Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Should I Quit and Become a Banker?

An Oxford ethicist is arguing that graduates who want to make a difference should look at a career in banking, rather than in aid work. With Ian Hislop's programme on ethical banking in the 19th century showing this evening, Will Crouch argues that an investment bank with a policy of philanthropy could make a bigger positive impact than an aid agency.

Mr Crouch says that when looking at careers choices, young people are missing the point if they see banking as a less ethical option.

He argues that someone becoming an investment banker could create sufficient wealth to make philanthropic donations that could make a bigger difference than someone choosing to work in a "moral" career such as an aid charity.

"The direct benefit a single aid worker can produce is limited, whereas the philanthropic banker's donations might indirectly help 10 times as many people," says Mr Crouch.

Looking at typical incomes in investment banking and the cost of treating tuberculosis in the developing world, he calculates that an ethically inclined banker who donated half their income could save 10,000 lives.

At time of writing there isn't much detail about this at the 'Uheiro Centre', the ethics institute where Will Crouch is based, but there is a bit more background here. Crouch is part of Eighty Thousand Hours, an ethical career advice service. It's a great concept - deliberatly pick a high earning career so you can give most money away. Or as John Wesley put it "make all you can, save all you can, give all you can."

eightythousandhours.org from Philip Panchenko on Vimeo.


  1. And yet Christian Aid will say that Jubilee 2000 did and tax justice would generate more money than the income of CA. If bankers perpetuate injustice while giving money I doubt what they give will outweigh the harm that they are required to do as their fiduciary duty.
    Now, if they could change the rules...

  2. Hi Both,

    David - thanks for your post - really helpful!

    Alan - we actually hope that by getting ethically-minded people into the banking system, we can change the system itself (so in fact reduce the injustice caused) as well as just trying to balance it out or outweigh it with philanthropy. We really think that by getting more altruists into the banking sector, we can help change the culture of risk and reward that causes some of the problems.