It is said that Paris Berkeley Capital’s private banking business owns a highly secured and closely monitored chateau in an undisclosed location in Normandy, France where four floors below ground level there is a candle-lit corridor that leads to a stone spiral staircase which in turn takes you further down to a large rectangular hall guarded round-the-clock by Swiss-trained security officers.
Inside this mysterious hall – know as the ‘library’ – rests a large collection of archives which collectively tell the history of investment banking, dating back to antiquity. It is even said that some of the oldest investment banking deal agreements are held within this highly secure room. They outline, in great detail, various monumental transactions ranging from the financing of the great pyramids of Egypt to the exploits of some of the most famous explorers of our past, including Hernán Cortés.
In one section of the library there is long shelf labeled ‘religion’. The remarkable thing about it is that on that very shelf is a scroll which proves that it was in fact investment banking which helped catalyse the beginning of what later became known as the monotheistic religions.
The scroll is titled The Persian and The Shepherd.
Story has it that thousands of years ago a young, handsome Persian man of humble origins set out on a journey across the world to discover the secret to great wealth. He, above all else, desired vast riches.
Driven by a deep-seated desire to find the truth, he spent fifteen years travelling from place to place taking odd jobs wherever he could. Everywhere he went, including as far out as India and Egypt, he carefully observed the habits and idiosyncrasies of the very rich and successful. His goal was to glean as much possible from them in order to discover what was responsible for these individuals’ vast successes. He would then do the same and hopefully become a very rich man himself one day. His was a quest filled with purpose.
To his frustration, however, the Persian could not pinpoint one key, defining characteristic that accounted for all the money very rich people made. The myriad of wealthy merchants and businessmen he met differed from one another greatly. The great South Indian spice trader whose floors the Persian cleaned was a completely different man from the Arabian gold collector whose shoes he shined and the Chinese silk merchant whose harem he taught Farsi (Persian).
Alas, the Persian was no closer to understanding the secret of success than when he set out on his mission fifteen years ago.
That is, until he met the wise Shepherd of Bagdad.
Our young Persian was travelling across an unforgiving desert on his journey back home to Persia when he miraculously stumbled upon a small oasis. The sanctuary was made up of one modest palm tree just large enough to give shade to one person, perhaps two. Best of all, it offered plenty of water to quench a weary traveler’s thirst.
As he had travelled for half a day in the scorching sun and was fatigued, the Persian refreshed himself and drank plenty of water until his stomach could hold no more. Content, he rested in the soothing shade while staring out at the endless waves of sand before him.
A few hours later, in the distance, an unusual mirage caught his attention. Not an uncommon sight in the desert, after all. Yet, shortly after, it became clear he was mistaken. It was no mirage. A shepherd slowly appeared before him.
The shepherd arrived, knelt down, drank some water and took a seat next to the Persian.
Shepherd: “What brings you here?”
Persian: “I am a weary traveler, in search of answers.”
Shepherd: “What answers do you seek young Persian?”
Persian: “The secret to great wealth.”
Shepherd: “And what has your search led you to learn so far?”
Persian: “That there is no one answer.”
The shepherd smiled and then dropped his head and drank some more water.
Shepherd: “How long have you been searching?”
Persian: “Fifteen years.”
Shepherd: “How do you survive?”
Persian: “Odd jobs and I make and sell statues of gods.”
Shepherd: “Do you sell many?”
Persian: “Not really.”
Shepherd: “Why do you think?”
Persian: “There are far too many gods, and different people believe in different gods.”
The Shepherd puts his hand on the Persian’s shoulder and smiles.
Shepherd: “I have over a hundred sheep, Persian. Do you know why they follow me?”
Shepherd: “Because I am one shepherd.”
Though he was not sure what was happening that exact moment, something was beginning to dawn on the Persian.
Persian: “And so they all look to you, as the one and only shepherd?”
Shepherd: “Correct. But that’s not enough. They also seek protection from me.”
Persian: “Protection from what?”
Shepherd: “My sheep fear the desert wolf.”
Persian: “The wolf is a bad force?”
Shepherd: “Pure evil.”
On that note the shepherd took one more sip of water, picked up his walking stick and stood up.
Shepherd: “May good blessings be upon you young Persian.”
The Persian looked deeply into the shepherd’s eyes but did not utter a word back to the shepherd. Nor did the shepherd expect a response.
The Persian had fundamentally changed.
Upon his return to Persia, the Persian anxiously raised money from his fellow villagers and bought out all the local statue sellers. He then invited the whole village to the main square where he burned all the different statues of the numerous gods. The fire was a spectacle for all to see.
He went on to open a temple and immediately began to preach the existence of one deity and the simultaneous existence of an evil force, the devil.
The people of Persia saw the birth of a religious duality that reflected the power struggle between good and evil.
People from the world over flocked to his temple and showered him with gold. That gold was stored in what was a predecessor to a modern bank.
Proceeds from the temple were used to create additional temples in other villages and of course more banks.