Development banks

Does anyone have any thoughts on what it is like to work for one. (The Asian Development Bank in particular) All thoughts welcome.

Nice lifestyle if you can get it. They don’t pay as much as investment firms, but you have very good job security. It helps to have a Ph.D. in economics or other development-oriented or macro stuff. Project management skills are important. It’s a little harder to bridge into asset management work from a development bank than from something like an investment bank, because the development bank doesn’t usually build company modeling skills. Also, development bank projects don’t usually seek to maximize investment returns in the traditional sense. Rather, they seek to maximize “impact,” which tends to be more qualitative and harder to gauge, while minimizing the chance of not being paid back. Now, I think that’s a fine goal, and I even worked in that area for 5 years or so, but it isn’t all that great training for the type of things that CFA candidates are usually looking to do. There are niches: for example, there are occasionally projects like carbon investment portfolios, or entrepreneurial stimulation projects that look a little like venture capital, but that isn’t the bulk of what development banks do. Also the IFC (International Finance Corporation) might have more specifically investment-related stuff. The World Bank on 18th and H street in Washington is a pretty interesting building. They have a quotation at their entrance that says “Dreaming of a world free of poverty.” I must say, those guys do live their dream! (Ok, so maybe I’m a little envious and bitter that their diversity criteria always eliminated me at step 1). You will work a lot of people with highly privileged backgrounds - often the elites and children of elites. They can be fun and interesting, but there is a curious “culture of entitlement” that can be a little off-putting, especially when combined with the governmental/public-servant/bureaucratic culture. Usually the young aren’t as affected by that in day-to-day interactions, but you can often tell the direction they are headed.

My experience with international development types has been a bit different. If you like waking up in the morning, tooling around in an SUV for a day to look at belt run generators (500 USD at home depot, 10,000 USD on the grant application) before returning to the local ex-pat bar and then back to your walled compound, then that is definitely the lifestyle for you. Chances are you will spend a lot of time in places where all local political leaders are driven about in a mercedes - special bonus points if they have a motorcade and flashing blue lights in the grill. If you get with a really good development bank, you’ll probably be charged with the task of helping to finance and pick out the interior of the mercedes.

By “charged,” do you mean that you get to pick out the interior, or just that you end up being billed for the interior (as necessary administrative costs for providing a $500 USD belt-run generator)?

Ideally both. That’s when you know you’ve hit the big time.

Thanks guys for your views. It would be a real long shot for me as I don’t have a phd nor the excessive levels of experience often sort, but I think I may try. I’m also worried a little about the public sector type attitudes, but I guess this would come out in interview. bchadwick - perhaps I can try NPVing “impact” or something to better quantify it! Onegin - to a certain extent I think your comments are more likely to occur in Africa. However, such corruption is one of things I actually feel strongly about and would like to have a go at changing. Obviously it is more than a little difficult. I have previously waited in a stand-off for two hours as I refused to pay a $0.50 bribe!

TBB - You’re mistaken. My experience was in Eastern / Central Europe. I think the level of corruption depends more on the extent and type of international aid than the geographic location. Take my comments with a grain of salt, since I was not working with these organizations but ran into them a lot. My opinion is that NGOs can serve a valuable purpose. I hope it works out well for you.