You don't have to sell your soul

eFC logo

Investment banking offers a life of international travel, smart suits and hobnobbing at the highest levels. However, it can also appear to have as much social value as a jar of caviar in a refugee camp.

The anti-capitalist protesters who vilify bankers as fat cats and exponents of a shadowy form of globalisation would not choose such a career, and the urge to pursue a career doing good is not confined to the anarchic few.

A survey for the London organisation Business in the Community found that nearly 90% of respondents would like to work for a company supportive of society and the community.

As enthusiasm for working for an ethical company becomes more pervasive, investment banks are reviewing the image they present to potential employees.

Deborah Hamilton Lewin, from the Heart of the City of London programme that coordinates and encourages charitable activities, says: &quotGraduates are increasingly interested in social responsibility and corporate involvement in the community. This is driving City of London firms to be more active in these areas.&quot

As a new analyst you may find yourself, therefore, helping to build new houses in deprived areas, decorating local youth facilities, or helping to teach primary school children to read.

However, banks' efforts to improve the &quotbrand&quot they present to graduates may be misplaced.

The 2001 Universum graduate survey reveals that only 8% of would-be bankers hope to make a personal contribution to society. Having an international career, building a sound financial base, and accomplishing &quotpersonal growth&quot rank far higher on their list of priorities.

In any case, a career in investment banking need not get in the way of a desire to be socially useful - provided that one is patient.

Careers in investment banking have been compared to a kind of Faustian pact: in return for 15 years of youth, you will quite possibly walk away with enough money to enable you to pursue your social ideals to your heart's content.

Philip Beddows at BG Careers, an outplacement firm providing career guidance to bankers who have lost their jobs, says: &quotA number of the people that I see want to get out of the City of London, motivated by the desire to 'give something back'.&quot

Financial wherewithal can make this possible. Simon Cowell, former commodities broker and founder of animal rescue charity Wildlife Aid, says: &quotThe money I made in the City of London meant I was able to finance the charity myself for 10 years.&quot

Nevertheless, the allure of early retirement is not always enough to keep people in financial services. In March, Goldman Sachs lost its senior global economist to Amnesty International.

Another escapee fled to the art world. Andrew Silowitz, who works for the Victoria Miro art gallery, says: &quotI worked on the trading floor for seven years and I used to sit at a desk staring at screens all day and feeling bored.

&quotNow I trade in modern art instead. I'm still selling something, but it is a far more interesting commodity. It's better to have half a City of London salary, but feel as if you've really earned it.&quot

Careers in financial services are not entirely diabolical. A growing number of ethical funds provide an opportunity for graduates to appease their conscience without straying from the finance sector.

Emma Howard Boyd at Jupiter Asset Management, says: &quotWe invest in companies that are minimising their impact on the environment, or that have an environmental product. I am right in the centre of social and environmental issues here.&quot

Graduates applying to work with Howard Boyd tend to have a second degree and a specialism in environmental technology.

But this is not to say that working for an ethical fund is an easy option that will be a possibility for all.

However many people working in financial services argue that their job, whatever its nature, does benefit society as a whole. If you believe that capitalism and globalisation help everyone, then investment bankers are also philanthropists.

Popular job sectors


Search jobs

Search articles