Debodun Osekita (Class of 2006)
Debodun Osekita grew up in Peckham and came to the City of London School in the Sixth Form, in 2003. After Warwick University, he worked in finance, firstly as a trader at Goldman Sachs for three years and, most recently, as an Execution Trader for De Putron Fund Management, based in Guernsey.
Can you tell us about your life before you came to City of London School?
I grew up on the North Peckham Estate. It was notorious for having up to five different gangs in operation. Outside school, I was surrounded by crime and people who were up to no good. The guys responsible for killing Damilola Taylor lived next door to me. We were in each other’s houses. We’d go to school together, have dinner, watch TV.
A lot of kids I knew were in social care which seemed worse than growing up in prison from what I heard. It led them to the streets. Once you get your first conviction, you’re trapped. It becomes your way of life.
How come you weren’t sucked in?
I was good at football. People respect you for that. Everyone wants you on their team and you get a kind of immunity from being pressured into joining gangs. And a lot of them knew my family: my dad was a father figure to a lot of kids on the estate. I had a few fights, usually in retaliation to people calling me ‘poor’, but it never really escalated into knives and all this kind of stuff.
What was your family background?
My parents arrived from Nigeria with literally nothing in 1987. They went through the system and got their degrees and they both went into teaching: dad IT, mum science. Education was important to them. We were made to learn our times tables by the age of six. At school, we were miles ahead.
When I was in Year 4, I was moved up a year. I went to secondary school in Peckham aged 10.
How did you end up at City of London for A-levels?
By accident. There were kids in my school who were really trying to get into private schools after GCSEs but I didn’t want to know. I thought I wouldn’t fit in.
So the deadline passed and all those guys had been rejected. But then my teacher called CLS behind my back, suggesting that they give me an interview. Then she called my parents. And then everyone was telling me, ‘Just go to the interview’.
CLS is only one bus from my house, the No 63 and then a walk along the river. It was easy to get to. It had concrete playgrounds. It felt, not like a state school, but at least an inner city school. I liked it straight it away.
As soon as I got there, some guys came up and introduced themselves to me. ‘Hi, nice to meet you.’ And I was immediately like, ‘What’s going on here?’ I wasn’t used to that. That wouldn’t have happened at my old school. You kept your head down there.
But CLS was a friendly environment. I wasn’t used to it but I liked it. I wasn’t going to be looking over my shoulder all the time. It was a breath of fresh air.
I felt it was pie in the sky to think of going there. But Miss Murphy, the deputy head of Sixth Form, spoke to some people behind the scenes and I think for the first time the school was persuaded to give 100 per cent scholarships. When my school found out, they put forward three other guys to have this full scholarship too. They built up this partnership and four guys would come through to CLS every year after that. (I don’t know if it’s still going now).
Who were the teachers at CLS who were influential for you?
Miss Murphy – even though she never taught me a subject, she was very helpful. She made sure I was comfortable and I knew I could go to her about anything. That made a big difference. Also Dr. Pearce, who kept me on my toes in Chemistry. I did get 100 per cent in my GCSE exam – but A-level Chemistry was a big step up!
The quality of all the class teaching opened my eyes. I almost felt like I didn’t need to do homework. I learned so much in class. I was getting it straight away. Even the exam boards they chose… everything was perfect for me.
Did your time at CLS broaden your horizons?
Yes. People at City had friends and relatives in the City. I was mixing with people who were talking about careers I had never heard of. I had thought I could be an accountant or a retail banker… I had no idea that the whole world of investment banking, trading and markets existed.
What extra-curricular things did you enjoy?
Football. I’ve played all my life. I’m playing for the CLS Alumni team now. Apart from that, I was vice captain of the chess team. And squash – I’d never played until I went to CLS: I learned there and I’ve played it everywhere I’ve been since. I had learned the bass trombone at my secondary school and carried on learning that at City, too.
Playing an instrument and reading music opens your mind in the same way chess does. It’s great for any kid.
The thing is, I like to be a jack of many trades and a master of… some.
Joining in the Sixth Form, did you find it easy to make friends at CLS?
I got on well with most people and made a few lifelong friends. People seemed to like and respect me, although I did at times feel a non-malicious air of low expectation from a few, based on where we had come from – which was understandable. My job was to prove my worth to myself and perhaps, subconsciously, to them.
Can you remember your last day of school?
It was 7/7/ July 7 2005! And I missed it. I had an accounting course at Moorgate. I had been on one of the buses that exploded, I think. I’m pretty sure. That day there was a school fair and a competition to see who could do the most keepie-uppies in two minutes. And I knew I would win it if I could get back there after my course.
But I only got back to the school right at the end of the day: I saw my friends but I never got to have a go at the football.
What was your first experience of work?
The summer after I left City, there was a scheme for inner city students to do work experience in the back office of HSBC in Canary Wharf.
The first six weeks I was photocopying. Scanning financial documents like a robot from 9 to 5. I hated it but I did it like I loved it! Six weeks in, my A-level results came out and I was in the Evening Standard. I had got six A grades. Maths. Further Maths. Physics. Chemistry. Economics. Additional Further Maths - that was an AS - so five-and-a-half A grades!
Someone noticed me in the paper and the next day my boss was like, ‘No more photocopying.’ They put me onto Excel and I spent four weeks doing more technical stuff.
Just being in Canary Wharf was a wow factor for me. It was my first experience of an investment bank. I just enjoyed being part of it. They took me to the trading floor for the last two weeks - and I thought ‘Wow - I want to be a part of this.’
I went to University of Warwick to study MORSE – Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics – and did more work experience in my summer holidays. At the end of my third year, I started at Goldman Sachs as a trader. I had -literally - 25 separate interviews before I started.
It’s funny – three of the four of us who went to CLS together started at Goldman Sachs in the same summer. None of us knew the others were there until we bumped into each other. The fourth one did medicine and became a doctor.
What was your most recent job?
I’ve just come back to London from the Channel Islands. I was working for a hedge fund there, trading equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities… It was global: Asian equities, US, Latin America, Europe, emerging markets, Turkey, you name it: we traded everything. I was there for three years.
Why do you enjoy working as a trader?
It brings out the sportsman in you. The adrenalin is always pumping. At Goldman, we’d work 5am to 10pm sometimes - often with boxing classes 5-6am twice a week. That was just the nature of the business. Goldman try to make you do two people’s work and pay you two people’s money or so it felt (money aside).
You need to handle pressure well and I do – maybe because of my upbringing. I have very thick skin. You may have a fantastic money-making idea but when it starts losing money and your heart is pumping, do you have the nerve to stick with it? That’s where people like me come in. I will take your idea and I will trade your idea and that is a skill.
I don’t think I use my degree in maths at all. It’s down to being smart, being sharp. I did pure maths at Uni, stuff that I’ve never used for work. But that stuff taught me how to think. It taught me attention to detail.
Do you go back and talk at your old secondary school?
I go back for open days. They put 200 kids in a room and you sit on a table and you have two minutes to tell your story to two of them at a time. It’s like speed networking.
I tell them you can’t be a doctor if you don’t do well in science. You can’t work in finance if you don’t do well in maths. One thing leads to another. Education is important.
What do you tell them about CLS?
It’s a fantastic opportunity. If you get the chance, go for it. If you want to get that opportunity, work hard for it. If you prepare for the opportunity then sometimes in life you get fortunate. And, in going to CLS, I got very fortunate.
If you get the chance, go for it. If you want to get that opportunity, work hard for it. If you prepare for the opportunity then sometimes in life you get fortunate. And, in going to CLS, I got very fortunate.