Book Cover Seeking Virtue in Finance

Available at:
Cambridge University Press


Table of Content


Excerpt 1

Excerpt 2

Wells Fargo Case on ValueWalk

Cambridge University Press

September 2020


A Financial Times Top 10 ESG Reads

"If you know a student or young professional who is interested in finance but wants to improve the world, give them Seeking Virtue in Finance: Contributing to Society in a Conflicted Industry...", Gillian Tett, Financial Times.


"A principled guide for finance professionals on upholding decency and values"  Andrew Jack, Financial Times Book Review.


"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, CFA Institute Book Review.


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. JC 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, 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, J.C. 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

Book Reviews:

"Book Review: Seeking Virtue in Finance by JC de Swaan", Andrew Jack, Financial Times, May 18, 2021.

"Book Review: Seeking Virtue in Finance", William J. Bernstein, CFA Institute, December 11, 2020.

"Green Books Sprout Tall: 10 Top ESG Reads", Gillian Tett, Financial Times, January 6, 2021.

"Book Review: Seeking Virtue in Finance", Manuel P. Mezger, Financial Markets and Portfolio Management, February 10, 2022.

Book Review: Seeking Virtue in Finance, John Boatright, Business Ethics Quarterly,

June 29, 2021

"Can Bankers Really Make the World a Better Place?", Laura Alix, American Banker, February 10, 2021.

MoneyWeek, Matthew Partridge (Print Only), February 5, 2021.

"Book Review: Wall Street Has Its Bright Side", Peter Rosik, Obserwator Finansowy, February 14, 2021 (review in Polish).

"Seeking Virtue in Finance: A Futile Search?", Robert Prentice, Ethics Unwrapped, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas, March 2021.



"How Young Finance Professionals Can Keep Themselves -- And Their Firms -- Honest", JC de Swaan, Barron's, March 16, 2022.

"What Does It Mean to be a Virtuous Investor?", JC de Swaan, Financial World Magazine, May 2021.

"Finding Virtue in the Finance Industry", JC de Swaan, Harvard Business Review Online, October 12, 2020

"Seeking Virtue in Finance", JC de Swaan, Financial History Magazine, March 2021.

"In Conversation with JC de Swaan: Ethics in Finance, Stock Trading Manias, and Financial Systems Across Borders", Shirley Ren, Business Today.

April 8, 2021.

"Can Wall Street Be a Force for Social Good?", Taylor Learney, The Simple Dollar, October 23, 2020

"University Students Worry: Being Corrupted the Moment They Walk Into Their First Job on Wall Street", Knut Rostad, Advisor Perspectives.

October 21, 2020

"In Financial Services, Making Money Remains a Dirty Business, But Small Changes Are Happening", Chuck Epstein, The Progressive Investor

October 23, 2020


Upcoming Events/Releases:

Investments & Wealth Institute Conference (Nashville)

May 16-18, 2022

Princeton Club of Nashville

May 17, 2022


Recorded Podcasts/Webinars:

Princeton Webinar

Co-Hosted by the Bendheim Center for Finance and the Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy & Finance

Recorded on October 14, 2020

What Does It Profit? Podcast

Recorded on January 30, 2021

Museum of American Finance Booktalk

Recorded on November 16, 2020

New Books Network Podcast

Recorded on October 22, 2020

Policy Punchline Podcast

Recorded on September 26, 2020

Xin Wan Podcast

Recorded on September 18, 2020

Podcast with The Institute for the Fiduciary Standard

Recorded on September 30, 2020

Alain Guillot Podcast

Recorded on November 12, 2020

American Banker Podcast on Market Manipulation

April 15, 2021

Absolute Value with Daniel Ling

June 13, 2021

Wall Street Oasis

June 9, 2021

The Wall Street Lab

June 10, 2021

Scholars of Finance podcast

August 19, 2021

Unsiloed podcase hosted by Greg La Blanc

February 2022


Short Interviews:

Interview with CAIA President Bill Kelly

January 29, 2021

SiriusXM Moolala Podcast

Recorded on November 3, 2020

Today's Verdict on Bronxnet

October 1, 2021


Past Events:

Cambridge in America Author Discussion

October 28, 2020

Princeton Club of Japan Book Talk

October 29, 2020

Scholars of Finance Workshop

November 18, 2020

Judge Business School, University of Cambridge Book Talk

November 25, 2020

Temple University ICAS Book Talk

December 1, 2020

NYU Stern Abu Dhabi
February 10, 2021

EDHEC Business School

March 10, 2021

Fordham University

March 2 and March 29, 2021

Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

March 19, 2021
Harvard Business School/Harvard Kennedy School Social Enterprise Conference
March 27-28, 2021

Marquette University, Commercial Banking Program

April 29, 2021

Harvard Club Financial Markets Stability and Reform Group

June 15, 2021

Princeton Club of Chicago

July 13, 2021

Asian Women in Finance

September 15, 2021

Discovery Dinner, Rockefeller/Mathey, Princeton

November 4, 2021

Wells Fargo Investor Conference

December 2, 2021

Trinity in Japan

December 8, 2021

Oxford University, Seminar on Character

February 3, 2022

The Wharton School investment Club

February 25, 2022

MIT Scholars of Finance

March 2, 2022










“JC de Swaan applies the concept of mindfulness to the un-tilled 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. J.C. 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, J.C. 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 & Professor of Practice, Harvard Kennedy School and Faculty Fellow, Harvard Business School

“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 & Company