Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ordeal by Exam in My Quest to Rank as a City High-Flyer

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ordeal by Exam in My Quest to Rank as a City High-Flyer

Article excerpt

Byline: ANGUS MCCRONE

TENSE, PENSIVE and pinched faces line the pavement outside the examination hall in Great Portland Street on a fresh spring afternoon.

Snatches of sentences drift in the breeze. "[pounds sterling]100,000 face value," explains one young man to an earnest young woman who is asking a last-minute question about how to hedge a share portfolio using futures.

"My problem is that I can't work these scientific calculators," complains a well-spoken man in his late forties. Nearby, a woman sits under a tree, lighting her last cigarette like a condemned prisoner, while nervously clutching a few handwritten crib sheets.

Soon, all 120 of us file into the examination hall for Investment Management paper two, one of the Securities Institute's exams that are rites of passage for no fewer than 30,000 would-be City high-flyers each year.

We sit down at our desks. All personal belongings - even pencils and calculators - have to be put away at the side of the room. The only reminder of my life outside is the passport I have put on my desk to prove my identity.

Around me, there is not a pinstriped suit or a tie in sight. Leather jackets are the most common garb, and one man even sports an Akubra hat without the corks. What would Montagu Norman, the legendary top-hatted Bank of England Governor from the 1920s, have made of that?

The exam paper lands on my desk. It consists of 100 multiple-choice questions, to be answered in two hours.

I can feel the blood pressure building up in my head, and a vague feeling of panic, as I scan the first question. I have no idea of the answer.

I race through the exam paper, answering those questions I can manage without having to think too hard. A few desks behind me, a swarthy young man is bashing his calculator for all he is worth. I am mystified about which question he might be trying to answer.

To my chagrin, I realise that only one of the 19 formulae I have spent the past three days learning will be needed in this exam. There is no Jensen's alpha, no Sharpe ratio, and no Treynor measure. …

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