Meet Gordon Gekko’s Grandchildren

Monday, December 14, 2009

What if we could take Wall Street’s endless energy and innovation and turn it on the hunger and deprivation in the world?

That’s not a silly question. It’s already being done.

In the halls of finance and at America’s top business schools, there’s a small but growing movement to do more than just find the next dollar. Unlike efforts of the past, these bankers and business people aren’t heading off on missions to dig wells and hand out sacks of rice. They’re doing what they do best: making money. The difference is just that their target market is dirt poor.

In Pakistan, they sell low-cost irrigation systems to farmers. In Kenya, they build pay toilets. In Tanzania, they make and sell malaria-resistant bed nets.

As Heidi Krauel explains, these are affordable products that improve lives and give dignity to a consumer who is making choices, and not taking handouts. This new breed of Wall Streeter has turned the maxim “greed is good” into “greed can do good.”

Ms. Krauel, 34, spent five years at Deutsche Bank AG and Credit Suisse working as an investment banker specializing in mergers and acquisitions. She worked in the corporate venture-capital arm of Time Warner, lived through the America Online merger and then went to business school at Stanford. There, Ms. Krauel realized she wanted to marry her passion for business with something she until then had been unable to pursue: a desire to bring about social change.

“People who meet me now or met me then, really could not figure it out,” Ms. Krauel says. “A lot of it was, ’what the heck are you doing? Why are you leaving venture capital? Why are you leaving this cushy San Francisco lifestyle with wine and yoga?’”

Source: Wall Street Journal (link opens in a new window)