As part of its broader diversity and inclusion initiative, StepStone will host a quarterly Scholar Program with each asset class “sponsoring” one quarter. Held in our London office, the day‐long forum gives young people from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to learn about private markets, meet industry insiders, and more importantly, see that anyone can pursue a career in finance if they so choose. Our inaugural event was held on 18 April 2019.
To develop the program, StepStone worked with Making the Leap (MTL), a London-based charity that has coached and mentored disadvantaged young people since 1993. “Too many people, not just in the UK but around the world, do not get the chance to succeed simply because they are born poor,” stated Tunde Banjoko OBE, MTL’s founder. “While several groups focus on providing access, we emphasize the ‘essential skills’ – things like determination, self-esteem, and poise – that anyone can harness, but that people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to possess.”
Seventy percent of the fellows who complete MTL’s soft-skills workshop achieve career opportunities within six months of graduating, according to the group’s website.
Making the Leap StepStone Scholar Program is an extension of the workshop. Not only does it reinforce MTL’s commitment to essential skills, but it provides MTL fellows with hands-on experience:
- Alex Blum, Thomas Dupont, Alex Napier, Akhilan Nesaratnam, and Panos Tegos, members of StepStone’s Private Equity team, taught them how to build cash-flow models;
- Robert Evans and Antonia Henbest from the Business Development team helped them improve their presentation skills;
- Erin Sarret, a director in StepStone’s London office, gave the same lecture on private equity as when she guest tutors MBA/EMBA students at Oxford’s Saïd Business School; and
- Marie Drago, founder of probiotic skincare company Gallinée, and Pete Flynn, founder of placement agent Candela Capital, taught them the art of the sales pitch.
“We wanted to put them in our shoes for a day,” said StepStone Partner and Head of Europe David Jeffrey. “Private equity has a mystique that can be intimidating, but by peeling back the layers we wanted them to see that there’s nothing magical about what we do – that with the right attitude, work ethic and training, anyone can work in private markets.”
Prior to the event, the fellows were told to come up with an idea for a business, which they would then present to a mock investment committee. Working in teams of three or four, they came up with plans to improve education or make the hiring process more efficient. Shampa Bell, who organized the event said, “We were so impressed! Not only did these kids show us they could apply the day’s lessons, but the fact that their ideas focused on helping people not unlike themselves showed empathy and true grit.”
Strength of character is one of the pillars of MTL’s workshop. The fellows are taught to have confidence in themselves and to let their personalities shine through, even in stressful situations like job interviews or public speaking. During his team’s presentation, Abdi Barre, showed that he could maintain his sense of humor, cracking a joke about age and social media preferences. “My mentors at MTL always remind me that our personalities are what set us apart. We may all look the same on paper, but if I get the chance to make an impression on you, to show you a bit of who I am, that can help me stand out from the crowd.”
Tunde said, “It was a fantastic day, and StepStone created a unique and enriching experience for the Scholars.”
StepStone is proud to work with Making the Leap, a London-based charity that improves social mobility by raising the aspirations of, and increasing opportunities for, young people between the ages of 11 and 25. To learn how you can make a difference, visit https://makingtheleap.org.uk.
For more information about Making the Leap StepStone Scholar Program, please contact Shampa Bell.