Citywire for Financial Professionals
Stay connected:

View the article online at

Bankers' behaviour explained by 'greedy gene', study finds

A gene which prevents its carriers from feeling empathy or shame is found in 84% of bankers, according to a new study conducted by scientists at University College London. (Update: yes, it's an April Fools' joke)

Bankers' behaviour explained by 'greedy gene', study finds

Update: As all of you realised, this is an April Fools' joke. Still, we need to make it clear: Richard Dawkins does not advocate sterilising bankers. As far as we know.

Scientists have identified a gene, abnormally prevalent among bankers, which restricts production of a neurotransmitter which is required for social co-operation.

Dubbed the 'greedy gene', or 'the gene that caused the credit crunch', AFL11 – which also creates unusually high testosterone levels – makes its carriers unable to empathise with other human beings.

Dr Phil Jester, who led the two-year study at University College London, hailed the findings as a 'breakthrough'.

'Genetics has historically focused on physiological predispositions such as the "tall gene" or the "ginger gene" - this is the first time we've been able to make reliable predictions about a person's psychological traits, and likely career path, based on their DNA', he said.

'About 2.7% of the population possesses the greedy gene, whereas among bankers it's an astonishing 84%. In normal life these people are shunned or sent to mental hospital; in the City, they get promoted.'

Prevalence of the 'greedy gene' among different professions:


Percentage carrying AFL11 gene

Nurse 0.4
Fireman 0.9
Teacher 1.2
Journalist 13.4
Politician 17.9
Banker 84.2
Average 2.7

*Source: UCL. Based on a sample size of 10411 subjects

'Stop these people breeding'

The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins said the increasing banker population was an example of modern social conditions distorting the evolutionary landscape. 'Just as the Ice Age favoured the hairy, the Finance Age favours those who lack the ability to feel empathy or shame,' he explained, adding that the wave of Thatcherite financial deregulation in the 1980s had been the equivalent of 'giving power tools to carpenter ants – give them enough time and they'll destroy everything'.

'The neurotransmitter in question, contritamine, was instrumental in our development as a species – it's what enabled us to co-operate with each other in the development of civilisation. If society continues to favour those who lack contritamine, the consequences could be dire.'

On his personal blog Dawkins put the same point more bluntly: 'We must stop these people breeding.'

The bank always wins

Bankers welcomed the news, however, suggesting it could pave the way for anti-discrimination legislation that would prevent government and regulators from interfering with bankers' bonuses.

'It's fantastic news, frankly,' said one source. 'For us this is the equivalent of blue badges for disabled people. It will make recruiting people much easier as well – up till now we've screened out insufficiently ruthless applicants with questions like "how much is your mother worth?", but it's not an infallible process.'

'DNA tests don't lie.'


Meanwhile the actor Bill Nighy, who has been a vocal campaigner for tougher bank levies, said the findings had made him feel 'ashamed'.

Nighy in Robin Hood Tax campaign video 'The Banker'

'To be honest I just feel awful,' he said. 'All this time I've been trying to appeal to bankers' social consciences, and now we discover that they literally don't have one. Just bloody insensitive of me.'

Nighy said he would be resigning from the Robin Hood Tax campaign, and urging fellow actors Sir Ben Kingsley and Noel Clarke to do the same.

'I just want to give Bob Diamond a big hug,' he added.

17 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Mark Cleminson

Apr 01, 2011 at 05:48

It new it was an April Fools joke when Politicians didn't score at 75%

report this

David Harvey

Apr 01, 2011 at 06:37

haha excellent! so easy to believe

report this

Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Apr 01, 2011 at 07:45

Would be fascinating to know how high is the proportion in estate agents?


report this

Big Al

Apr 01, 2011 at 08:28

Wasn't there a study once that found scientists have a gene that results in them wasting much of their time on tosh and when they're not doing that

,designing new ways for mankind to kill each other or pollute the earth?

report this

Paul Nedas

Apr 01, 2011 at 09:08

"Greed and deception: Is it too late for ethical banking?"

“The last 20 years have changed the face of banking,” says Cyrus Mewawalla, a leading UK-based research analyst, and author of the fictional financial thriller City of Thieves (under the nom de plume of Cyrus Moore.) “Big Bang in 1986 deregulated both sides of the Atlantic (by allowing cross-border investing), and after that, in 1999, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (the Depression-era US banking act separating investment and retail banking) allowed banks to do things they weren’t allowed to do before.”

....... Why doesn’t the market work in today’s (deregulated) scenario? Because in today’s scenario, bankers don’t put their clients first; they take advantage of them but they are not penalised by the market. “Clients keep coming back because banking is essentially an oligopoly,” says Mewawalla. .....

report this

Lets Face It

Apr 01, 2011 at 09:20

Something that financial people wear bright coloured clothes and stripe or patterned, pin striped things that don't go well together. Also, financial man wears braces.

Do they have suspenders and stockings underneath their trousers?

They are 'loud' in their dress and want to be noticed!

report this

Nikki Turner

Apr 01, 2011 at 09:28

We can't leave the bankers to suffer this malady unaided. I understand the cure to severe AFL11 is a quick dose of Triple ST11 (short sharp shock treatment) which I believe they administer very well in several state aided rest homes across the Country. While these establishments aren't what you would call luxurious, the bankers should adapt well in the knowledge the tax payer will be funding them.

Alternatively, we could just let them all go to health resorts in Switzerland.

report this

Mark Mercer

Apr 01, 2011 at 09:50

I had an employee once who told people he was to be married the next week. After congratulations and plans for a whip round etc. he announced that he had been 'kidding'. He thought it very funny that people had believed him.

I am still trying to work out what is amusing about 'fooling' people by simply lying. Maybe it is a sense of superiority or something. Is there a gene for it?

report this


Apr 01, 2011 at 09:56

It was 'contritamine' that did it for me. Too good not to be true!

report this

William Phillips

Apr 01, 2011 at 10:30

Estate agent: 99.44%

British savers: 0.03%

report this

an elder one

Apr 01, 2011 at 11:38

Nice try! what of the rest of society, esp. media commentators.

report this

Roger Savage

Apr 01, 2011 at 11:40

The 'laugh' is though, it's getting more and more difficult to differentiate between April 1st jokes and so-called genuine scientific studies. I've just read this and thought at first it was the same sort of jocular story. Mmm...

report this

Chris Marsden

Apr 01, 2011 at 12:44

Many a true word was said in jest!

report this


Apr 01, 2011 at 13:48


Don't you mean euthanasia clinics in Switzerland?

report this

allan c

Apr 01, 2011 at 19:05

i must be thick ....i actually believed the story was true..its.... so believable and would exsplain the ...up yours attitude of the bankers in general..

report this

john kenny

Apr 01, 2011 at 22:54

Human instinctual behaviour aka human nature has in part been controlled by society eg the propensity to violence, theft or rule by the nastiest etc.

One day our attitude to the rapacious greed of a few may likewise be reviewed and no longer seen as acceptable when it is destructive to so many others.

(Changed not by the envy / destruction of socialist politics but by man's own higher nature.) Actually on second thoughts the this is really just a continuation of rule by the nastiest but as sanctioned by law , so don't hold your breath.

This is a great April fool simply because we all know it really could have been true!l

report this

Chris Clark

Apr 02, 2011 at 10:37

Shame it wasn't an April Fool's joke. I quite liked that idea of sterilising the b*gg%rs.

report this

leave a comment

Please sign in here or register here to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

News sponsored by:

The Citywire Guide to Investment Trusts

In this guide to investment trusts, produced in association with Aberdeen Asset Management, we spoke to many of the leading experts in the field to find out more.

Watch Now

More about this:

What others are saying


Today's articles

Tools from Citywire Money

From the Forums

+ Start a new discussion

Weekly email from The Lolly

Get simple, easy ways to make more from your money. Just enter your email address below

An error occured while subscribing your email. Please try again later.

Thank you for registering for your weekly newsletter from The Lolly.

Keep an eye out for us in your inbox, and please add to your safe senders list so we don't get junked.


Barnett eyes revival and 'refines' unquoted portfolio

by Daniel Grote on May 23, 2018 at 16:09

Sorry, this link is not
quite ready yet