Why Bond Trader choose Social Investment over the Market?

Ben Rick was an investment banker for almost two decades. He landed at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s European prop trading division. Unfortunately 2010’s Volcker rule, preventing banks from simultaneously being an advisor and creditor with clients, put Rick’s role in jeopardy. Bank of America Merrill Lynch closed its prop trading department and left him out of a job.

Rick’s options were prosperous though. He got any number of offers for new positions, even from former employer Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He was even on the payroll of BTG Pactual briefly before Rick decided to try something new. “Most people have a figure in mind when they start in trading at 21 that will allow them to move on, but when you hit 40 that seems further and further away,” Rick says. “Prop trading doesn’t exactly have much of a social impact and it’s purely about making money. While I was fortunate to have worked in the industry for so long, I’d crossed the line so that the pursuit of wealth wasn’t something that got me out of bed in the morning, but had actually started to depress me.”

The investment banker wanted to do something that offered a benefit to his community and society. Only his time in the financial sector didn’t give him a lot of theory about what his next move could be. He considered working with charities only his long developed trading skills weren’t of much use in that arena.

In 2012, Rick found a way to combine his skills with charity work. He launched Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC). SASC is a private equity and asset management enterprise that offers equity investments and loans to organizations that strive to improve their communities through job creation and development of local economies. The SASC’s fund – the Community Investment Fund – has already received hefty financial commitments from the United Kingdom’s Big Society Capital and the Social Investment Business. The Community Investment Fund will work with organizations offering employment, training, healthcare and educational support.

Rick is confident his tenure in trading has provided him a financial cushion that lets him take his professional life in this new direction. He’s “not doing it for monetary gain, and neither are the other people who have joined from the banking sector. We pay a fair wage to people for doing something that makes a difference.” There is plenty for financial professionals to do in the social and sustainable markets. Big Society Capital has built a strong team with financial backgrounds and is currently looking at applicants interested in using their skills to help people.

Headquartered in Kings Cross, London, SASC has a small staff of seven, including co-founder Adam Knight, a global head of commodities at Credit Suisse and former managing director at Goldman Sachs. There is also Steve Morris, the director of investments. Morris was formerly a part of RBS’ corporate banking team. The company has expansion plans and is planning to bring in more venture capital and private equity expertise.


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