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October 28, 2008 / kingthunder

trader find way to wealth

From Wall Street to monastery: trader finds wealth in spirituality

MARSEILLE, France, Henry Quinson was only 28 years old when he abandoned life as a high roller on Wall Street to join Trappist monks at a cheese-making monastery in the French Alps.

Now nearly 20 years later, he works as a schoolteacher, lives among the poor in France’s multi-ethnic city of Marseille and looks at the financial crisis convulsing markets worldwide with detached amusement.

“I told everyone who asked me a year ago to get out of stocks. I don’t know if they listened to me,” Quinson said during an interview in the apartment he shares with one of the other four monks who work in the neighbourhood.

“Today, my annual teacher’s salary is about the same as a monthly bonus I was earning as a trader,” he recalled.

“But I have much more power as a teacher than as a trader. Education is the only true wealth.”

Born to a French mother and American father, Quinson made millions as one of French bank Indosuez’s golden boys on the trade floor.

But he said he decided to turn his back on a high-powered career after having a vision.

“I saw myself in Marseille, where I had never been and knew no one, surrounded by north African children whom I was teaching,” he said.

When Quinson broke the news to his bosses that he was leaving Wall Street, they were stunned and did not believe him.

Many thought it was ruse to hide the fact that he was joining a rival firm that had offered him a lucrative package.

The young trader spent six years at the Cistercian abbey of Tamie, praying and making its famous cow’s milk cheese, before helping to found the Saint-Paul community in Marseille.

In the meantime, Quinson said he “got rid” of his millions which he donated to various organisations, but oddly enough, not to the Catholic Church.

“It’s good to talk about helping the poor, but it’s better to be with them,” he said.

Among Marseille’s poor, he spends his days praying, offering English classes, remedial lessons, counselling and even help drafting requests for student loans.

“If a kid comes here three times a week for ten years, he will not only have made progress in his education but his view of the world will have been transformed,” said Quinson.

Money, he declared, “corrupts relations between people.”

Quinson said he doesn’t miss money, nor does he pine for the adrenaline boost from the trading floor, but he does feel deprived of female companionship.

“It’s my greatest source of suffering,” he said.

The global financial crisis is like a “major cold for the markets,” he opined. “There have always been crises even though this one is particularly serious.”


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