My journey from Walsall to the City of London
The circumstances in which you grow up often determine your opportunity set. But I continue to believe that adversity can be overcome. Here’s my story so far.
In the middle of the night I heard a loud noise. My mum rushed into my room to tell me to go back to sleep. When I asked her what the noise was, she said it was just a car. But I knew it wasn’t. Violence is endemic in the part of Walsall where I grew up.
At 15, I had to decide between a life of crime like many of my friends or getting a job to support myself and continuing my education. I joined a minicab company, working 12-hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays. One day while heading to work, I came across a discarded copy of the Financial Times.
I had to decide between a life of crime like many of my friends or getting a job to support myself
I read all about financial markets and started researching the best routes to get into the City, one of which seemed to be a degree in economics. I also found out about Legal & General, which I liked because it was a big employer with home insurance operations based in Birmingham. Being very close to my grandparents showed me the importance of helping people to invest for their retirement and was a key reason behind my drive to move into the investment industry.
However, due to difficult circumstances, I performed poorly in my A levels. It wasn’t until months later, when I saw someone reading the FT, that my old dreams came flooding back. I reminded myself of one of my favourite Denzel Washington quotes: “I didn’t quit, I didn’t fall back, I fell forward.” I took this to heart, went to retake my A-levels and got into Coventry University.
I lived at home during university, while also working as a taxi operator. Together, I was either studying or working for 18 hours a day, every day. I graduated with a BA in Economics and applied for work at Legal & General in Birmingham.
Eventually, I got a job as a claims handler and completed my training. Then, with the blessing of my line manager, I decided to take the next step to help me move closer to investments. To do this, I contacted every person in LGIM with ‘investment’ in their job title, asking for a chance to spend a day shadowing their work.
My persistence to find a position paid off. But on my first day, I was nervous, while everyone else seemed to ‘belong’
Tamara Burnell replied and agreed. The day was a huge investment of time and money for me. I was nervous and eager to impress, but so grateful to finally have a chance to set foot in the City. Afterwards, I kept in contact and unsuccessfully applied for a couple of vacancies before seeing a three-month LDI internship. I immediately applied, and simultaneously emailed HR for the details of the hiring manager, before adding him on LinkedIn and emailing him directly.
My persistence paid off. On my first day, I was out of my comfort zone and shaking with nerves. Yet, everyone else seemed to ‘belong’. I struggled at first to understand the terminology, but dug deep and resolved to look for solutions, and used Investopedia and YouTube videos to help me.
As my internship neared its end, I emailed every senior manager on the floor, including the CEO and Head of Distribution. I asked to meet them – to which they were very open – and sought advice. On my final day, the Head of the Portfolio Management Group offered me a role for a further three months.
I hope there’ll be a job at the end of it and remain committed to a future in the City.