Vegans are surprisingly plentiful on Wall Street and in other areas of financial industry. As of publishing this article, the Vegan Leaders network boasted over 150 accomplished finance field professionals: investment bankers and analysts, wealth managers, company CFOs, financial advisors and the like; many with CFA, CPA, CFP or other designations.
Today we spotlight Christian Cappelli, vegan private banking Managing Director with 25 years of wealth management experience spanning Zurich, London, Hong Kong and Singapore. Christian started as an apprentice at UBS in 1992 and worked his way up to the Vice President role at Credit Suisse in Hong Kong and most recently the Group Head of Emerging Asia at Julius Baer in Singapore.
Christian’s story shows how veganism can go hand in hand with a career in a conservative and elite industry.
What led you to embrace the vegan lifestyle?
Christian: About two years ago, my wife went vegan overnight. At first, I was hesitant about this change but after watching the documentary “Forks over Knives” I decided to cut out dairy products for a few weeks. We also made a deal where we'd eat vegan at home and I'd eat whatever outside of home - but as I continued eating animal products I increasingly felt morally conflicted.
Also with healthier vegan foods in my diet, I experienced a noticeable improvement in my physical well-being. I felt sharper, more focused and less tired. I stopped dairy products completely and then within a few months I phased out meat, fish and lastly eggs. I kept learning about how consuming animal products negatively affects our health and our environment, and how much suffering we caused to animals. It ultimately was a logical consequence of learning the facts. Additionally, being a father, it is important to me to be a role model for my child – by being healthy, environmentally friendly and kind. Being vegan is the single most effective way to achieve all of those.
What is it like to be vegan where you live (availability of options etc.)?
Christian: Before moving to Singapore in late 2016, I lived in Hong Kong for 16 years where it's quite easy to eat vegan Chinese food as Chinese cuisine traditionally does not use dairy. Also the last 18-24 months saw a trend of many vegan and vegetarian restaurants opening. In Singapore, we generally have to explain our requirements to the restaurant staff in more details when we eat out. Every place we have visited so far has been very accommodating. I often give feedback and ask restaurants to increase vegan menu options.
How do your corporate colleagues react to you being vegan?
Christian: At work most of the colleagues and clients are surprised since I am known as quite the foodie. Most have known me many years so they're curious to learn more about my choice. It sparks many great conversations. I recently was invited to a private dinner and my host had hired a private chef who made an entire vegan menu for us. It was really special and unexpected.
Are you involved with any vegan groups or initiatives?
Christian: I'm involved indirectly through my wife. She is active with non-profit groups in Singapore and I try to join her whenever I can or if my contribution seems impactful. There is definitely a need from people with a professional background to support the tremendous work done by volunteers.
What main advice would you give to vegans traveling to your country for work or pleasure?
Christian: There are so many different types of cuisine in Asia - I would say 'try everything'. There is excellent Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Indonesian food, and most of them have a vegetarian tradition. There are many flavors to discover so be adventurous.
Are you seeing any vegan-friendly shifts in your industry (more focus on animal welfare practices in investing, pressure from investors on companies? What are your thoughts on the London-based Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) initiative?
Christian: In terms of our industry, I have not come across a specific vegan friendly investment focus in the region. Corporate Social Responsibility efforts continue to target poverty reduction, education, medical aid and maybe energy conservation.
I support every initiative that promotes a vegan lifestyle. Initiatives like FAIRR which manage the negative consequences of factory farming mark a shift in the right direction - but I think the future belongs to impactful solutions which tackle the core issues. As an investor myself, I would be most interested in opportunities in the field of plant-based protein and renewable energy.