Young Univ Stories: Anne Ross
When deciding on my subject choices for Sixth Form, I focused on what I enjoyed most. This turned out to be a mixture of subjects with more writing (History and French) and more numerical based (Maths, Further Maths and Chemistry). For my degree, I decided that I wanted to continue with this blend but with a practical angle. Given this and my interest in current affairs, PPE had a natural appeal. Oxford, with its pre-eminent reputation in PPE was a clear first choice.
I went on an outreach summer school at Pembroke and really enjoyed the motivated learning environment coupled with the beauty of the city (even in the frequent drizzle). I quickly narrowed down my college preference to Univ – somewhere with a strong PPE focus, central location, option to live in college for the first 2 years and a non-auditioning choir. In my usual fashion, I prepared as much as I could ahead of the interview despite the general assumption that an Oxford interview is a case of “expect the unexpected”.
I still remember arriving in the lodge at Univ and going to the JCR president’s room to pick up my intro pack. The days then became a bit of a blur. There were definitely nerves but I remember enjoying the discussions with tutors in the interviews: discussing the fairest way of cutting up a cake sticks in my mind the most… I am also still friends with people I met over these few days, and my room in the bottom of Durham Buildings (DB) became a hangout for our few days. When the envelope later came through the letterbox, I could hardly bear to open it. I was delighted when I read the covering letter, confirming my place at Univ.
I learnt a lot during my time as an undergraduate. Clearly studying plays a massive part of your time at Oxford but there is so much more to university life. The friends I made and experiences we had together will remain with me. There are so many fun memories – creative bop costumes, coxing a beer boat for Summer Eights, the “bubble political intrigues” of the Oxford Union where I was Returning Officer for a term, holi celebrations and the balls amongst others. I was very grateful to have all the books you could ever have (and more) so readily to hand – Univ, SSL, Oxford Union and, of course, the Bod. My memories of tutorials and lectures span from jumping gazelles (Economics with Sujoy Mukerji) to buttercup the cow (Philosophy with Frank Arntzenius) to grappling with British constitutional questions (Politics with Vernon Bogdanor).
I did not pick finance focused modules, instead focusing on Public Policy, Development Economics and Macro in Economics, for example. However, I wanted a career where current events and developments in the real world mattered and where I could work alongside smart, motivated people. I went to plenty of campus recruitment events (the pens and squishy stress balls came in handy) and started to hone in on Investment Banking. Even once I had narrowed it down this far, there are so many different potential teams (unhelpfully the same teams are often called different things on company websites) and a multitude of different institutions you could join. Over my first two years at Oxford, I attended lots of insight programs, dinners and other events to try to get a better feel for the area, not having any previous personal experience. I did an internship in my penultimate year and in the area that was most appealing to me – Equity Capital Markets. The fact that you need to keep up with what is happening in markets real time, whilst also being able to work on longer term projects are what I enjoy the most. I spent around seven years covering the UK market and then broadened this to also include Sub-Saharan Africa (mainly South Africa) as we continued to grow our business there. My aim has always been to ensure I enjoy what I do and understand the purpose of doing it, which has been especially important given the long hours that are required. I have also looked to make sure I have kept learning, taking the opportunity to do a rotation into a sector team and the, for the last two years, moving to have more of a direct focus on markets and investors in the EMEA Equity Syndicate team.
An element of my job that I like is the fact that, although you may have similar deal structures at a high level, for example, an Initial Public Offering, no one company, management team, investor base or market backdrop will ever be the same so you will always face new challenges. When I started my career, we were still in the process of recovering from the financial crisis but this in itself had presented a range of opportunities. Being there to support clients has always been a core focus so, back in 2011, there were plenty of refinancing deals where we raised equity for companies. This is a theme which has returned during the recent COVID pandemic which was certainly not something that was anticipated at the start of 2020! On the back of this, it has been heartening to find some silver linings and also be able to raise equity for companies who have seen great growth opportunities.
Pre-lockdown, I was used to having four screens, including one specifically for my Bloomberg terminal, and a dealerboard in the office. Shifting to working from home, initially on a laptop plus iPad and a mobile phone required a bit of getting used to and, indeed, I am not sure I was initially convinced it was even possible. Adapting our communication techniques was also a key area we had to move quickly on – being able to pop over to peoples’ desk, jump on phone calls by picking up a line flashing on your dealerboard or making a dash down to the Sales and Trading floor to hand out brief sheets following the launch of a deal were things we just haven’t been able to do. Technology has clearly made a huge difference but when lockdown initially eased, being able to go back into the office, albeit far more spaced out, was a clear reminder of the benefit of being amongst your team and seeing clients in person in a relationship-based industry.
Anne Ross (2007, BA PPE) is an Executive Director in the EMEA Equity Syndicate team at J.P. Morgan, having started in the UK and SSA Equity Capital Markets team after graduating. Prior to Univ, she attended Lady Margaret School in London.
Published: 11 May 2021