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When bankers' children grow dreadlocks, become musicians or artists

Winston Marshall (Photo credit: Guus Krol)

When “Country” Winston Marshall, the 24-year-old banjo player from the English folk rock band Mumford & Sons, collected the British Group Prize at last week’s Brit Awards, there were few indications that he was the progeny of hedge fund royalty. Wearing a grey hooded top and white T-shirt, he spent most of the post-award interview signaling that he wanted to drink beer.

Winstons Marshall’s father is Paul Marshall, 52, the founder of hedge fund Marshall Wace - one of Europe's largest with about $6bn under management. While Winston has made his millions from music sales, his father is said to have earned  £315m from equity long/short fund management.

Neither Paul nor Winston responded to requests for an interview. Winston is by no means the only son of a financial services professional who has opted for a career in the arts rather than follow the family footsteps into finance.

“I did a few summer internships in banks, but banking wasn’t really my thing.” said Julien Planté, the 34-year-old son of two French bank employees and head of programming for French cinema channel Cinemoi. “I felt kind of lost. I was always a good student and so I went to business school just because I wasn’t really sure what to do. I managed to move from there into cinema.”

Nikhil Chopra, the Indian performance artist, also comes from a banking family, as does Los Angeles artist Karen Finley. There are plenty of historical examples of bankers’ children who achieved artistic greatness. Cezanne, for example, was the child of a banking father who was reportedly unimpressed with his son's decision to become a painter. Yoko Ono's father was a banker. And Paul Marshall isn’t the only contemporary financier to have sired a musician. Ken Costa, the UBS investment banker and former head of Lazard's International unit, has a 28-year-old son, Charles, who is 'King Charles' and currently touring the UK as a ‘glam folk musician’. Charles Costa didn’t respond to requests to comment. We were unable to contact his father, Ken.

Psychologists say hardworking and highly pressured parents, like bankers or hedge fund managers, are more likely to raise rebellious children who reject their lifestyles.

“When parents raise children according to their own high standards of how things 'should be'  they often deprive them of developing a solid sense of self,” said Peggy Drexler, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. and the author of two books about modern families and the children they produce. “These children become lackadaisical and disinterested; later, as adolescents, they are likely to rebel.”

It’s also common for children whose parents have focused on material goals to focus on more artistic achievements, said Oliver James, the author and psychologist. "If the parents have pursued extrinsic goals of external rewards, praise, money and excellent exam results, the children will often move in the opposite direction and pursue intrinsic goals - or what really interests them," he said.

Winston Marshall reportedly grew long dreadlocks in his early 20s and doesn’t appear to have wanted a conventional career. However, Charles Costa reportedly wanted to be a doctor and later spent a year studying anthropology, sociology and archaeology at Durham University before dropping out.  “I like to be separate from the herd,” he told the Evening Standard last year. “I went to one lecture."

Both Costa and Marshall attended St. Paul's School, a £30k a year boarding school for boys aged 13-18 in West London where 82% of the GCSEs (high school exams) sat by pupils last year were graded at A*. St. Paul's didn't respond to a request to comment, but James said parents who send their children to academic schools like St. Paul's often end up encouraging them to reject academia: “The schools are obsessed with exam results and the parents are obsessed with exam results. Children react against the pressure.”

One financial services professional whose son has shown no inclination to follow in his footsteps, suggested a more prosaic reason why bankers’ children don’t become bankers. “Art flourishes when there’s very little insecurity. Not many people can afford for their children to mess around attending art school,” he said.

It’s not clear whether Paul Marshall or Ken Costa wanted to become musicians rather than financial services professionals, but it does seem that banking has become less attractive, even to bankers.  Research published last year by a group of UK academics who interviewed 30 investment bankers in the City of London, found that now that banking is seen as a ‘dirty’ industry in the eyes of the public, its practitioners are often keen to distance themselves from it. “Most of the bankers we spoke to presented themselves in a identity which wasn’t that of an investment banker,” said Kate Mackenzie Davey, a senior lecturer in organizational psychology at Birkbeck College, London University. “They would say, ‘I’m not really a banker, I’m a creative person,” she added.

In this sense, having a creatively accomplished child may be a source of pride for the lifelong financier or bank employee. “My father loves cinema – I got my love of film from him,” said Planté. “I think he would have really liked to work in cinema too if he could.”

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Ja
    27 February 2013

    To anonymous:

    maybe if you spent less time being bitter, you could eventually end up providing just as much to your offspring

  • an
    26 February 2013

    "It's also common for children whose parents have focused on material goals to focus on more artistic achievements."

    They surely don't have to worry about the next day thanks to mummy and daddy liquidity cushion

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