Would bankers make good spies?
Feel like bankers and wealth management folk would make good assets or sources of info for intelligence agencies, if not already.
1. Lots of international travel, would not arouse suspicion
2. Access to circles of power and influence in the public and private sectors. This is key. Imagine being a wealth manager for a Chinese billionaire, Russian oligarch, high up Saudi royalty, Peter Thiel
3. Access to privileged and valuable information. Outside of MNPI, a banker as "trusted advisor" has access to a lot of what could be very valuable info. Even casual conversations over drinks with the likes of those in #2 above could yield gold
1. If captured, would squeal under little to no pressure
Don't have time right now to write a proper response, but in brief, Jeffrey Epstein was an asset manager, and value investor Whitney Tilson had an excellent Twitter thread back in the day which described how Jeffrey Epstein was likely a government asset who had outlived his usefulness. PWM is not merely "useful," it is already in use. I may revisit to write more.
This would be interesting as someone from the PWM world but never dealt with anyone involved in something like "that". I bet thebrofessor might have something else to add for color commentary?
Great point. The Epstein theory really does make sense. Super well connected guy, rubbing shoulders with power and influence, island lair and all that. I'll dig up that Tilson thread, sounds super interesting.
I anecdotally know of wealth managers that have clients in countries with ironclad capital, securities and currency rules that absolutely do not allow something like that. They fly in private, spend a few days a month with the clients, and fly back out. Maybe they stay away from types like the higher echelons of Iranian government and African warlords and all that, maybe they don't. Who's to say an ambitious individual in a haven or non-extradition country isn't servicing these people anyway.
I asume every Chinese national colleague to be a ccp spy(who funnels pending merger details so the government can trade as well)
Tbf they are likely children of CCP officials anyways
Hb you take it a little further and assume every Asian is a commie spy?
and you would be 1000000% correct (imagine how big of a CCP simp you have to be to MS that comment lmao)
Getting back around to this now. Let's think about the ways in which bankers and private wealth managers can give an edge for intelligence collection:
1. These financial professionals are trusted advisors to powerful individuals and can influence their behavior to either do or not do various important transactions. These professionals can introduce clients to various kinds of financial institutions, including shell corporations that are set up by intelligence agencies for the purposes of collecting information. A wealth manager or banker could introduce a client to doing business with a government front.
2. These professionals are privy to potentially compromising information. They know the partying habits of their clients and may know of other kinds of infidelities or indiscretions that could be used by an intelligence agency as leverage over the target in the future. Illegal drug use, sexually compromising information, past financial infractions, tax noncompliance, and all other embarrassing aspects of personal life are up for grabs here.
3. Bankers and private wealth managers, particularly in a historical context, have at times been associated with wining and dining clients, including taking to them to other kinds of destinations that would make them subject to leverage or blackmail. Strip clubs and escort agencies can be used to get leverage over people by threatening to disclose that information to loved ones or the broader public. Financial professionals can facilitate persuading a target to go to these locations or incite clients to act in more indiscreet or uninhibited ways than they might otherwise act. This sort of sexual blackmail on intelligence targets was likely what private wealth manager Jeffrey Epstein trafficked in (see Whitney Tilson thread mentioned above).
4. Private wealth managers also often serve as concierge or executive assistants for their wealthier clients, scheduling vacations and planning other logistical events for clients. These travel itineraries, and the ability to influence them in advance, is an invaluable asset for intelligence collection purposes. It's one thing to know where someone is by following them. It's another level of power to know where they are in advance to better facilitate intelligence collection (bugging rooms, placing cameras, etc.).
In short, financial professionals are in a place of great influence among highly powerful people, many of whom are targets of various forms of intelligence collection. Having their ear through an unsuspecting advisor, the ability to know their actions in advance, and being able to blackmail, extort, or entrap targets in various forms of impropriety are great advantages, and you can rest assured that these collection mechanisms are readily employed at present by the broader intelligence apparatus.
Bankers don't even make good bankers half the time, tf you think they could be spies
Less James Bond, more Steve Carell in Get Smart
I'll buy that for a buck
Based on how often I see bankers on this forum bragging about what they do, I doubt it...they'll talk about being a spy to flex to some chick overseas and blow their cover two minutes in.
Legit the first thing, I thought when I saw this
I think this comment ignores the fact that the question is about whether wealth managers and bankers can be useful as spies, not whether the non-spy wealth managers and bankers could successfully convert over. Those are two separate matters. You install a spy AS a banker, not hope that the banker will act like a spy.
This, hiring a banker to be a spy is like hiring a drill tech to be an astronaut instead of just teaching an astronaut how to drill. Plus high finance folks are...not inconspicuous types.
Send the spy to analyst training and summer at a sweatshop :)
Yeah true. I knew a Navy SEAL who used to work in M&A; he got his MBA at Booth. He avoided death on his deployments, but sadly skin cancer killed him (melanoma). My brother also was a Navy SEAL and got his MBA after coming off active duty. Maybe a little different than being a spy, but still definitely assassins.
"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee
James Bond vibes…
People bring up James Bond, but that's not really what this is. James Bond is the consummate anti-spy. Spies are supposed to be secret. James Bond is conspicuously working in intelligence. Spies are supposed to be honeypotting other people. James Bond has sex with the femme fatale and comes out on top anyway. Spies generally are there to collect information covertly. James Bond is a hired gun who kills and causes enormous collateral damage and loss of human life.
James Bond is not a spy, but a highly skilled mercenary that the British agencies can call in when conventional spying methods have all failed. He's their last resort. He's the bull in the china shop who wrecks everything indiscreetly and indiscriminately, but does it all with the posh, debonair refinement of a rakish English gentleman-playboy. James Bond is not a spy, he's an intelligence asset who deliberately uses Overt methods when Covert methods are deemed no longer viable.
I really like this analysis you have done on James Bond. Yes, it is true what he is. The government does have a militaristic style-type division that goes on when methods have failed to clean things up. It could make sense, but in general, spies typically are those you would not even suspect of being. They'd need access to, or have connections to works that is of interests to the state. There is a documentary on Netflix that showcases Spies, and I think a movie by the name of Tinker is also to an accurate portrayal of a spy.
1) Languages (the more, the better)
2) Have lived in many different countries
3) Have established a life in various places / learning a different culture / knowledge of different circumstances
The vast majority of bankers I have met do not meet this profile. Most only speak one language, maybe a second one. The majority of banks are in a select few cities that are similar (Western culture, Christian societies, similar languages, ..). Also, most of these locations are friendly nations to the US / each other. I somehow doubt that most Western bankers could pull any of this off in Russia or China.
Intelligence officers themselves are also not "spies", on NOC assignments they handle assets to obtain information, influence decisions or similar scenarios.
The lifestyle is very demanding/challenging and requires a certain set of character traits. Looking at most threads on WSO, there is little hope anyone would join.
It also requires a personal background that allows a person to become eligible to work in this field. So no international students looking for a visa, no foreign liaisons to certain regimes, unquestionable loyalty, (..), no drugs, no DUIs, - looking at the posts on here.. most bankers wouldn't qualify. (small indiscretions are permitted, but not desired as they go towards character/fitness)
Pay is very little and they are often in high-cost locations and they are taxed just like anyone else. So not anything a banker would do. Prestige is also not a given, since you can't brag about what you are doing. You can't wear any corporate swag at the local gym.
And, unsurprisingly, there is no bonus. What banker would want to work without a bonus?
The information stated above is from someone who works in the intelligence community.
I have also worked on defense/military deals before.
Jokes aside, the way to really make this work is have the banker be the asset not the operative. High risk asset with a low threshold for pain haha
Bankers are frequently used as an asset, especially if they work in geographies where political dissent is not permitted or if they disagree with the agenda behind a deal, the strategy of their management, or, simply, for monetary gain - they sell the deal data.
At the end of the day, intelligence is just a fancy (and some say egotistical) way of saying useful information. If some organization wanted a clear picture of what was going on in the world, they would obviously utilize people of all walks of life and expertise. Put two people on the same street corner with different professions, and imagine how different their one pager will be on what they observed there that day.
I have no doubt that any remotely competent intelligence service utilizes people with banking expertise, knowledge, contacts, etc to fill in that piece of the puzzle for them.
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