Why I Left World Vision for Finance
In my closet is a red silk tie, manufactured by a worker in one of the many industrial factories along the perimeter of Phnom Penh. I bought it at the city's largest outdoor market on a business trip with my former employer, World Vision, a Christian humanitarian agency that serves poor communities worldwide. For all I know, the Cambodians in the factory that made my tie were the same Cambodians living in the villages I was serving.
On that trip, I was working on a project aimed at rehabilitating children and women who were victims of trafficking and child labor. But yesterday, I reached for the tie to wear to my new job as part-owner of a financial planning and wealth management firm in Atlanta. The distance between my two worlds—my former life as an international aid worker, and my current life serving some of the world's most financially fortunate—seems unbridgeable some days.
On other days, the two worlds look more similar than I imagined.
I have had the privilege of working with people on both ends of the economic spectrum, from Sudanese refugees to suburban millionaires. Yet, if poverty is understood in terms of social constructs rather than economic ones, the playing field levels between the refugee and the investment banker (an idea that Christian thinkers like Bryant Myers and Tim Keller have written and preached on). I used to define my World Vision job as bringing opportunity to the poor so they might thrive. I used to define my new job in finance as providing guidance to people so that they could make the most prudent decisions to meet their goals and leave legacies. Now I describe both my careers in the same way: creating redemptive spaces in a fallen and tangled world.
As I watched the ink dry on the papers contractually binding me to three partners entering this business, I thought back to two very different perspectives on vocation I had recently encountered. As buying a business was easily the biggest financial decision of my life, I had sought counsel. I called a trusted family friend who had given me my first summer job as a teenager. In the intervening years, his small business grew into a successful outfit. His advice to me started with a question: