Inspiration for the book

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Perhaps the first thing I learned at the start of my Fellowship was how much I did not know. I was fortunate enough to work with an incredibly driven, perceptive, and inspirational young woman from the United States, who had traded a budding high-flying career in Silicon Valley to work in development in Cambodia. The first thing she taught me was the difference between charity and development. It was an eureka moment: the revealing of a fundamental truth that suddenly made the universe a little more understandable. It would also become a bifurcation point.

My experience of the Fellowship, apart from nurturing a love for Cambodia, left me acutely aware that much of what was being done in the name of charity in Cambodia (and elsewhere in the developing world) was at best achieving little, and at worst, causing more problems than it ever sought to fix. If there was one transferable skill from trading in financial markets that seemed to be eminently relevant in the context of development, it was realizing quickly, and dispassionately, when something is not working. That vital competence seemed to me to be lacking in the non-profit sphere (and still does).

I returned to London, the Bank, and my old trading job at the end of 2008. I had not fallen out of love with my career in finance and, if anything, I seemed to have become a better trader for my time in Cambodia. But I felt as if I had started something that needed to be finished. I saw the elimination of poverty, exclusion, and injustice as the ultimate human challenge, and I wanted to understand better the causes. I remember thinking of the talent and brainpower in my bank alone, and how if that could be incentivized and harnessed to an endeavor such as poverty reduction as successfully as it was to dominating the financial markets, then we might just get somewhere. It remains my hope.

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