22 April

We Can Be talks to Evelyn Partners

We Can Be empowers young women to make informed decisions about their careers via a series of workshops and an annual event. Aiming to introduce the City as a viable career choice, a huge part of the puzzle are the City businesses who open up their offices to the young women every year.

In this blog series, we chat to a previous corporate supporter about what it's like to be part of We Can Be, and why every City business should think about signing up. This month, we hear from Oliver Smye at Evelyn Partners.

Tell us about your involvement with We Can Be?

Social inequality in the UK is a big problem. The UK has the ninth most unequal income distribution of 38 OECD countries (OECD, 2022) and there is a seemingly ever-increasing gap between the richest and the poorest in our society.

One way to tackle this is a greater emphasis on diversity in the workplace. By increasing access to typically high-paying industries like finance, law and technology, we can help people from all backgrounds to have a successful and fulfilling career.

Not only does this make sense from a moral point of view, it also makes business sense as it brings greater diversity of thought to the workplace. This means fresh new ideas and perspectives which in turn can lead to better decision-making and operational business performance.

I became involved with We Can Be in 2021 as I wanted to give my support to help increase diversity in the financial services industry. Our industry has come a long way even in the past decade, with much wider representation across different groups than in previous years. However, it is undeniable that there is a lot more work still to be done, and We Can Be is a great way to be a part of this.

In a job market that is as competitive as it has ever been, work placements, internships and entry level roles are extremely difficult to secure and I have experience of this first hand. When I first took an interest in investment management, I had to build my own network by cold-calling companies to ask for work experience. Unsurprisingly, as I had no existing relationships, nine times out of ten the answer was no.

All too often work experience opportunities go to those who already have connections into the industry, through family, friends or business relationships, meaning that a huge portion of the talent pool is excluded.

For young people who don’t necessarily have a network already in place, We Can Be provides a foot in the door that otherwise may not have been available by helping them find connections and contacts in the industry. This can turn out to be invaluable if they want to enter the industry in the future.

At Evelyn Partners, we are committed to fostering diversity in our organisation and acting as an example to the wider industry. Over the past four years, our involvement in We Can Be has been a great way to achieve this and it is an important aspect of our Inclusion and Diversity activities.

What would you say to other businesses thinking about getting involved in We Can Be? 

I would highly recommend getting involved with We Can Be. It is a unique programme in that you can directly see the benefits on the day as the students grow in confidence and understanding of the industry.

The day itself is also an enjoyable experience as the students are up for a laugh and the activities (from bingo to Dragon’s-Den-style business pitches) are genuinely fun.

Any top tips for future We Can Be participants? 

  • Get engagement from within your company and try to get buy-in from senior members of staff – this really helps to drive the message home.
  • Be flexible on the day – you never know which activities will take a bit more or less time than you thought.
  • Enjoy it – the students will be a lot more relaxed if you are having fun as well!

Tell us about your career journey? 

After a fascinating degree in Geography and Geology, I realised that the environmental sector was not the place for me, and after a lot of thought I decided to focus on my main interest outside of my degree studies which was investing and financial markets.

I started out at a sustainable investment firm in Manchester which was a fantastic opportunity to learn the ropes before moving to London to start my current role at one of the largest wealth managers in the UK.

Over my five years at the firm I’ve completed various exams and I’m now an Investment Manager, managing our clients’ savings and investments to help them achieve their long term financial goals.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about starting a career? 

  • Don’t be scared to ask for help - people generally want to help. Whether that means messaging someone on LinkedIn or cold-calling a firm to ask for work experience, the worst they can say is no!
  • Networking isn’t as scary as you think – speaking to strangers can be daunting to begin with but attending networking events from an early stage can really help to build contacts in your industry of choice. You will soon get the hang of it.
  • Be patient – applying for jobs can be a long and sometimes demotivating experience so be kind to yourself, try to learn from any setbacks, and focus on your long-term plan.

Find out more about We Can Be here

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