UCL Alumni


Alumni stories: Making it count with Clairmonte Bourne

How the Clairmonte E Bourne Bursary for UCL students is changing the landscape of the law profession.

UCL alumnus and scholarship provider Clairmonte Bourne

11 May 2021

With more than 30 years in key roles at influential institutions, Clairmonte Bourne (LLB Law 1989) is a name that’s recognised throughout the financial services sector. What many don’t know, however, is that finance wasn’t in Clairmonte’s early career plan – he initially set out to become a lawyer, studying an LLB in Law at UCL.

Despite his change of direction, Clairmonte is still passionate about law, and has kept his links with UCL alive by generously funding a bursary for students from underrepresented backgrounds. He says: “I think the best way for people to succeed to the best of their ability is to actually have that exposure to the highest standard of education for whatever it is that they want to learn. I think it's a shame if the financial aspect is a barrier to those people.” 

From the West Indies to UCL

Clairmonte was born in London, but when he was a baby, his family moved to the West Indies. It was always in his plan to study law, so when the time came to look for the right university, his academic father guided him to a few institutions where he would thrive.

He says: “It was a slightly peculiar way of choosing UCL. Sitting in Trinidad, I couldn’t nip and have a visit, so you have no picture in your mind. I'd been in England many times before but I had no idea what UCL was like.”

Having moved from a country of one million people to a city with eight times that population, university life could have been daunting for Clairmonte, but he found UCL to be the perfect fit. “UCL has a really good vibe in terms of its international feel,” he says. “It’s a nice blend of people from different backgrounds, and when I look at the long-term friendships I’ve made from my time there, we're an eclectic bunch. People who'd come from all over the world and just happened to be at the same university.”

Despite having aspired to go into traditional law, after he completed his degree Clairmonte’s eyes were opened instead to the crossover of law and finance. He says: “I like numbers, and lots of lawyers don't understand numbers, it's a different dynamic. One of my courses was revenue law, and I thought ‘I actually quite like this’. It was a much easier concept for me than things like European law.” 

Investing in the future

After graduation, Clairmonte quickly built a career in the finance industry. Initially joining what was then Price Waterhouse as a tax advisor, he spent nine years in London, with a stint in Washington DC. He then went into banking, joining ING then Credit Suisse as an investment banker for more than 17 years. Clairmonte is now a Portfolio Manager at RiverRock European Capital Partners.

During his time at Credit Suisse, Clairmonte was contacted by UCL to see whether he’d be interested in supporting the next generation of law students. In 2010, the Clairmonte E Bourne Bursary was established.

He says: “It's possible to make a big difference to a person by removing one enormous hurdle in their mind: the financial costs of going to university.”

Clairmonte also believes it’s time for “greater representation in the magic circle” of the law profession, and seeks to use the bursary to further this cause. “There are loads of studies that show that diversity in a team, which doesn't just have to mean ethnicity, it can be gender or different socioeconomic backgrounds, leads to much more creative thinking,” he says.

“If you all come from the same background, then you don't challenge each other. You can be very good in terms of what you know, but there's no breadth in the range of thinking and therefore you don't necessarily come to the best answer.”

The bursary has been the starting point of numerous success stories, removing the financial barriers for students from a huge range of backgrounds. To date, five new students have joined UCL because of Clairmonte’s investment in their futures. 

Changing the game

For others considering support for UCL, Clairmonte believes that there’s a very clear link between the contribution you make and an individual’s development, but the knock-on effect can be even more influential. “Some of the recipients have siblings or friends who now know someone who's gone to university,” he says. “Wouldn't that be a great thing if they went too? At least they know that it's not out of reach.”

He adds: “And it's not just throwing money out there and hoping for the best – you are sponsoring somebody who is considered to be very capable, but the only thing that is holding them back is the financial side.

“Over the three-year period, you see the students grow massively. It’s that natural growth you get as individuals when you're somewhere like UCL, surrounded by different people from different backgrounds. That’s the most immediate and rewarding thing for me: you really can have a positive impact on a person's life.” 

Inspired by Clairmonte?

If you've been inspired by Clairmonte's story, you can learn more about providing scholarships and bursaries at UCL at ucl.ac.uk/advancement