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A Word with Sam Finkelstein

Posted 12 June 2023 in EMpower News   |   Share

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Recently, EMpower’s President & CEO Cynthia Steele spoke with Sam Finkelstein, Global Head and Chief Investment Officer of Fixed Income and Liquidity Solutions at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and an EMpower Underwriter. They spoke about emerging markets, philanthropy, why investing in youth is so important, and more.

You have a storied career in finance and are a longtime EMpower supporter. How would you say these two roles and worlds have intersected?

I was fortunate to work as an emerging market debt portfolio manager from the late 90s to 2019 before I took on broader fixed-income responsibilities. For everybody that's working in emerging markets, I think it's the best and most amazing job and a lot of it was the people I met and the interactions I had—with team members, counterparts with whom we would trade, policymakers in countries, and people that I collaborated with for EMpower, to have a positive impact. I think by definition, emerging market countries and their populations need support. And EMpower has been an incredible partner in terms of figuring out how we can impact in particular youth and vulnerable women, which is just so important. It’s been great to be involved in emerging markets and EMpower over nearly two decades. 

How do you think about philanthropy generally? What guides you in your philanthropic choices?

First, one of the challenges is that there are more causes than one could possibly donate to: education, medical, the arts, and I think one has to gravitate to and figure out where they can focus and have the most impact. For me, I was always passionate about economic development, and my professional success was dependent on the success of the countries that I was investing in. I think it was a natural place for me to focus. There's the old adage, if you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day, but if you teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.

EMpower focusing on many countries where they have scale—not all emerging market countries, and in particular the youth and women within emerging markets—is a natural area and makes sense to me. If you can have a positive impact on youth, whether it be through sports, education, etc., I think there's certainly more longevity and impact for the broader country.

You could not be more correct. That generation is so vital, and we know adolescence is such a pivotal time in a person's life.

The pandemic had a different impact on everybody's well-being and different countries handled it differently. For youth in emerging markets, it's so important to find that passion, find that role model, or just get that breakout opportunity.

I am very curious to know about what you have ahead, with a major life change. What are you planning, thinking, wishing for, going to make happen?

My intent is to retire after a 26-year career at Goldman Sachs focused mainly on investing in emerging markets. I'm excited for change. The reality is this decision is me being a risk-taker and sort of throwing myself in the deep end and on an uncertain path. Goldman's calling it retirement, but the reality is I have too much energy to retire. When I think about the next chapter, I'll probably be less focused on what looks good on the CV and more focused on where I can have a positive impact in an area that I'm passionate about. Whatever path I go down, whether finance or not, I want to be involved in emerging markets and would like to continue to be involved with EMpower.

Thank you for this. I would love to continue this conversation with you!

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