Brown shoes could lose you a job in UK banking: Study

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Graduates hoping to score a job in the City of London are being defeated by a set of arcane rules that dictate what color shoes you should wear and how best to tie your tie, a U.K. government study has found.

A new report released Thursday by the Social Mobility Commission, which was set up by the U.K. government in 2010, looked at the unwritten expectations of investment bankers in the United Kingdom.

When discussing dress codes, it finds "relatively opaque" codes of conduct go as far as dictating what color of shoe a British investment banker should wear.

"For men, the wearing of brown shoes with a business suit is generally considered unacceptable by and for British bankers within the investment banking division", the report said.

Authors of the survey, entitled Socio-Economic Diversity in Life Sciences and Investment Banking, heard evidence that exceptions on brown shoes can be made for M&A bankers who hail from continental Europe or some bankers who are sufficiently senior.

One respondent to the survey explained how he was told that despite having a successful interview he wasn't quite "polished" enough for the bank.

"He looked at me and said, 'see that tie you're wearing? It's too loud. You can't wear that tie with the suit that you're wearing'", reads the statement.

The report suggested that dress codes are considered by financiers as important when reassuring clients about the quality of service they will receive.


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Education also appeared to play an enormous role in whether you can land a job at a top investment bank in London.

The data found that universities which are targeted especially often include London School of Economics (LSE), University College London (UCL), Imperial College London, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the University of Warwick.

The report quoted one senior male banker who hadn't attended one of the key colleges said the university criteria was now so important that he would not be confident about leaving and returning to the sector.

"I would be quite confident of not getting back in and I'm pretty good at my job" he said.

In 2014, a separate report by the Sutton Trust referenced by the Social Mobility Commission, examined the educational background of 500 senior bankers and 1,800 new recruits in financial services.

It found that 34 percent of new entrants had attended a fee-paying school, against just 7 per cent of the population. In private equity, some 69 per cent had been to private schools.

The survey also suggested that fitting in was key for those from a lower socioeconomic background who had secured investment banking roles.

One said he had gone as far as to change his accent.

"I felt like my accent was a bit out of place, so I changed it. I changed it. I speak like this now . . . if I can speak properly, it gives no indication of my background whatsoever," the respondent said.

The report says most of the data came from 52 interviews from people including: current or ex-bankers, aspirant bankers from non-privileged backgrounds, university careers advisors and recruitment consultants working within the sector.