10 things you didn't know about the City

Keely Lockhart busts some myths and shares some secrets about the Square Mile

The City of London may be small, but it’s mighty. Every part of our lives is affected by what goes on in its 1.12 square miles (to be exact). For students interested in the world of business and finance, here are a few scraps of knowledge to impress your friends.

You don’t have to be good at numbers to work here

Shock! Good business is built upon strong relationships and that’s why City employers are extra keen to recruit graduates with excellent communication and interpersonal skills. If a mathematical job in banking doesn’t float your boat then you can always try the other roles on offer in banking, enter financial journalism, or train as a City lawyer. Or you can be a high flyer in other ways – as window cleaner for the Gherkin, perhaps?

It’s not all champagne and cigars

Don’t expect to be a millionaire overnight. There’s no denying that you’ll earn more working in the City than your fellow graduates (the average graduate starting salary is over £25,000 a year) and there are other great perks. However City workers often work long days, have to sacrifice some of their social life, and face intense stress.

There’s no place like it

Alright, maybe that’s taking things a bit too far, but the City of London is unique because it’s the only London borough where workers outnumber residents. If you were to ask all 382,700 City employees to go home, only 7,000 who actually live in the Square Mile would remain.

It’s not all white men in pinstriped suits and bowler hats

Recent figures suggest that ethnic minorities now make up almost 16 per cent of new employees in the City, while women account for 43 per cent of the workforce. That’s a step in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go!

It’s not always about money

Believe it or not, the City of London Corporation, which manages the Square Mile, is one of the most significant art sponsors in the UK – every year the corporation exhibits sculpture from leading artists like Antony Gormley, dotting it all around the Square Mile. Meanwhile, some of the City’s business and financial institutions have exceptional art collections (think Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor).

It’s a fishy business

Financial news and data organisation Bloomberg is well-known for its trading terminals, but many people are bemused by its obsession with fish tanks. When Michael Bloomberg first set up the company, every employee was given one for their desk because he thought they’d have a calming effect.

Greed is not so good here

The big boys care, too. Many City firms participate in philanthropy of some kind, and employees are regularly encouraged to get directly involved with their work in these areas.

The City’s fearful symmetry

After the Great Fire of 1666, Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt the City of London. It’s rumoured that his blueprints for the City’s design were influenced by Kabbalah (the reinterpretation of the Bible using codes). It’s a fact that if you walk 2,000 cubits (about 900 metres) west from St Paul’s you’ll reach Temple Bar, and 2,000 cubits to the east you’ll reach St Dunstan-in-the-East. Was Wren trying to channel the powers of heaven to fuel the City’s power and wealth? Or was it all just about architectural aesthetics?

Until recently, there were no roads in the City

There were lots of names ending in 'street', 'lane' or 'court', but no 'roads' until 1994 , when boundary changes forced a section of Goswell Road to become part of the City of London.

Next time you have a coffee break, think about this

One of the City’s most important financial markets, the London Stock Exchange, was founded in a coffee shop. After being kicked out of the Royal Exchange for being too rowdy, 17th century market traders met in Jonathan’s Coffee House to exchange stocks and commodities.

Keely Lockhart is assistant editor at The Gateway, the business and careers newspaper for students. You can follow The Gateway on Twitter @GatewayOnline

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