Lawrence Anfo-Whyte (Class of 2008)

Lawrence Anfo-Whyte grew up in Hackney and came to CLS on a bursary as an 11-year-old in 2001. He went on to be captain of the CLS football team and to study at the Ivy League University, Dartmouth College. Now 28, he works for JP Morgan in London and says that winning a place at CLS changed his life.

How did you come to be a pupil at City of London School?

I was born and raised in Hackney – Dalston. It was a pretty rough neighbourhood. Maybe it has come up a little bit since the Olympics, but East London can still be a bit hit-or-miss. I went to a normal Church of England primary school just opposite my house.

My mum is a teacher herself so she was super keen that I get into a good school. She ran into a friend who had seen the advert for bursaries to City. We had never heard of City of London School before. The deadline was the next day so my mum spent 24 hours researching it and putting the application together. I vaguely remember the exams and the interview: I remember saying that the person I would most like to meet was Nelson Mandela.

Getting into the school was probably the biggest single life-altering thing that has happened to me.

Did the bursary have benefits beyond the financial side?

Yes, there was a mentoring aspect too. The donor was an alumnus of the School who had received a scholarship himself. By sponsoring someone else to go through the School, he was repaying a favour, as he saw it.

I would meet up with him regularly to talk about my progress and I benefited from that. For instance, he had studied at Cambridge after leaving CLS – for the 11-year-old me to hear someone like that talk about his own experiences broadened my horizons; it helped me see what might be possible.

Knowing the kind of opportunities that are out there can be half the battle, I think, when you come from a background like mine.

Can you remember your first day at CLS?

Not really but I do remember how big the blazers were on us! Other than that, from my early years I just remember being amazed by all the stuff going on in the school – all the technology. And I remember going to Grove Park for my first time, seeing the great facilities there. I couldn’t believe it. I told all my friends about it.

Did you have any nerves, coming from a non-private school background?

I don’t remember any issues. All the City boys and teachers were very welcoming. People’s different backgrounds were never really mentioned.

Early on, I was probably closest to other boys I knew who were on bursaries – our parents were closer and we all came from the same areas: me and my friends Ronnie and Jacob all travelled in from east London. But as we got older, like any school, my friends became based around my interests. I’m still friends with a lot of them.

 

Which extra-curricular activities did you enjoy?

A bit of everything: I was captain and centre-forward in the football team; I played basketball; I played water polo, not very well. I did judo and won some regional championships and then I was heavily involved in the Debating Society and the Politics Society.

I wanted to do everything. I knew I had more opportunities than I might have had at a school in Hackney. In Politics Society, we had incredible speakers coming in. George Galloway was an interesting one; David Davis; Vince Cable; and we went to see Boris Johnson speak, just as he was starting to run to be Mayor of London.

We travelled to competitions all over the country with Debating Society and we ended up going to South Africa to compete in an international Model UN competition.

South Africa was an amazing experience. We had the chance to spend time on Freedom Island. As an exercise, they locked us up for an hour and a half with no phones! It felt like we had been there 24 hours, but it was a very brief glimpse into what Nelson Mandela had been through. And we had a talk from a political prisoner who had spent a similar time to Mandela in jail – it was fascinating, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What is your best memory of school football?

My final game for City was a Cup final. We were leading 3-1 with seven or eight minutes to go, but managed to lose 5-3 in injury time!

The journey had been incredible, though. In football, my year were really bad for the first two years. We would get beaten 6-0, 7-0 every other week. But we stuck with it and got better and by the end we were a pretty good team. So, to get to a final, even though we lost like that, was great. Even though I mostly play rugby, I still run the Old Cits football team.

Which teachers inspired you?

Mr Bracken and Mr McBroom were two who helped me realise that politics was my passion. They were History and Politics teachers. Mr Griffin, Mr Keates and Miss Bennet were also amongst my favourite teachers; Mr Tolhurst and Miss Murphy who didn’t actually teach me, but whom I had so many interactions with were huge in helping/guiding me when I was perhaps a bit troublesome in my earlier years. They are always names that I remember and am always thankful to. I was always close to all the sports staff. Mr Cornwall, Mr Kerr, Mr Smith, Mr Silcott...

What was your first experience of work?

The summer after I left school, I worked with one of my school friends in his dad’s office. The company was selling space in malls across Southeast Asia. It was a good first foray into the world of work, learning that you have to get up every morning and make some money – though I realised that sales was not going to be for me.

How did you decide to go to University in America?

One of the boys who joined City when I was in 6th form was Jacob Portes who was American. He told me there were real opportunities for scholarships and bursaries at US Universities, even for an English applicant. After that, I started looking into it.

I was drawn to the breadth of education there: in American universities, you take a range of subjects before deciding on your ‘major’– it was a wider approach than the system we have here, with lots of extra-curricular stuff too.

I had to do exams in my year out, write essays and applications. I went back into school all the time, speaking my teachers through what they had to do – reports and references on me.

At the end of it all, I had the opportunity to go to Dartmouth on another bursary.

What did you major in?

What they call ’Government’ – we’d say politics. I had always been interested in American politics and I got to see the 2012 election campaign close up: I worked for the University radio station and spent a lot of time interviewing candidates and insiders in the primary race – New Hampshire happened to be one of the key battlegrounds in Presidential politics.

I also started playing rugby out there, which has become a huge part of my life. I spent five years out there. It was a huge adventure, a big part of my life and I still go out there a lot now, visiting friends, going to weddings.

What did you do after graduation?

I moved to San Fran, working at a start-up, a 35-employee company producing bespoke digital prints and gifts – something like Snapfish. Another incredible experience. Living in San Francisco was one of the best years of my life.

After that, I came home and worked as a paralegal at a law firm, contemplating doing a law degree and becoming a lawyer, before opting against. I did that for two-and-a-bit years and after that I came to JP Morgan.

What does your current job involve?

I work for the project management team at JP Morgan. We lead all projects involved in global taxation for the firm. So that’s big ticket items such as CRS [Common Reporting Standard] and [US tax law] FATCA [Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act] which relate to the worldwide exchange of information between banks and tax authorities. I help sift through the legal aspects and make sure we are abiding by all those regulations.

What do you like about your job?

Dealing with people. In my previous roles, it’s been a lot more data focused, analysing data and passing it along, whereas this role involves me having to convince people of what I think is the best course of action. It is all based on analysing and understanding policy and regulations, which I have always found interesting and even read about in my own time.

How would you sum up your experience of CLS?

I honestly believe it changed my life. It broadened my horizons but more generally, whatever your background, it’s a very egalitarian place where you learn to deal with people for who they are; there’s a good mix of people that maybe some other private schools don’t have – so it prepares City boys to deal with the world out there.

I’ve been all over the world and all the opportunities I’ve had, I think, have been as a result of going to City. It’s an incredible school and its scheme of bursaries and scholarships is one of its greatest assets. The people who support the scholarships are changing kids’ lives.

Getting into the school was probably the biggest single life-altering thing that has happened to me.