by Leila Grant
SEO (Sponsorship for Educational Opportunity) is a not-for-profit organisation sponsored by leading companies such as Goldman Sachs to support a high calibre of ethnic minority students within the UK that often are overlooked within the job economy.
Since SEO London’s initiation in 2000, they have helped 1850 undergraduates in securing internships within the most competitive industries, including Corporate Banking and Law, Professional services, Advertising and Marketing. 80% of whom, have managed to secure full-time roles within the City. A few of the investment banks UBS (who work with Rare Recruitment, also spotting highly capable ethnic students within the UK), Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, Morgan Stanley and Citi and the Big Four accounting companies Ernst and Young, PWC, KPMG and Deloitte as well as the Corporate Law firms Ashurst, SJ Berwin, Freshfields, Simmons & Simmons and a host of other highly reputed firms, recognise the importance of diversity within their firm as statistics show increased efficiency, and better growth prospects globally, especially since the last two decades has seen globalisation in full force.
From my experiences of SEO, having been through the application process for two consecutive years, many students do confirm placements via SEO, but also many don’t. SEO select most candidates that apply to SEO programme to be recommended to their partner firms but this doesn’t necessarily materialise into full time jobs or internships. The City recruitment process is all about the luck of the draw and SEO will be the first to tell you that when the recession hits, graduate recruitment is the first to be hit and out of graduate recruitment SEO candidates are the first to also be hit.
In my second year of applying for jobs, I had a final round interview with a leading investment bank for a front office position only to be told they were extremely impressed with me but could not hire me due to their huge cutback in employment for that fiscal year. Out of approximately one hundred potential SEO candidates for that division in that particular leading firm, the firm only hired one SEO candidate of whom already had corporate banking experience, and I was left to ponder that their recruitment was merely there to fill up their ‘quota’ rather than hire many talented students within SEO.
Were I working in HR recruitment, I would hire as many of these candidates as possible, as SEO has already made us go through an application process of filling in a lengthy application form, undergoing a telephone interview, and networking to discuss current affairs and teach what we should know about investment banking prior to the job begins.
It is fair to say that some corporate firms choose SEO candidates as ‘leftovers’ when the front office and the most desirable positions have been filled. The choices left tend to be back office ‘Operations’ in Investment Banking and ‘Tax’ in Professional Services. I have been involved with SEO for two years, hopeful that I will eventually secure a full time corporate banking job, however the next few years of banking in the current climate of major redundancies, reduced investment banking revenue, cutback of non-core assets and volatile trades, no-one is safe and my chances of a full time job in investment banks is increasingly becoming slim pickings….