10 richest and most famous bankers in the world: Career paths and net worth

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10 richest and most famous bankers in the world: Career paths and net worth

By Joe Gamse
October 26, 2022
12 min read

Investment banking is a highly competitive career path that attracts many individuals even despite its tough demands, long working hours, fierce competition, and stress. Besides, getting selected is quite challenging — only 4% of Goldman Sachs’ 40,000-plus applicants and just 2% of Morgan Stanley’s 90,000 applicants make it into their analyst programs.

In this article, we’ll not only delve into the lives of the most successful investment bankers and their achievements but also explore the pros and cons of becoming an investment banker and discover tips on how to become successful in this profession.


  • The list of bankers that significantly impacted the world economy and investment banking include The Rothschilds, J. Morgan, The Warburgs, A. Giannini, D. Rockefeller, M. Goldman, J. Lemann, J. Simons, J. Safra, and R. Dalio.
  • Amadeo Giannini’s revolutionary approach to banking democratized access to financial services, benefiting the common people.
  • Marcus Goldman’s innovative methods of evaluating companies set the foundation for Goldman Sachs’ reputation as a trusted and visionary investment bank.
  • Ray Dalio’s quantitative investing strategies at Bridgewater Associates turned it into one of the world’s largest hedge funds.
  • The key advantages of becoming a banker are high earning potential, prestige and networking opportunities, career growth, and global exposure.
  • The key disadvantages of becoming a banker are long hours, a high-stress environment, ethical concerns, and high entry barriers.
  • Success in investment banking requires strong analytical skills, effective networking, relevant experience, and adaptability to the dynamic financial industry.

Note: Financial data was retrieved from Forbes and Bloomberg.

10 famous bankers who shaped the financial world

1. The Rothschilds

Mayer Amschel Rothschild

Born: February 23, 1744, Frankfurt
Died: September 19, 1812, Frankfurt

Nathan Mayer Rothschild

Born: September 16, 1777, Frankfurt
Died: July 28, 1836, Frankfurt

Family net worth: $400 billion-$1 trillion based on different estimations.

The Rothschilds are some of the richest investment bankers in modern history who considerably impacted the world economy and investment banking in particular. The most influential members of the family are Mayer Amschel Rothschild, the dynasty founder, and Nathan Mayer Rothschild. 

During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), Nathan Mayer Rothschild almost single-handedly bankrolled the war effort of Britain and her allies, while towards the end of the century, the family acquired full control of the mining giant Rio Tinto from the Spanish government.

The family was hugely influential across Europe and presided over significant financial institutions in Britain, France, and Austria. Today, the Rothschilds themselves aren’t as involved in finance, but they still own the highly respected British investment bank that carries their name and preserve substantial capital. For instance, Nathaniel Rothschild owns $1 billion of capital.

Junius & JP Morgan

Junius Spencer Morgan

Born:April 14, 1813, Holyoke, Massachusetts, United States.
Died:April 8, 1890, Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Net worth:$12,400 (equivalent to $370 million today).

John Pierpont Morgan Sr. (J.P. Morgan)

Born:April 17, 1837, Hartford, Connecticut, United States.
Died:March 31, 1913, Rome, Lazio, Italy.
Net worth:$80 million, equivalent to $2.2 billion today.

Junius Morgan was an American banker and the progenitor of the Morgan banking dynasty.

Junius Morgan founded a merchant bank in 1864 (today’s JPMorgan Chase & Co) that would eventually become one of the best investment banks in the world, creating such financial giants as Morgan Stanley.

Today, it bears the name of his son — a certain John Pierpont, who has been credited with averting a massive financial crisis in 1907. JP Morgan also pioneered the practice of “restructuring”: working to return a struggling company to health by rejigging its operations and finances.

The Morgan family is famous not only for their banking legacy. Junius Morgan played a significant role in financing the construction of the American railway system in the mid-19th century, while his son was known for his influential role in shaping the U.S. economy during the Gilded Age. He played a crucial role in the consolidation of numerous industries, including steel, railroads, and electricity.

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3. The Warburgs

Paul M Warburg

Born:August 10, 1868, Hamburg, Germany
Died:January 24, 1932, New York City, United States.

Siegmund Warburg

Born:September 30, 1902, Seeburg, Germany.
Died:October 18, 1928, London, United Kingdom.

Family net worth: Undisclosed.

Perhaps second only to the Rothschilds, the Warburgs were one of the most prolific banking families of all time. One of its most prominent members was Paul M Warburg. After serving as a director of Wells Fargo, he was appointed to the Federal Reserve Board of the American central bank in 1914. 

Paul M Warburg was already famous for his advocacy of central banking, inspired by Robert Morris, the founding father of the United States who suggested this model back in 1781.

Not only did Warburg’s convictions ensure that the Fed was established, but he also issued a dire warning of the impending Wall Street Crash on his deathbed in March 1929.

Paul’s younger relative Siegmund Warburg was equally influential in the banking world on the other side of the Atlantic.

He fled from the Nazi regime during the Second World War (having allegedly worked with MI6) before founding S. G. Warburg in 1946, which became a major British investment bank before being acquired by UBS. His most significant achievement was arguably establishing the Eurobond market, which was a major innovation in global trading.

4. Amadeo Giannini

Born:May 6, 1870, San Jose, California, United States.
Died:June 3, 1949, San Mateo, California, United States.
Net worth:$500,000.

It often seems that the world of finance is skewed toward the rich and powerful – but it was even more so at the turn of the 20th century. Enter Amadeo Giannini, an American investor and an innovator in the banking industry.

Born in California to Italian immigrants, Giannini had made his fortune by his thirties but grew frustrated at how his newly-arrived, hardworking compatriots were being refused banking services. 

In response, he founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco, and started a revolution — suddenly, depositing savings and taking out loans was not just the preserve of wealthy merchants.

In 1928, Giannini merged with the fledgling Bank of America, Los Angeles, and presided over the newly-named Bank of America until his retirement in 1945, continuing his mission to bring banking services to everyone that needed them.

Giannini was also prepared to provide financing in the wake of the global financial crisis. After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, he granted loans for reconstruction with nothing more than a handshake, and he purchased the bonds that funded the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933.

5. David Rockefeller

Born:June 12, 1915, New York City, United States.
Died:March 20, 2017, Pocantico Hills, New York, United States.
Net worth:$3.3 billion.

David Rockefeller was a famous American financier, chief executive of Chase Manhattan Corporation, and an evil genius in the eyes of many conspiracy theorists.

Rockefeller joined Chase National Bank in 1946, working in the Foreign Department, and oversaw the construction of the bank’s new headquarters in Manhattan in 1954.

It was his spell as chairman and CEO though, from 1969 to 1980, for which he is most remembered, as under his leadership Chase became an enormous player in the international banking system.

The number of correspondent banks grew exponentially, and it was Rockefeller who oversaw the establishment of a Chase branch in Moscow in 1973 — the first time an American bank had premises in the then-Soviet Union. That same year, he traveled to China and ensured that Chase became the National Bank of China’s first American correspondent bank.

6. Marcus Goldman 

Born:December 9, 1821, Trappstadt, Bavaria, Germany.
Died:July 20, 1904, Elberon, New Jersey, United States.
Net worth:Undisclosed.

Marcus Goldman was a famous American economist, investment banker, and the founder of Goldman Sachs, one of the largest investment banks in the world.

Marcus Goldman revolutionized the banking industry with his visionary approach. His groundbreaking methods of evaluating companies through factors such as goodwill and earning power set him apart from his contemporaries. This innovative perspective attracted a multitude of investors, solidifying Goldman Sachs’ reputation as a trusted institution.
Beyond his financial accomplishments, Marcus Goldman was known for his philanthropic endeavors. He actively supported charitable causes, contributing to organizations focused on education and welfare.

7.Jorge Paulo Lemann

Born:August 26, 1939, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Net worth:$21.5 billion in 2022.

Jorge Paulo Lemann is a Swiss-Brazilian investment banker, entrepreneur, and the founder of 3G Capital, a global investment firm famous for its stellar, multi-billion acquisitions. 

Soon after graduating from Harvard Business School, Jorge Lemann, together with his fellow entrepreneurs, founded his first investment banking firm, Banco Garantia. 

Later, Jorge successfully implemented American financial approaches to Brazilian banking and acquired several beer manufacturers, controlling over 65% of the Brazilian beer market by 2004. 

Jorge Lemann’s most successful acquisitions also include H. J. Heinz Company for $28 billion, Burger King for $4.00 billion, and Kraft Foods for $40 billion.

8. Jim Simons

Born:April 25, 1938, Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Net worth:$28.6 billion in 2022.

James Harris Simons is a billionaire hedge fund manager, a genius mathematician, a code breaker, and a master of quantitative investing. 

Jim dedicated his post-graduation years to mathematics, studying geometry and topological multi-dimensional spaces. In 1974, he discovered special classes of 3-manifolds, laying the foundation for the topological quantum field theory formulated by Albert Schwarz 26 years later, in 2000.

In 1978, the mathematician founded Monemetrics (future Renaissance Technologies) and introduced a revolutionary approach to investing using quantitative analysis. As of 2022, Renaissance Technologies has over $55 billion of assets under management.

9. Joseph Safra

Born:September 1, 1938, Beirut, Lebanon.
Died:December 10, 2020, São Paulo, Brazil.
Net worth:$19.9 billion.

Joseph Safra was a Lebanese-Brazilian billionaire, Safra Group chairman, the world’s richest banker, and the wealthiest person in Brazil.

The Safra Jewish family found peace in Brazil, leaving their home country, Lebanon, due to prosecutions. Joseph Safra was a generational banker who founded Banco Safra that later became one of the most successful Brazilian banks.

Later in his life, he ruled Safra Group, a network of privately-owned banks holding over 200 premier real estate assets worldwide.

Joseph was a reserved man who always steered clear from the press and general public and disclosed his financial decisions after ensuring the deal was in the bag.

10. Ray Dalio

Born:August 8, 1949.
Net worth:$19.1 billion in 2022.

Ray Dalio is an American billionaire investor, a founder of Bridgewater Associates, and one of the world’s most successful hedge fund managers. 

Raymond Thomas Dalio was born to become one of the richest people in the world, starting investing at the age of 12.

Ray started Bridgewater Associates in 1974 as a financial advisory firm that grew into the world’s largest hedge fund with over $150 billion of assets under management.

The hedge fund was so famous and successful that President Barack Obama picked its executive, James Brien Comey Jr., as an FBI director in 2013.

However, you feel about the most successful investment bankers, it’s undeniable that today’s financial system is a crucial pillar of modern life — so next time you use an ATM in a foreign country or read about the Fed’s latest plans, spare a thought for these innovators of yesteryear.

Pros and cons of becoming an investment banker

Becoming an investment banker can be a great career choice for many individuals. However, like any other profession, it comes with its own set of pros and cons.


Let’s start with the advantages of this profession:

  • High earning potential. Investment bankers often earn lucrative salaries, which can be significantly higher than many other professions. Additionally, they may receive substantial bonuses based on their performance and the success of their deals.
  • Prestige and networking opportunities. Investment banking is seen as a prestigious career path, and working in this industry can open doors to valuable professional networks and connections.
  • Opportunities for career advancement. Successful investment bankers can advance to higher positions with greater responsibilities, such as managing director or partner.
  • Global exposure. Investment banking deals often involve international clients and cross-border transactions, providing professionals with opportunities to work on a global scale.


Here are the key disadvantages of becoming an investment banker:

  • Long hours. Investment bankers typically work long hours, including weekends and holidays, especially during deal-making periods. This schedule can lead to burnout and impact work-life balance.
  • High-stress environment. The high-pressure nature of investment banking can influence mental and physical health.
  • Ethical concerns. Investment bankers may face ethical dilemmas when dealing with sensitive information, conflicts of interest, or making decisions that primarily prioritize profits over social and environmental considerations.
  • High entry barriers. Getting into investment banking can be highly competitive and requires strong academic credentials, deep knowledge of the financial system, and networking skills.

How to become successful in investment banking

Becoming successful in investment banking requires a combination of essential skills, dedication, and strategic approaches. Here are key recommendations:

  1. Get a Bachelor’s degree. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as business administration, accounting, finance, or economics. Note that investment banks prefer to recruit from the best colleges and universities in the world, such as Ivy League universities in the U.S. or the London School of Economics and the University of Oxford in Great Britain.
  2. Get a Master’s degree. Employers typically seek investment bankers with MBA degrees or other master’s degrees for mid-level and advanced roles in the field. Though you can become an investment banker with only an undergraduate education, earning a master’s degree can help you stand out among the competition and receive more employment opportunities.
  3. Get an investment banking job. Many future bankers begin their careers as investment analysts. These positions offer an average annual salary of $71,436 a year, with the potential for higher compensation through bonuses. But when choosing a job, take into account not only the salary but also the potential paths for advancement within the company.
  4. Network extensively. Networking is a crucial aspect of the investment banking profession. Engage in networking activities, build professional relationships with industry experts, peers, and mentors, and leverage any personal connections you may have in the industry for career growth.
  5. Get CFA certified. Obtain the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification. The program covers a wide range of financial topics and requires passing three levels of exams. While it’s optional, earning the certification can enhance your credibility and expertise in finance and investment analysis. Attaining it can give you a competitive edge when pursuing advanced roles in investment banking.
  6. Register with FINRA. To work in the investment banking industry, all candidates must register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). They need to pass the Series 7 exam, which covers general securities (125 questions in 3.45 hours). Additionally, investment bankers must pass the Series 79 exam, focusing on investment banking-specific subjects (75 questions in 2.5 hours.).
  7. Advance your career. To advance in the investment banking field and stay competitive, consider participating in employer-supported training programs and pursuing an advanced degree like an MNA (Master of Negotiation and Applied Conflict Studies) or a Ph.D. in Finance. 

Becoming an investment banker is a lengthy process that takes a minimum of four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, followed by additional time (60-100 hours) preparing for and earning FINRA licensure. Pursuing a Master’s degree adds up to two more years. Thus, the entire process typically takes six to eight years to become a well-established investment banker.

Some notable successful bankers include Joseph Safra (net worth is $19.9 billion), Ray Dalio (net worth is $19.1 billion in 2022), and Jim Simons (net worth is $28.6 billion in 2022). However, it’s difficult to determine the single most successful banker, as success can be measured in various ways, such as wealth, influence, or impact on the industry.

Joseph Safra is considered the wealthiest banker in the world. He was a Brazilian-Lebanese banker and the founder of Banco Safra. At the time, his net worth was estimated to be around $19.9 billion, making him one of the richest individuals and the wealthiest banker globally.

There are several countries that present unique advantages and opportunities for banking professionals. In particular, the United States and the United Kingdom offer strong banking sectors and attractive opportunities.
Switzerland, with Zurich and Geneva, is known for stability, high salaries, and wealth management. Hong Kong and Singapore are major Asian financial hubs, providing diverse banking opportunities and a favorable business environment.

The highest bank CEO salary was earned by David M. Solomon, the Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. His pay for 2021 rose to $35 million after the bank achieved record profits. In 2020, he was originally due to receive $27.5 million, the same amount as in 2019.

The highest-paid salary in a bank is typically earned by top executives such as CEOs, CFOs, and other C-suite executives, as well as senior investment bankers and traders. These individuals can earn multi-million dollar salaries, often with significant bonuses and other compensation packages.

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