Alice joined The Blue Coat School in the Sixth Form. After graduating from Oxford University with a first class honours degree in Economics and Management and Cambridge University with an MPhil in Economics, followed by some time spent travelling and learning Mandarin, Alice now works as a fixed income strategist in London.
How would you describe your time at The Blue Coat School?
I have very fond memories of my two years at the Blue Coat sixth form. When I started at the Blue Coat in September 2000, I was really impressed with how talented, ambitious and yet down to earth the majority of my class mates were. It was a big change from my previous comprehensive high school, and I definitely found it motivating to be around other kids who wanted to work hard and do well.
I also remember feeling really grateful that the teachers at the Blue Coat put so much energy into teaching and developing us. There was always one teacher or another giving up their spare time to help us, whether it was via the wide range of extracurricular activities available, putting on extra classes after school to teach us additional subject material, or even agreeing to review our university personal statements at the weekend!
Of course, I also made some great friends at the Blue Coat, most of whom I’m still in contact with.
How did your experience at the School prepare you for your career?
The fantastic teaching and additional support and preparation I received at the Blue Coat definitely played a major role in me getting into Oxford University to study Chemistry, and this subsequently opened up a huge range of doors to me career-wise. I was also Deputy Head of School in Year 13, which allowed me to gain some early leadership experience.
What has been your path since leaving?
After a year studying Chemistry at Oxford, I decided to change course to Economics and Management. Following three more years of study I left Oxford with a first class honours degree. I had always enjoyed maths at Blue Coat, and really liked my university courses in economics, so I decided finance would be an exciting career path (this was not an unusual conclusion back in the mid-2000s when finance was booming!). After a successful summer internship at Goldman Sachs in London I went to work there full time as an investment banking analyst in UK Mergers and Acquisitions. I actually found the work very interesting, however the lifestyle was punishing; sometimes I had to work 80 or even 100 hours a week! After the financial crisis hit I decided to take a break. I quit in early 2009, went travelling for a few months (I hadn’t taken a gap year, unlike many of my class mates at Oxford) then went to Cambridge University to top up my academic studies with an MPhil in Economics. After a bit more travelling including a stint learning Mandarin in China, I returned to London in early 2011 and began working in asset management – another interesting area of finance but one with much more sociable working hours.
What do you do now?
I still work in London, now at an asset management firm called Schroders, based near St Paul’s Cathedral. I’m a fixed income strategist in Schroders’ global bond team, which basically means I do economic, political and investment research for our team’s portfolio managers to help them decide where to invest the money that they manage. For the last few years I’ve been covering the large emerging market economies. Learning about their different economic and political systems has been fascinating and there is rarely a dull moment covering countries like China, India and Brazil! I sometimes get to travel to the countries I cover, but most of my time is spent in London trying to come up with successful investment ideas in government bonds and currencies.
What would be your advice to students today?
While exam success undoubtedly plays a crucial role in securing a place at university and your first job, from there onwards having strong softer skills becomes increasingly important in business. It’s not too early to start working on skills such as leadership, teamwork and persuading others. Use any opportunity you can to practise debating, giving presentations, and networking with new people!