Banker now man of the cloth

By Paul Charman

Lyndon Drake leads one of four congregations meeting at Auckland's historic Baptist Tabernacle.  Photo / Ted Baghurst
Lyndon Drake leads one of four congregations meeting at Auckland's historic Baptist Tabernacle. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Lyndon Drake's pathway to the ministry was via the world of "filthy lucre", but he makes no apology for that. Before entering the ministry, the 35-year-old of Ngai Tahu descent was a vice-president at Barclays Bank, with a seat on the bank's gilt desk.

A talented bond trader, he worked long hours during the Lehman bankruptcy of 2008, part of a team which helped to head off the risk to Barclays and to the British economy.

The week between the Lehman collapse and the United States Government's cliff-hanger decision to bail out AIG was a momentous one, an experience he says he'll never forget.

Two years after the global financial crisis, Drake was headed for a career in the church, but there was no Road to Damascus turnaround in his morality, no distancing of himself from the world of banking and no parting shots at bankers.

In a goodbye letter to Barclays colleagues, Drake stressed he didn't have a problem with people he worked alongside and did not feel himself to be morally superior.

"Colleagues I met in banking were really good to know; I'm still friends with many I worked with. But for me and Mim [his wife of nine years] the ministry is a far more productive use of our time and energy."

Working in a London bank was always going to be a stepping-stone to Christian work for Drake. He had been raised a Christian, activities such as Bible studies were common in his parents' home and he maintained consistent interest in the faith throughout school and university.

After studying computer science at Auckland University, he was recruited to help to create financial software for Barclays. A few years in IT convinced Drake the field wasn't for him, but he wanted to experience more of the challenges of secular work before joining the clergy. The quandary was resolved when Barclays let him have a go at trading and he found he had a talent for it.

First, he became a junior interest swap trader, then he got a seat on the gilt desk. He gained specialist knowledge of contemporary risk and collateral management for derivatives products and, at the time of the Lehman bankruptcy, helped to develop process for large-scale unwinds of derivatives positions. "My title was vice-president, which sounds like second in charge of something, but the banking world loves titles. Vice-presidents are actually two rungs below the top-ranked people."

Drake left Barclays to read theology at Oxford, adding a bachelor of arts in theology to his BSc and PhD in computer science. Now he leads the morning congregation at the Baptist Tabernacle, one of four meeting at the historic Queen St church.

Was this a financial shock after his previous salary? "No, not really.

"If you were good at bond trading the financial rewards were high. But despite having three young children to support these days, for us the transition to a minister's salary hasn't been particularly painful.

"Much of our time overseas we were involved in church in a low-income part of east London and saw no point in flaunting a flashy lifestyle there ... instead, we kept our standard of living similar to what it was for a minister and his family in that part of the city, so there's been an adjustment but no drastic change.

"There's things about my previous job I can't experience now, like the enjoyment of working closely with colleagues, not that we were one big happy family, but the camaraderie was enjoyable. What a minister does is of necessity solitary at times.

"Also, while we worked long hours at Barclays, when you went home that was the end of your working day. But for a minister working hours can be quite vague. After hours, if somebody calls you with a crisis, you go and see them and that's that.

"But I enjoy the people contact you experience in this role. And there's the time you're allowed to study the Word of God, prepare a sermon and preach it on Sunday.

"For me, communicating the Christian message about Jesus is the most important thing I can do with my life, and a secular job can't compete with that."

- NZ Herald

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