Voices From Inside the System

‘I Want to Burn the System to the Ground. But I Also Work Inside It.’

This hedge fund analyst feels disillusioned with capitalism, but leaving her job isn’t an option

Justine van der Leun
Published in
5 min readAug 18, 2020

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Credit: Bloomberg Creative / Getty Images

Voices From Inside the System is a GEN series where we interview people who have had firsthand experience with industries that have a history of systemic racism and inequity. We asked them to think deeply about the role they played and the work they did. We asked them why they stayed or why they left, how they might be complicit, or if they thought they — or anyone — could fundamentally change the system.

This anonymous, 42-year-old woman works at a hedge fund in Manhattan. A recent Bloomberg study found that hedge funds not run by white men had returns that were more than double their competition over the past three years. Black-owned businesses are twice as likely to be turned down for financing as white businesses. The Paycheck Protection Program aimed to help small businesses affected by the pandemic; Black-owned businesses received 1.9% of loans offered, while white businesses received 83% of the loans. The anonymous hedge fund employee spoke with journalist Justine van der Leun about her experience.

I was raised in a New York City bedroom community. We were liberal — pro-choice, pro-gay marriage — but we also blithely accepted the narrative that you can live the American dream if you just make the right choices. My father grew up poor but found success in the financial world, so in a sense, the system worked for him. The reasoning went that because he had succeeded, anyone could. We never discussed race. Not in school, not at home. We bought into popular myths: That capitalism makes you more creative and creates incentives; that people need to be held accountable for their decisions; that cops are good; that priests are figures to look up to. Twenty years ago, I went into financial services believing the myths. Now I know they are garbage.

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