How important is an Oxbridge pedigree really?

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There's a persistent debate on this site about whether the City really is an old-boys' network full of Oxbridge types.

So, is this true?

In corporate finance, there's definitely a bit of an Ivory Tower environment and a greater focus on 'pedigree' than on the markets side. However, in both cases such is the international nature of the business, most City banks do not even feel very British, let alone full of Oxbridge types. Walking around the floors, you hear all kinds of languages and accents - it really is a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

If you focus on those who are British - in corporate finance there's definitely a sense of pedigree. Why? Not sure to be honest, but one thing may be that there are less entry points into corporate finance than into markets - the main ones are the milk round, the MBA/MSc rounds and some programs for accountants from the Big Four. It's very hard to break in if you haven't come through one of these programmes and they themselves seem to have a recruiting bias from Oxbridge.

On the markets side, however, entry is much more porous- hires are made at all levels from asset management, hedge funds, industry (into research), law, tax advisory, accountancy, actuarial fields etc.

What about the milk round - do banks really hire Oxbridge people and pretty much no one else? There's definitely a bias in favour of Oxbridge, for both markets and corporate finance roles. Why? Again, I don't know for sure, but it's probably something as boring and benign as a lack of recruitment resources and the fact that it's easier to hire from Oxbridge.

Few will argue against the fact that the average student at Oxbridge is of a higher standard than students at most other Universities: their entry criteria are the highest and they're the most selective. However, only the arrogant would disagree that there are plenty of students at other British universities whose calibre can rival any Oxbridge student.

If you're a graduate recruiter with limited resources, it simply makes sense to focus them where the population of high calibre candidates is higher.

George Trower is the pseudonym of a senior employee at a European bank in the City.

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