Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a day trader, someone with a 401k, someone who thinks everyone on Wall Street is a crook, or you just plain don’t care about the economy, you need to read Transforming Wall Street because there’s a lot you may not know about capitalism in America today-and there’s reason for hope. Yes, there is some shady dealing, but author Kim Ann Curtin believes there’s also a lot to celebrate, a lot of good people working in the financial world, and a better future for all of us that’s achievable when we reassess capitalism and begin to live consciously.
Known as “The Wall Street Coach,” Curtin set out to write this book after a diverse career that included being the operations manager of a bookstore, working as an executive assistant to a CEO of a bankers association, being personal assistant to a hedge fund manager, and finally becoming a personal and executive coach. Early in her coaching career, convinced that capitalism needed a dose of conscious living, Curtin decided to give free coaching to people on Wall Street, and so, she tells us, “on October 7, 2008, down I went to bring my coaching to those whom I hoped might use it. Within a couple of hours of sitting there on my cement bench on the corner of Broad & Wall Street, there was some static in the air. I could feel the tension. I asked a passerby what was going on and he said, ‘The market is in free fall.’ Then people started to approach me-the sort of executives I didn’t expect would.”
As the stock market plummeted and the Great Recession began, the seeds were planted for Curtin to coach capitalists about conscious living, and from there came the idea to write this book. She understood how disgusted many people were with Wall Street as many unethical behaviors and dealings were revealed in the months that followed, but Curtin had also always been a strong believer in capitalism, and she believes rather than the two concepts being opposed, one can make money and still do good in the world. Beyond that, she believes capitalism remains the best economic answer; she states, “balancing capitalism with living consciously is what can and will transform our economy, Wall Street, and the world.”
A great and noble belief, but perhaps easier said than done. Still, Curtin is not delusional or one to rely on fantasy theories. In Transforming Wall Street, she begins with capitalism’s basics, its foundations, and she separates the facts from the myths, shedding new light-or rather revealing what was always there but often overlooked-on the theories of Adam Smith and Ayn Rand about how capitalism should work and why those beliefs are still valuable and workable today. She includes discussions with professors who are experts on capitalism theory and points out what capitalism truly is versus how it is often misconceived and distorted.
Then, convinced she could find ethical people on Wall Street as role models, Curtin set out to interview the group of people she calls “The Wall Street 50,” though in the end she found more than fifty of them. These are ethical people who work in the financial sector-some of them refused to be unethical and left corrupt companies on Wall Street, others have established their own companies with ethics guiding them, and still others are trying to change the world using capitalism to fuel non-profit organizations. Curtin spent hundreds of hours interviewing The Wall Street 50 and extracts of those interviews are included in the book. Among those interviewed are John Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group, Bill Ackman, founder of Persing Square Capital Management, and Jim Rogers, founder of Beeland Interests. She also interviewed over a dozen people she refers to as “Teachers of Consciousness” to gather their thoughts about ethical living and how capitalism can be compatible with it. These teachers include Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God, Rasanath Das, a former investment banker who became a Buddhist monk, and Patricia Aburdene, author of Conscious Money.
The interview sections take up the largest portion of the book and are arranged by topics of discussion, including what Curtin calls the Five Practices to Become More Awake: Self-Responsibility, Self/Other Empathy, Emotional Non-Resistance/Present Moment Awareness, The Internal and External Journey, and Self-Awareness/Mindfulness. She also discusses with the Wall Street 50 how they balance being capitalists with living consciously, what to do when being morally tested, what advice they would have for those entering Wall Street, and what they would do to change Wall Street if they had magic wands.
The result of all this research and the interviews is a diversity of viewpoints about what Wall Street is and what it can become. Not every interviewee agrees with every other, but that allows for a lot of food for thought and many roads to choose from that can all lead us in the right direction. Curtin’s purpose is not to offer a “fix” for Wall Street, but rather to open up the conversation, to encourage people to rethink the definition of capitalism and how it operates, to set aside jaded feelings and instead see the hopeful possibilities that capitalism offers. If we all begin thinking and living consciously when it comes to our own money and how it is used, I don’t think we can underestimate the positive change that can happen. I welcome how Curtin has pulled back the “curtain” on Wall Street’s dealings to reveal not only the bad but all the hope there is. Transforming Wall Street is a sunbeam of hope coming through the window of a dusty room and allowing us to rediscover the possibilities for capitalism that were always there.