30 July 2009

Make Money, Sound Impressive. Magic.

From today's FT:

After graduating from Oxford in 1992, Garth Edward did relief and development work for the United Nations in Africa for four years and another year at UN headquarters in New York. But he found the consensus-based UN a "frustrating environment if you want to do things, not discuss things".

In 1998, at the age of 28, he took a job with an asset management company in New York and set up a greenhouse gas trading desk for it. He found he was not just making more money on Wall Street than he was at the UN - he also felt he was doing more good. "Sitting in a room talking with a bunch of people doesn't sound very impressive," he says. "Funding wind farms that reduce emissions by x amount of tons does."

Later in the article Mr. Edward explains that kowtowing to environmental values can only be taken so far:
Although Mr Edward of Citigroup himself came from an NGO background, he now runs a team of typical commodities traders who previously traded coal, gas and electricity. "They would be able to sit on any desk," he says. "If we were hiring someone to be an emissions trader, environmental credentials would be a minor factor compared to commercial competence."

It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that so many carbon traders used to work at Enron. Louis Redshaw, who is now the head of environmental markets at Barclays Capital, spent four years working for Enron in London and set up its renewable energies desk. Enron alumni have also ended up on trading desks at other investment banks. Although the company was not involved directly in carbon trading, it pioneered trading in other emissions such as sulphur dioxide.

Make money and save the planet. Sounds magical.