Every morning, as I put on my suit after my daily session of yoga and meditation, I know that I am putting on my armour, ready to be the ‘warrior’ (like the yoga pose) and roam the floors of the bank as a yogi in disguise.
I also know that I’m just doing my job, a job I ended up falling into after leaving university. I’m feeding my inner drive to be successful and ambitious; after all, I’m doing what I’m good at, and I’ve worked hard to get this far, too. Five years at law school wasn’t a walk in the park.
A living oxymoron
Some people may say that being a yogi in an investment bank seems incomprehensible. I beg to differ. For me, it’s about finding a way to optimise your performance at work while maintaining a philosophical view of the role you play in the institution, and the contribution you make to society, no matter how obscure that view may seem…
The inner Agni (or fire) of the modern-day City yogi burns brightly as an example that one can show to others.
However, some may challenge this in the light of the 2008 financial crisis and the scandals that have emerged since. The values of a yogi seem in stark contrast with the actions of a few people who have tarnished the industry’s reputation.
But, the conditioning of humans means that such events are almost inevitable, and not just limited to the banking sector. Greed and deception has found its way into many forms of corporate organisation.
In fact, science itself is not immune to the worst aspects of the human mind. Nuclear weapons, human cloning, genetically modified food; the ego knows no boundaries.
Fortunately, ethics and spirituality ultimately decide whether the discoveries of science are, in fact, right. I have realised that spirituality also has a role to play in the world of high finance. Acting like a ‘third eye’, finding the right balance between financial institutions’ need to be profitable and an appropriate level of prudential supervision, the ‘spiritual regulator’ is essential to ensure a successful but safe financial sector.
Stability is key
We saw after the most recent financial crisis that regulation, controls and infrastructure were inadequate; and now we are consumed by them, perhaps a little too much. But a stable financial system is what ultimately permits a society to flourish, while at the same time allowing for the most efficient allocation of risk. This is when capitalism can be at its best.
Buddha said: ‘contentment is the greatest wealth’. I would argue that ‘contentment’ can mean a harmonious society where banks facilitate the extension of credit, while allowing for the risk-taking by sophisticated investors in a safe, well-capitalised banking system; then we can truly say that we have found a state of capitalist ‘nirvana’.
Finance is also an environment that caters for the aspirations of bright, ambitious young people in a complex yet fascinating world – and, more often than you realise, underneath that pin-striped suit lies a simple yogi – striving to find that balancing point, each and every day.
This post was first published in Balance magazine and has been reproduced here with the author’s permission.