambassador for the charity Awaken Genius. And he mentors disadvantaged students on both a private and professional basis. The students he speaks to regularly ask whether there are many people like them in banking, says Davies. They want to know whether they "will be able to thrive" in a bank themselves.

Historically, banks have definitely been skewed towards "polished" candidates. A famous U.S. study in 2015 highlighted banks' tendency to hire from the upper middle classes, and a recent report from the City of London Corporation found that 90% of people in senior roles at banks in London come from higher socioeconomic groups. But banks are genuinely trying to remedy this: in five years' time the industry will look "very different," Davies predicts. 

Davies isn't the only trader mentoring disadvantaged students in the UK - we know of Goldman MDs who are doing the same. Even a small amount of time spent with such students can have a "big impact," he says.

While JPMorgan itself is partnered with the Sutton Trust and the Amos Bursary to help broaden its talent pool, Davies says individuals in the banking industry can also make a difference: "We must play our part in breaking down these barriers and be very intentional about attracting the best and brightest students." Those students will, "naturally come from a broad range of backgrounds," he adds. Other banking MDs might want to start their own mentoring programmes too.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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