2020 EMEA Summer Intern Letter Winners!
Following the success of the 175 U.S. Summer Intern Letter Writing Competition, we also asked each of our 23 EMEA-based summer interns to help define the future of Jefferies by writing their own “Jef_All Letter.”
Due to the impact of COVID-19, our EMEA interns started their program later then their U.S. peers and participated in a condensed fully virtual 6-week internship following a 4-week period where Jefferies paid for them to do volunteer work of their own choosing.
Specifically we asked each summer intern to give us their thoughts, ideas or plans on how we can address one or more of the following priorities:
Increase diversity at Jefferies
Make Jefferies a firm that is even more appealing for younger employees to join and have a career opportunity, rather than merely a job
Best express and improve our mission as an organization.
It was a privilege to read all 23 submissions and we are proud to highlight these three winners. We also included their thoughts on the time they spent volunteering prior to their internship. Every one of us should be proud of all our interns and there is no doubt we can all learn much from this generation of future leaders.
Rich and Brian
Taloshili Olavi Hangula
University of Rochester - NY
Investment Banking - Power
It is unbecoming that in a day and age where most facets of society have evolved, the world is still grappling with treating minorities as equals. An act of minimal humane love and kindness seems far out of reach for a fraction of individuals in our communities. Jefferies is at the genesis of striving towards one such utopia, where diversity thrives and where acceptance is a norm.
Individually, fighting racism has become part of my DNA. Raised in a post-apartheid nation, Namibia, efforts towards restoring a sense of inherent equality amongst the native majority and white minority have mostly been in vain. As a result, I quickly came to realize that when pursuing an ideology, it is likely to be effective when done introspectively. The lesson being to start from within, Jefferies is on the right path. We have acknowledged that the firm lacks diversity, so how do we increase it?
Let us first turn to the root of the problem. It is a fact that minorities are mostly previously disadvantaged and often come from low-income households. This very attribute immediately limits their exposure to opportunities long before they can even pick a career. The practice of recruiting from target schools eliminates a more substantial proportion of demographics than intended. Inherently due to the fact these institutions lack diversity within themselves, a result of high barriers to entry for minorities given their immanent circumstances. Therefore, broadening the target criteria across institutions of higher learning who are not necessarily elite, gives Jefferies access to a much more diverse labour pool. The measure of competence should not rely on the University that one attends but should instead be a test of character and drive. Traits that beyond a doubt exist in every successful banker, regardless of race or gender.
It is human nature to grow an affinity towards groups who are similar to you. Nobody finds a sense of comfort in unfamiliar territory. The preceding paragraph tells us how to begin building a diverse institution, but how do we retain and grow our diversity demographics? We need to instil a sense of community for minority groups; people naturally want to stay where they feel they too belong. Thus, assuring that there are employees from different ethnic backgrounds across the business divisions is vital in ensuring that a potential recruit will not feel lonely in any part of the Bank.
The revolutionary Nelson Mandela once said: "It always seems impossible until it's done." He was also fighting for the rights and equal representation of minorities. I would add, that somewhere between impossibility and success is accountability, the Bank will need to be explicit and public in stating its ambitions for the demographic aspirations it wishes to achieve. Openly declaring these targets in the Annual Report will establish an accountability measure which inevitably will carve the path to being one of the most diverse Banks on the street.
The mere act of laying out a platform to listen and receive advice from several interns who are just entering their twenties is symbolic that the leadership acknowledges that we indeed matter. It is this attitude that invariably sets Jefferies apart from the group. Therefore, I do not doubt that the Bank will be successful in its fulfilment of diversity.
I was fortunate to have made it home to Namibia from London just before most countries, including Namibia, imposed lockdown. At the time of my arrival on March 17th, Namibia had only recorded 2 Active Cases. It was not until June when Cases began to surge, with the status quo now at 1402 Active Cases, 7 Deaths, and 64 Recoveries.
My volunteering experience commenced shortly after my self-quarantine period. I was summoned by the Namibian Deputy Minister of Information, Communications, and Technology, who tasked me with moderating some of the panel discussions that take place on the daily nationwide COVID-19 update on Namibian live television (NBC 1), the updates are simultaneously aired on several national radio stations every morning at 10h00. The COVID-19 update is staged in the capital, Windhoek, and starts with a summarized report by the Minister of Health on the current effects of COVID-19 in Namibia. As the moderator, I then mediate the discussion of the day which lasts about an hour.
Panel discussions that I have had the privilege to moderate include unpacking the stimulus package launched for education, on my panel was the Minister of Higher Education amongst other crucial stakeholders in Namibian education. I have thus far enjoyed my experience as a moderator and have fulfilled the void of being unable to serve my country given my education abroad. More than a volunteering experience it was patriotic.
University of Surrey
Investment Banking – M&A
Representation matters - A diverse workforce, attracts diverse talented individuals
Two days before my internship, I sat in front of the mirror and asked myself ‘braids or weave? Which will make me look more professional?’. This is a question many black girls must ask themselves in order to fit into the ‘corporate look’ which created no space for black hair. I eventually I chose my braids because I was inspired by a Black Jefferies employee, I had met last year. So, why does this matter? In first year, once you have decided Investment banking is an industry you want to pursue, the next step is choosing the right bank, envisioning yourself working there, building long lasting relationships and most importantly a comfortable second home for the next phase in your life. When choosing a bank, it is somewhat difficult to apply where no one looks like you, as you start to wonder if you’re valued, going to be an imposter and if this is the right place to thrive. I virtually sat on the first day of my internship and saw an incredibly diverse class, and I gave a sigh of relief. I felt relief because I knew my biggest fear of feeling as though I did not belong would be removed and most importantly, I knew I chose a firm that cares. As much as it was amazing to see, the hard part is retaining your diverse employees and the work starts with listening to the challenges your diverse talent faces and trying to solve them. One of the biggest challenges I believe the industry is yet to tackle is the tendency of women to leave the industry for different reasons. One way Jefferies can do this is, using its resource group JWIN to create a safe space for women to voice their opinions on the main challenges they face with Jefferies implementing changes simultaneously so we (Gen-Z) have a better experience. This can be applied to any of your minority groups. Jefferies should be there to listen to their employees and advocate for change on their behalf. I think this pandemic has shown us that this industry is capable of change and flexibility, we just need the right motivation to do so.
The sky is not the limit, your social background is
The popular saying ‘The Sky is the Limit’ means that there is nothing to prevent someone from being successful, but the reality is, for Gen-Z it is harder to get into successful industries without some degree of financial help especially at a young age. Diversity is not limited to ethnicity; it also considers Socio-Economic Status (SES). Research by Steve Strand on Ethnicity, Gender and SES in academic achievement, has found, there is a positive correlation between SES and high academic performance. Students who were not entitled to free school meals were 2 times more likely to do better academically than those who were entitled. Performance at GCSE is translated into A level and eventually determines the level of university attended. Grades are not an absolute determinant of hard work and intelligence, if anything, I believe those from a lower SES have greater motivation to work harder in order to break a generational cycle. However, as they grow older, the effect of inequality starts to manifest in ways such as, not having the right skills for a large corporate job or not ‘academically gifted’ enough because they were not given the right resources to thrive. This means as much as they have the motivation and work hard, they will not be given the opportunity because they don’t meet the final criteria. Jefferies can help by reaching out to students beyond university level to create a mentorship program where employees can volunteer to mentor students from low economic backgrounds, motivate them and be a general source of career help. The mentorship will give the right resources and skills to these students and eventually if they join Jefferies, they will be well equipped to flourish. Furthermore, widening the scope of Jefferies recruitment beyond specific universities or country allows to access a greater diverse audience. Jefferies benefits through, nurturing and training their diverse talent pool early, diversity of thought and allows many young individuals to break out of the poverty cycle, therefore making ‘impossible’ dreams come true.
Money doesn’t buy happiness
The Easterlin Paradox by Richard Easterlin reckons that money matters up to a point and anything beyond does not guarantee happiness. This concept, I believe, resonates with Gen-Z more than any other generation. We currently live in a world where as much as we are so connected through the internet and social media, we are also so disconnected in the way we emotionally connect with each other. This has led to the rise in mental health issues within the younger population. To make Jefferies more appealing to younger employees, there needs to be greater focus on mental health. This could be creating another resource group which focuses on training employees on how to be more conscious of mental health, creating a confidential space for people to talk about their feelings with colleagues and professionals and/or partnership with mental health organizations that can be of help to employees. Many employees have voiced how Jefferies is family, a family supports each other during the good and bad times. It is not enough to be the most profitable bank, you also must be a bank that cares for its employees and the younger generation see and appreciate this. Gen-Z place a bigger weight on Corporate Social Responsibility and actively look out for firms that engage in this. As an industry, we need to be more philanthropic, be more involved in giving back to charities and using our voices to speak up against injustice everywhere in the world.
In conclusion, at first, it was difficult to think about further improvements for the bank because as an extremely diverse individual myself, I have felt extremely welcomed and comfortable. However, there is always more to be done and hopefully, if I join Jefferies next year, I can be a part of the great initiatives Jefferies offers, especially the mentorship program as I benefitted from one.
When I started university, in my first ever test, I got 50%. I started to doubt myself and feared I was not capable of succeeding in the course. I quickly adapted by changing the process of understanding and practicing my course content. By the end of first and second year, I was getting 90%+. Sadly, I learnt everything the hard due to lack of support and guidance. I understood new students would face the same obstacle and would benefit from my help. I decided to then mentor 4 students in this area. I broke my sessions down into 3 stages. The first stage focused on lectures and how to effectively absorb the content, use different resources to understand and making it enjoyable. This stage was the most important as initial understanding prevents repeated learning during exam time. I gave practice work from my course with small tests in the second session. The second and third sessions focused on planning for exams and how to ace it. I really enjoyed this part of volunteering as I love helping others, so it was nice to pass on my knowledge. It also improved my presentation skills as I had to condense few years’ worth of knowledge and deliver that in a clear and concise manner where my mentees can apply it to their academic journey.
I also joined a mentorship website ‘Gradvisor’ whose aim is to bring together students with experience in certain sectors and students who need help getting into them. I offered free CV and cover letter checking to students who wanted to get into investment banking. I did zoom sessions with 3 students, who needed more advice about the interview process and how to excel at assessment centres. They will all be applying to Jefferies in the winter, with one student attending the Jefferies Diversity Symposium on Wednesday 22nd of July. I had a mentor who guided me through my application process, and I knew I could help someone else achieve their goals.
Lastly, I decided to partner up with a Non-Government Organisation in Nigeria called ‘TALKAM’, in a research project to educate Nigerians on issues such as Gender-Based Violence and Rape. According to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2013, approximately 30% of women between the ages 15-30 have experienced some sort of physical and sexual violence. With further research, this was made worse by lack of female education, leading to high dependence on their partners, making it harder to walk away from abusive relationships. I wanted to find a way to help without physically being in Nigeria and I came across the NGO, where I researched on Gender Based Violence. The aim is the educate Nigerians on exactly what GBV is and equip women with information on ways to seek help or navigate the dangerous process of leaving. The research project opened my eyes to a lot of issues facing women in Nigeria and I am in the process of starting a charity which helps sponsor tuition for young girls.
Overall, this volunteering project has motivated me to step outside my comfort zone by reaching out to help others. It has given me more confidence to put myself out there, to undertake more volunteering projects and think of new unique ways to help others, both domestically and internationally.
University of Oxford
My first few weeks as an intern at Jefferies have been greeted by overwhelming optimism and friendliness. These qualities have allowed me to feel at home in an environment so unprecedented and new to all of us.
One of the challenges that young employees face, including myself, is imposter syndrome. Professional life can appear so daunting and out-of-reach in comparison to university. This problem threatens equal opportunity and diversity. Those from lower income backgrounds, people of non-white heritage, and women, face the highest, and most daunting walls.
The real challenge is how such walls can be knocked down. I’m not saying that the path to becoming an analyst should be easy. But instead of walls, we need to think of the application process as an assault course, through which young people can demonstrate their intellectual curiosity, creativity and passion for learning in the best way they can.
The first stage of doing this is spreading our name and reputation. As we all know, the prevalence of social media in the young population can be incredibly valuable for a company like Jefferies. Impressive progress has been made in engaging with our social media audience, such as through equity research videos and podcasts. I believe that there is so much more that can be done within financial services to catalyse the interest of young people. Much of my time choosing a university was spent on YouTube, watching ‘day in the life’ videos from alumni and current students. I believe that initiatives such as this, whereby young associates and analysts create videos on YouTube and other platforms, would spark interest and curiosity from a diverse pool of young adults. This would provide viewers with an honest, relatable and welcoming view of life at work, bringing our culture to reality on social media. Another idea is the use of access platforms or forums that directly connect young applicants with young employees on monitored instant messaging services. This would allow prospective applicants to source answers that perhaps only those from privileged backgrounds already know. These measures enhance the community spirit both within and outside of Jefferies, stimulating engagement from young and diverse audiences.
It is not just young prospective employees that utilize social media. As the investor demographic becomes younger, our clients will turn to social media more and more as a measure of reputability. I truly believe that social media engagement can enhance our professional relationships, providing unique and creative ways of communicating that positively benefit research exposure and client base.
Secondly, the company must ensure that the application process is welcoming and inclusive for everyone. One way that I think this is achieved is focus on personal, rather than material experiences. Much of equity research, and banking more generally, is more of an art than a technical science. I believe that interviews should dwell more on the personal experiences of the individual and their learning experiences, instead of purely on their educational background and work experience. This ensures that those from less affluent circumstances can be judged purely on their ability to think and be inquisitive. This way, Jefferies can not only source a diverse and creative group of individuals, but also employ those that need not be taught about the culture- because their personal experiences already embody it.
All in all, I think that the fundamental objective is to humanize the company. Treating the Jefferies culture and workplace like a living and breathing human leaves it in an ideal position to communicate and interact with young, talented individuals.
Over the last few months, I have made it my priority to help out in ways most suited to my skills and capabilities, in order to assist those in need to the best of my ability.
As an Economics student, I believe that one of the most exciting prospects for the future is how the Economy can stabilise and prosper through innovative virtual methods of work. During lockdown, small businesses and initiatives have had to adapt quickly to the changing nature of communication. This is why I decided to assist in founding the Fight-COVID initiative, an online platform that provides a communication network between small businesses seeking virtual support, and volunteers with professional skills. I assisted the team by seeking businesses to partake in the scheme, as well as contacting newspapers and spreading the word on social media. This project illustrated how valuable the internet and communication platforms are in connecting those in need and those providing it. For more information on the project: https://fightcovid.uk.
I have always enjoyed providing support and resources for younger students in their studies, as it not only helps them progress academically and mentally, but also enhances my own interpersonal skills. Having mentored in the past, I felt I could contribute again in a similar way. My preference for maths led me assist Schools Plus Oxford with writing an Edexcel GCSE Maths textbook. The charity aims to provide learning resources to disadvantaged students in Oxfordshire, tackling educational inequality. Face-to-face education has been largely disrupted in recent times, making the project vital for students to gain back their confidence and succeed in exams. This project has been ongoing for the last 5 weeks, and has involved writing content explanations, practice questions, finding extension resources, and presenting this in a clear and concise manner.
The reopening of retail in June meant that I could use my past retail and hospitality skills to positively benefit my local community. I have spent the last four weeks in Scope Charity Shop, Tonbridge, running the till and sorting through donations. Throughout the Pandemic, I have noticed the profound impact that loneliness and lack of family interaction have had on the older members of the population. As such, I made it my primary aim to provide a compassionate and friendly exchange with customers, the majority of whom are elderly.
With the reopening of retail inevitably fuelling anxiety in the customer base, we made it our top priority when volunteering to ensure safe practice.
What stood out to me in these experiences was the ability to provide support to businesses, the community and society in new ways. Looking to the future, virtual and socially distanced volunteering will play a vital role in providing compassion and support in the fight against uncertainty and economic instability.