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Seeking Virtue in Finance
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Book description

Since the Global Financial Crisis, a surge of interest in the use of finance as a tool to address social and economic problems suggests the potential for a generational shift in how the finance industry operates and is perceived. J. C. de Swaan seeks to channel the forces of well-intentioned finance professionals to improve finance from within and help restore its focus on serving society. Drawing from inspiring individuals in the field, de Swaan proposes a framework for pursuing a viable career in finance while benefiting society and upholding humanistic values. In doing so, he challenges traditional concepts of success in the industry. This will also engage readers outside of finance who are concerned about the industry's impact on society.


“In his unique and important book, JC de Swaan applies Aristotle’s virtue ethics to modern finance. The result is a highly sophisticated account of how the finance industry contributes both good and ill to the economy and society. De Swaan knows the evidence, and presents it with care, objectivity, and moral purpose – to help make modern finance a force for good in the world. Kudos for a major contribution to the debate on reforming business for the common good.'

Jeffrey D. Sachs - University Professor at Columbia University, New York and Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network

'The words ‘virtue’ and ‘finance’ do not often appear in the same sentence – unless there is a negative in between them. Finance has earned its bad name. This remarkably original book points would-be financiers in a starkly different direction. Through both general principles and specific examples, JC de Swaan shows how the twain can – and should – meet, how the financial industry can become more virtuous and contribute more to society. Every Wall Street executive should read this book.'

Alan S. Blinder - Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University, New Jersey

'JC de Swaan applies the concept of mindfulness to the untilled field of finance in his new book Seeking Virtue in Finance. De Swaan deconstructs the complexity and opacity of the financial industry, laying bare the conflicting and often self-serving incentives that motivate many of its professionals. In doing so, he provides a vocabulary and framework for the next generation of well-intentioned financial leaders to be able to better assess and navigate their way through the industry and advance the common good.'

Janet Cowell - CEO, Girls Who Invest

'I’ve been waiting a long time for someone to write this book, and it couldn’t come at a better time. JC de Swaan examines how finance careers can be more socially responsible and the industry can add more value to the world. He makes a convincing case that people and companies don’t need to be ruthless to be successful.'

Adam Grant - New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take, and host of the chart-topping TED podcast WorkLife

'In today’s world, it has become all too common for individuals to believe that markets and competition are inconsistent with humanistic values. In Seeking Virtue in Finance, JC de Swaan demonstrates how finance professionals can successfully operate within the industry to improve the collective interests of society through moral character, practical wisdom, and moderation. In doing so, financial professions not only make us better off – they make us better.'

Arthur C. Brooks - author of Love Your Enemies; President Emeritus, American Enterprise Institute; and Professor of Practice, Harvard Kennedy School, and Faculty Fellow, Harvard Business School, Massachusetts

'A thoughtful book at a very appropriate time. Can the worlds of finance also be worlds of societal good? JC de Swaan explores this idea in a considered but provocative way. Definitely an important read, especially for leaders of financial firms and leaders of financial functions – as well as younger people considering such careers.'

D. Ronald Daniel - former Managing Partner, McKinsey and Company

‘JC de Swaan … has produced a field manual of genuine value to those fearing for their virtue in the moral minefield that is the modern finance industry.’

William J. Bernstein Source: Enterprising Investor

‘Professor de Swaan hopes to guide his students and others entering careers in finance as to how to behave and which career paths to take so as to lead as virtuous a life as possible under the circumstances … The book is filled with references to empirical studies that measure the impact of various aspects of the finance industry on the lives we all lead. We like the book especially because Professor de Swaan realizes that behavioral ethics with its emphasis on cognitive and other biases helps explain why it is so hard for good people to do the right thing in so many areas of finance.’

Robert Prentice Source: Ethics Unwrapped

‘A valuable primer … (this book) provides a balanced analysis with multiple examples that make the case for the importance of finance while criticising its many failings.'

Andrew Jack Source: Financial Times

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  • 1 - Customer Mandate
    pp 25-67
  • Serving Customers’ Interest Faithfully


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