THE LIFE-CHANGING POWER OF MENTORSHIP
Quintin Price - Strategic, Governance & Investment Expert
In 2013, Reggie Nelson, a seventeen-year-old young Black man, was living on a council estate in London’s East End with his mother and sister. Sadly, his father had died the previous year following a struggle with alcoholism. As Reggie sat pondering how he might improve his lot in life, comedian and actress Joan Rivers appeared on the television presenting her reality show How’d You Get So Rich? in which she travelled around the United States interviewing self-made millionaires and billionaires, asking them how they had acquired their wealth.
Taken by Joan’s example, Reggie decided to follow suit. He googled richest area in the UK and hopped on the Docklands Light Railway, then on the Underground, eventually arriving at Gloucester Road Tube Station in the middle of London’s Kensington and Chelsea area. As he left the station, he stopped random passers-by and asked them how they had come to live there. What skills and qualities did they have that had led to them becoming so wealthy? He wanted to understand their secrets to success so that he could reproduce them himself. Not surprisingly, most people ignored him, some suggested that he study hard, while one gave him £40 for his “initiative”. So, Reggie turned to knocking on the front doors of houses nearby in the hope of receiving a more sympathetic response. Many of the doors of those four-storey houses were opened by servants who explained that the owners weren’t available. Nonetheless, Reggie persisted and worked his way along a row of houses.
Meeting Reggie opened my eyes to the needs of thousands of hard-working, dedicated and purposeful young people who simply want an opportunity to prove their worth.
When Reggie eventually rang on the intercom of our house, he met my wife Elizabeth. “Hello, my name is Reggie”, he said. “I’m from the East End and I would like to know how you ended up in a house like this”. Struck by his courage and boldness, Elizabeth asked if he would like to come in to discuss his question further. Reggie accepted and as we sat down, Elizabeth asked about his background and what had prompted his question.
As Reggie recounted his story to us, we were utterly captivated by his sense of purpose and his complete lack of self-pity or victimhood, despite very difficult personal circumstances. At the time I was the Global Head of Alpha Strategies at BlackRock, and so I asked if he would like a day’s work experience at the asset management firm, which he eagerly accepted.
A couple of weeks later Reggie duly arrived at BlackRock for an insight day, dressed in a suit and looking very professional. I met him at the end of the day and asked how he had found his experience. He was bubbling with enthusiasm. Feedback from everyone Reggie had met at the company was outstanding; many commented on his energy, determination, good sense of humour and excellent manners. As a consequence of positive feelings on both sides, I arranged for Reggie to return for a further week’s experience during the school holidays. This visit went even better and Reggie asked me how he might one day get a job in the financial services industry. I explained that the sorts of jobs he had seen all required a university degree and asked if going to university was in his plans. Reggie explained that until that point he hadn’t contemplated going to university or particularly focussed on academics for that matter. But now, he was determined to do so.
I asked to meet Reggie’s mother to ensure we had her agreement (she was delighted) and with some guidance from my wife and I, Reggie started searching for a place on a suitable university course. Eventually he was accepted at Kingston University to read Economics. During his time there, I stayed in touch with him and continued to act as a mentor. Meanwhile, Reggie came and worked at BlackRock for a further summer and also completed internships at a series of other financial services firms in order to broaden his knowledge-base and perspective of the industry.
Reggie has returned the mentoring and guidance given to him to others multiplied many-fold
By the time he had graduated with a 2.1 in his degree (only narrowly missing out on a first), Reggie had already secured a job with Funding Circle, the recently floated peer-to-peer lending business. After a year there, feeling more confident and hungrier than ever for greater stretch assignments, he applied to, and was accepted at, Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) where he now works as a Fiduciary Management Analyst. He is mixing with people from all of the top universities and flourishing in the inclusive culture of LGIM. Reggie has since returned the mentoring and guidance given to him to others multiplied many-fold, having delivered a TEDx talk on The Power of Mentoring, by visiting schools and universities to inspire others from challenging backgrounds, and having founded the social mobility enterprise K3D. He has even worked with the Cabinet Office on addressing ethnic inequalities in the workplace and interviewed Prime Minister Theresa May on the same topic. He continues to inspire all those he meets with his enthusiasm, energy and belief that by taking the initiative while looking through any setbacks, almost anyone can make a better life for themselves.
As for me, meeting Reggie opened my eyes to the needs of thousands of hard-working, dedicated and purposeful young people who simply want an opportunity to prove their worth. I realised through him the positive influence I can have on the lives of others and now speak regularly at outreach events, initiatives for ethnic minorities and other conferences to help inspire those I meet to follow Reggie’s initiative.