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Chelsea Clinton explains how top students accidentally end up in finance

If you’re working in an investment bank or a hedge fund or a strategy consultancy firm and are wondering, in retrospect, how this came to pass, Chelsea Clinton has the answer: it was the norm.

When she graduated from Stanford four years ago, Clinton told Bloomberg television that she “saw no clear path.” However, there was a definite trend among her friends – they were all  going into consulting, banking, law school, medical school, or were taking “gap years to go find themselves, generally somewhere in Southeast Asia.”

Following the herd, Clinton went into McKinsey and then to a hedge fund. It was there that she had second thoughts and left because she, as she put it, she “didn’t get any meaning from her job.”

Nowadays, Clinton is doing all manner of things, including a PhD in international relations in Oxford and teaching a course on cross-national health policy at Columbia. As a result, Clinton says she is “fundamentally re-motivated every day.”

The 32-year old Clinton has since earned a Master’s degree in public health from Columbia University, where she teaches a course in cross-national health policy, and is working on a PhD in international relations from Oxford University. She’s also on the boards of IAC/Interactive Corp, the School of the American Ballet and Weill Cornell Medical College, and is a special correspondent for NBC.

She still appreciates the finance business, she says. Her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, is the co-founder of the hedge fund Eaglevale Partners LP. Clinton says she believes in the industry’s ability to improve the lot of the world’s poorest citizens, by investing in their enterprises.

“They need people like those on Wall Street, who will be dispassionate about it and who will be gender-blind,” Clinton says. Increasingly, “the development world is moving toward an investment mindset.”

Financial institutions can help push it in that direction, she says. “The people I know on Wall Street are engaged and interested in our city and our country. I hope that people will just look out their proverbial back door.”

“I wanted to understand how people thought about money who were in the business of making money,” Clinton says. She was one of about three women on a trading floor of roughly 50, and appreciated that her success was measured by the numbers. “It was incredibly, fiercely meritocratic, and I loved that,” she says.

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