Sep 27, 2022

Finding Virtue in the Finance Industry

  • By Andrew T.,
Finding Virtue in the Finance Industry

Finance could be a driving force for social well-being. However, structural and performance advancement over time, have deterred the industry far from its core function. They engage in conflicts over their interests, which are overshadowed by complexity and distorted by information imbalance. Because of these conflicts and fear of corruption, most people try to escape from the financial sector.

Despite that, some financial experts have faced existing stereotypes and have succeeded within the limits of current structures. These finance experts serve clients with integrity in a way that does not harm any of the stakeholders and use skills and networks to transcend work and make contributions globally. 

Let’s look at some of those inspiring figures.

Andy Okun, Hedge-fund Manager

Andy Okun and his former co-founder, rather than adopting the existing standardized customer terminology articulated their own terms. For nearly 20 years, Okun and his partner not only held some of their customers’ profits during good years but also paid their clients some of the losses they saved during bad years. This is one significant pillar of virtue. It faithfully and implicitly serves customers’ interests.

Frederic Samama, Senior Manager at Amundi

Frederick shows how one can ensure that proper customer service does not imply deriving interests from others. He firmly believed that his company could productively invest its clients’ assets instead of amplifying climate change. He took a stance during a time when that position was often considered a professional limit. He worked with Patrick Bolton (Columbia University) to bring the problem to long-term investors such as Mats Anderson (CEO, AP4 Swedish Pension Fund). Anderson was skeptical at first but eventually agreed to include an ESG factor in his pension investments. Samama and others worked with MSCI to develop the first major low carbon stock index. This has laid the foundation for a market that has greatly expanded in recent years.

Natasha Lamb, Co-founder of Wealth Management Firm Arjuna Capital

Financial experts like Lamb works hard to expand industries by promoting diversity. She has fought for gender equality against large businesses. By 2014, she acquired about 22 companies including 9 major financial firms to address the gender pay gaps. When companies fall behind their competitors, publishing these numbers creates internal pressure to get better.

David Webb 

Webb is a financial expert who uses technology beyond his professional abilities. He developed a very powerful online platform that calls out local business and economic policy violations as a community service separate from investment activities. His reports were often backed up by elaborate financial analysis. These reports spiked Hong Kong insiders caught misusing their power. 

As a result of his efforts, he uncovered about 50 Hong Kong-listed small capital stocks involved in financial raids and multiple arrests.

Virtuous professionals are a prerequisite in today’s world

All of these financial experts did not get into finance in the first place to help others. They all tend to be selfish, ambitious, and successful in their own way. But they also consider more than just their personal interest or the company’s interests at critical decision-making points. Financial professionals must imitate such virtues.

With the widespread role of finance and its profound impact on people’s lives, we need more virtuous financial professionals in society, such as Okun, Lamb, Webb, and Samama. They made us realize that industry standards within the current structure can be questioned and opposed.

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