Where are you from, and why there?
I grew up in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and witnessed the aggression on Bosnia in the early 90’s. As children before the war, life was great in Yugoslavia, and there was no real gap between rich and poor. We all just played together, and social standing did not affect where you went to school. Most of us read a lot which, along with music, was the best way to get you popularity with peers. I remember reading a full set of Dostoevsky from my father’s bookshelf, in 7th grade. I left home partly because of the war, but mainly to complete my education. I remember regretting my decision to leave almost instantaneously, because Sarajevo was under siege back then, and I could not just turn and go back. And I wanted to go back, badly. Leaving your home like that is probably one of the toughest decisions you can make.
Which issue(s) do you work on/care about, and why?
I think of myself as an accidental banker. I spent years working for a large Austrian bank based in Vienna, and now I work for a values-based bank in San Francisco. It just felt like I learned too much about the field to leave it, and too much not to try and change it for the better.
I fight the status quo for kids, education and human rights. The environment is another cause I deeply care about. I am on the board of Rainforest Action Network. We are trying to save the last remaining rainforests, but we can’t do that work unless we tackle human rights abuses including corruption that allows for those forest to be taken down, or child labor in the places where we operate. We can’t turn a blind eye if we really want change. There is no such thing as taking no sides: by doing nothing, you’re defending status quo. I am also collaborating with Jericho Foundation, providing scholarships to underserved youth in Bosnia. I think that access to opportunity, education and jobs is one of the most powerful change catalysts.
How did you get involved?
The real question is how I can get more involved, and what is it that I need to do to have more impact. I think the noblest life is that of service and I ask for guidance all the time, so that I can do more and do it in a more effective way.
What are the biggest challenges for the issue(s) today?
The fact that our societies are ruled by greed, short-term awards, and pursuit of bottom line, and that we now have these supra-entities that are extremely powerful and engrossed in self-interest. I am mainly referring to corporations and big banks. JP Morgan is the size of England’s economy. These giants are only getting bigger and the problem is their invisible hand is everywhere. Look at Western politics, supposedly democratic.
Who are your most frequent allies in your field?
Nonprofits and activists, people from all walks from life who won’t accept destruction or shortsightedness, not in anyone’s name.
What drives you?
Runs in the family. My sister is a human rights lawyer. She was only 7 when the war started in Bosnia. I think it has something to do with our long line of ancestors where life was not easy and people fought for the good, whether it was defying patriarchy or fighting against fascists in World War II.
What do you want your career/advocacy to stand for?
Redesigning how we think about the world, “business”, life, and the way we live on this planet.