A determined teenager door-knocked his way to a top job in the City by googling “richest area in London” and then asking residents how they did it.
Reggie Nelson dreamed of a university education, top job and the wealth to go with it – but had no idea how to achieve it.
He was born and raised on a council estate – by a single-mum after his father died – had been excluded from school and was already having run-ins with the law.
But after watching an episode of How’d You Get So Rich – a US TV show where the late Joan Rivers meets a selection of wealthy Americans – he came up with a brazen plan.
He googled “richest area in London” and found Gloucester Road in Kensington and Chelsea – so went there armed with a smile and a preprepared speech.
He knocked on doors and asked: “I just wanted to know what skills and qualities you had that allowed you to live in a wealthy area like this, so I can extrapolate that and use it for myself.”
Impressed residents bestowed advice on the then 18-year-old about work experience and working hard at college.
After hours of knocking, he was invited in for a cuppa by Elizabeth Price, the wife of Quintin Price, a senior executive at investment management firm BlackRock.
The impressed head of alpha strategies invited him to the office for the day – eventually getting him work experience, a mentor and ultimately a place at university.
Four internships and a degree later, he now has his dream job in investment management in the heart of the City – a far cry from the teenager’s previous life.
Mr Nelson, now 22, said: “I was still in college at the time thinking, ‘How can I do something different? What can I do different enough for me to see results, that no one else will think of doing?
“I had the idea for a few weeks but it took me a while to muscle up the courage to get out and do it.
“When I got off the Tube at Gloucester Road I just saw all these expensive cars – Aston Martins and Mercedes lining the streets.
“Everywhere you looked just looked like money.
“I rehearsed this pitch ready for when the door opened. And it worked.”
Born and raised on a council estate in north Woolwich, east London, Mr Nelson said his dad was not around to give him advice or act as a role model.
He was excluded from school aged 14, had brushes with the law and knew he was in danger of going down the wrong path.
A friend invited him to church and he heard the pastor say: “You need to come out of your comfort zone in order to see things happen.”
That night at home Mr Nelson saw the programme that inspired him to head to Gloucester Road. Dressed in jeans, black Nike trainers, a claret jumper and a jacket, Mr Nelson spent an entire day knocking on the front doors of some of the UK’s richest individuals.
Recalling the day, he said: “A lot of them told me to study hard and do some work experience. It was all pretty generic but I appreciated them taking the time out to speak to me.”
Hours after repeating the same phrase Mr Nelson finally got a break when Elizabeth Price invited him into her house.
Sitting down for a cup of tea, Mr Nelson was introduced to her husband Quintin who invited him to the Undergraduate Insight day at the company in central London.
“I got there ridiculously early – like an hour early – as I wanted to make a good impression,” he said.
“It was interesting I was meeting guys from Oxbridge, LSE and Warwick – it wasn’t until speaking to them that I found out you could get A*s at A-levels!”
He added: “The insight day was funny – a lot of people were confused as to why I was there because I was still in college at the time.
“I then realised I was the youngest person there and that’s when my mindset altered and I realised something could really come of this.”
Mr Nelson emailed Mr Price asking for work experience and was provided with a week-long internship in the London office working with the fundamental equities team.
Mr Price also assigned Mr Nelson a mentor from BlackRock’s London office and told him if he wanted to work in finance, he should consider going to university.
“He sat down with me and my mum and told us it was my best shot of getting into the financial services,” said Mr Nelson.
“Before I didn’t even consider university – it wasn’t a viable option.
“I hadn’t even applied to UCAS and it was nearing the end of the academic year.
“I was hungry to succeed and didn’t want to be held back.”
Applying through clearing in 2014, Mr Nelson landed a place at Kingston University to read economics with Mandarin.
During his degree he completed four internships beginning with a spring internship at BlackRock in April 2015 followed by an internship at Armstrong Investment Managers the following month.
He also won a month’s internship at Aberdeen Standard Investments before securing another eight-week summer analyst position at BlackRock in 2016.
He graduated with a 2:1 the following summer with his mum beaming with pride at his graduation.
It helped him land a job as an institutional client service analyst at Legal & General Investment Management in the City of London in April.
In his spare time, Mr Nelson mentors young teenagers at Victory Youth Group in London – the very place he was inspired to take the leap into the corporate world.
He said: “I’m keen on encouraging young black people to enter financial services.
“Even on my internship 9,000 applied, 115 got it and three of those were black.
“I just want to keep going and see where my determination takes me.
“Hopefully it will be me with one of those houses in Gloucester Road.”
He added: “For anyone in a similar position to mine I would say embrace the rejection for it could be the making of you.
“And knock on the right doors and work hard.”