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The double life of the protesting Swiss banker

Gorka Cruz divides his time between Geneva and India swissinfo.ch

Gorka Cruz is not your typical Geneva banker. Every winter he hangs up his suit and tie to prepare for several months’ humanitarian work in India.

This content was published on November 21, 2011 - 12:59
swissinfo.ch

The young financier has many other strings to his bow – and guitar. He recently scored an online hit with his humorous song and video clip “Global Economy” about an impending economic meltdown.

“On average I spend six months here and then six months there, but we’ve got a visa problem with India and can only stay three months, so I’ll have to see how I can stay longer. I’ve got Swiss-Spanish dual nationality, so maybe I can find a solution,” he told swissinfo.ch, sipping a cup of tea on the terrace of the Café du Soleil in Geneva.

Cruz is used to this slightly odd routine, as he has been shuttling back and forth between Switzerland and India for the past five years.

The 33-year-old, who studied philosophy, Spanish and sociology at university, has just finished a three-month mission at a Geneva hedge fund. Before that he worked for four years at Barclays Bank in Geneva in their back office.

“I want to go to India, so I earn my money here in order to finance my stay there. When I’m in Geneva I don’t spend very much, like going out to restaurants, in order to save,” he said.

Love of India

His love of India dates back to 1999 when he began visiting to learn yoga and meditation.

From 2005 to 2010 the young banker travelled to India to lend a hand at an orphanage, working “from morning to nightfall” dealing mostly with administrative and financial matters.

Young orphans from the centre are now being looked after by foster families, funded by a local NGO, so this winter Cruz is about to start a new mission.

“It’s about helping protect the banks of the Ganges; local mafias have appropriated land to build on and people have created a movement to stop that,” he said. 

Contradictory?

Cruz is very comfortable with this nonconforming dual existence, which to some might seem rather contradictory.

“I didn’t study finance but landed in the industry by chance; it’s a job like any other,” he said. “I don’t have any ethical problems; that’s what the world’s like.”

Ironically, the work in Geneva actually seems to help him on a personal level.

“It’s good for me. It’s structured with deadlines, I have to produce reports and work in an ordered fashion,” he said. “There are moments when it’s stressful but it’s also very comfortable. It’s a holiday compared with the work in India.”

Yet he still feels free to openly criticise the financial industry despite working in it.

Protest singer

Encouraged by bank colleagues, Cruz recently teamed up with a director friend to produce a humorous video clip of the “Global Economy” song he composed. In it he describes how the economy is about to crash and how it is time to open our eyes and do something about it.

Dressed in his banker’s suit, he wanders the streets of Geneva singing about the ongoing crisis. At one point he throws himself off a bridge into the river and later appears naked apart from a suitably placed leaf.

This, he smiled, is his personal contribution to the “Occupy” protest movement.

“I had the idea for the song almost two years ago as I just sensed there would be a crash,” he said.

Despite recent efforts to evict Occupy protesters, especially in the United States, Cruz is sure the movement will grow.

“The politicians have managed to hold on, but that is not going to last long. We’re going to see more and more austerity measures being introduced as governments try to reimburse their debts, so people are going to become more and more unhappy. We’re facing a huge economic problem,” he said.

Those to blame

In the song Cruz attacks the people he believes have contributed to the financial crisis.

“Too much debt, nobody can pay,” he sings. “The yuppie with the money like a little baby monkey.”

“Most bank workers are like me with a boss who says ‘do this, do that’ and have limited roles. People are just happy getting their salary at the end of each month, doing their jobs and that’s it,” he said.

“If you ask people in the bank how the monetary system works, many haven’t got a clue and that’s the origin of many of our problems behind these huge debts.”

Raise awareness

Cruz wants to raise collective awareness. He urges much greater regulation of the banking system and even suggests a return to the gold standard.

“Since the Ronald Reagan era the global financial system has been deregulated and become completely ridiculous with things like derivative products. In the US, banks go bankrupt and directors leave with tens of millions of dollars; it’s a mafia at the top and in Switzerland it’s just the same,” he said.

The financier-protest singer remains philosophical about what the future holds.

“My future bosses might not appreciate the clip but it’s true to my ideals. I would like to continue this dual existence but we’ll see. A financial crisis is coming and we all have to remain flexible,” he concluded.

Protests

May 15, 2011: Around 20,000 people demonstrated in several Spanish cities. This gave rise to the movement 15-M or the Indignados.

The demonstrations spread to Berlin, Brussels, London, Paris, Athens and Tel Aviv, where hundreds and thousands of young people took to the streets calling for more democracy and a better future.  

By the end of September the protests had reached the US. A group of young people occupied the Zuccotti Park near Wall Street. Their slogan: we are the 99%. Demonstrations have spread to all the main cities in the country.  

The young Indignados are not part of any traditional political movement. But their claims are supported by several parties on the left, intellectuals, politicians and economists – including the former economics Nobel prize winner and former chief economist at the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.

October 15, 2011: protests go global, including in Zurich, Basel and Geneva in Switzerland. The organisers of the Swiss protests said they were coming out for a transparent financial system and for the banks to have less say.

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