Employers target Oxford students with freebies and commercial hard sell

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It is milk round time at the UK's top universities and the investment banks

are out in force, competing fiercely with each other to catch the eye of the country's

brightest students.

Since the brightest students also tend to be the most critical, the banks

go to great lengths to try to impress them. At Oxford, students

have been

treated to some very different styles of presentation, ranging from coaxing and

cajoling to the commercial hard sell.

CSFB set out its stall at Freud's, one of the town's more stylish cafes. The

tone was self-consciously casual - waiters handed out drinks to the sound of

techno music and there was a limitless supply of expensive pens, bags and other


What followed was as slick as it was seductive: a well presented talk by Hector Sants, vice-chairman of international equities at CSFB. Sants was honest in his admission that the firm had just slashed its workforce, and enthusastic in his message that it could still offer students an exciting future.

A variety of good-looking CSFB bankers in expensive suits and natty ties followed him, all extolling the virtues of the firm.

The same week, UBS Warburg presented a similarly united front at St. John's College. The atmosphere of intellectual gravitas offered by this venue was offset by the commercial vigour and energy of the presentation itself, and logoed T-shirts and rugby balls were on offer in addition to the usual corporate handouts that had been available at the CSFB presentation.

Alan Hodson, global head of equities, gave a witty speech and was followed by Simon Lyons, a second-year analyst in corporate finance and himself an Oxford graduate. The message was clear: he could do it, and so can you.

Morgan Stanley went for a more informative and rather humourless approach based around a detailed explanation of what investment banking is all about, complete with

complicated diagrams.

This was followed by a video of interviews with Morgan Stanley

employees - set to a backing track of pop music, just in case anyone was

finding it boring.

At the upmarket Randolph Hotel, many students were turned away from Deutsche

Bank's presentation for lack of space. It was hard to say if this was a sign

of the bank's popularity or just bad planning.

Those inside were treated to plenty

of alcohol and instead of a formal presentation, the bank laid on members

of staff for students to queue up to talk to. The atmosphere was somewhat


The presentations seemed to have the desired effect on many undergraduates. A chemistry student at Exeter College said the opportunity to speak to the banks' employees about their jobs had helped him decide which firms he preferred. &quotBut as for interview preparation, I don't think the presentations were particularly helpful,&quot he said.

Lisa Glanville, in her second year of a law degree, said she wanted a City of London

lifestyle. &quotI perceive banking as a challenging and enjoyable career,&quot she said. &quotI am

also attracted to the glamour and the possibility that I could make a lot of money.&quot

Barbara Walshe, reading English at Magdalen College, said, &quotI attended the

Deutsche Bank presentation and although it was slightly chaotic, I did get a chance to

find out what kind of candidates the bank is looking for.&quot

Many students said they were keeping an open mind about their career, and not

just because jobs could be hard to come by at the moment. &quotThe idea of a single

career for life seems very dated,&quot said Walshe. &quotI think it is important these days to

cultivate different ideas in several sectors.&quot

Other students found the commercial gloss of some of the events a turn-off. Alistair Hird, at Magdalen College, said &quotAfter attending one of the presentations, I can see why banking has such a negative image amongst a lot of my friends. It was a totally cynical attempt to lure people into a career that is tough and relentless.

&quotThe recruiters seemed desperate, almost fanatical, in their approach and

although I went with an open mind, I was definitely put off the idea of this sort of


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