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How yoga led a Goldman director to quit his job and go to Kenya

Back in 2017, then-Goldman Sachs junior Romain Duvergé walked into a yoga class hosted in the bank’s London office gym.

Seven years later, Duvergé is no longer at Goldman – or even London. He’s in Geneva, and he’s a relationship manager at Syz, the Swiss private bank. He’s also fully licensed, by the Chopra Center, to instruct a particular type of meditation called Primordial Sound Meditation (more on that later).

Duvergé's initial yogic inspiration was simple. “Reduce stress, reduce tension, sleep better. There was no spirituality, there were no big questions about the meaning of life,” he says. The physical benefits were more transformative than he could have imagined, however. “You go there on a Wednesday. It’s already a long week by Wednesday, but you go there for an hour and lie on your back after and you’re feeling a different world. You get so much out of it.”

It wasn’t just the immediate benefits, either. “There’s an obvious correlation, I’ve seen it myself and in other practitioners. The less stress you have, the more successful you are at work,” he says. “There’s a misconception that if you do yoga and meditation then you’re a bit of a hippie. You don’t care to work hard; you care more about work-life-balance." Duvergé sees that as completely wrong. The example he gives is of Ray Dalio, the founder of top hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, who swears by transcendental meditation, a method that is “very similar” to the one that Duvergé practices.

What Duvergé practices is, among other things, Primordial Sound Meditation (PSM), a derivative of the transcendental meditation that Dalio (and tennis GOAT Novak Djokovic) are adherents of PSM is based on meditating with mantras – Sanskrit words with particular meanings to focus on. A good example is the famous “om,” believed by some adherents of the Dharmic faiths to be the first sound emitted into the universe (the primordial sound, if you will).

Embracing the religious implications of this sort of meditation, however, is not fundamental in Duvergé’s view. “It’s really not what I’m trying to promote,” he says. “I have a huge respect for all religions... But if I bring religion into it, then it’s not inclusive anymore.”

Duvergé is pragmatic on his practice. “[Meditation] is not a religion - it’s a technique… I’m not a devotee of any God. I don’t see myself as a religious person.” But whilst he is pragmatic about the question of religion, that doesn’t mean others are. A Catholic uncle of his refused to use the mantra “om”, due to it being seen as the issuance of Shiva, but Romain had no issue with this. “It’s fair”, he says. Other mantra options are available.

Family has been a big driver of this journey. Duvergé became an instructor after his experience with leading some meditation sessions with his younger brother, Vincent, when the two of them moved back to Provence for the pandemic. The younger Duvergé, who was going through a variety of private issues at the time, was persuaded by Romain to try meditation and yoga with him.

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“He’s amazing,” Romain said, “because he tried to do what I offered him.” The transformation was beyond what either of them could have imagined. “It was the most beautiful thing I had seen in my life. In one week, two hours a day of physical yoga sequences and meditation [a rather intense regimen, it must be said], transformed him. From having no desire to do anything, to doing everything again.” He even gained back 20 kilos of weight that were lost earlier in lockdown. The dramatic change persuaded Romain that he had something spectacular that he could share. “Now is not the time to keep it to myself. I want to shout it to the world.”

It was that move back to Provence during the pandemic that led him to leaving Goldman, too. The mountains and forests had impressed themselves too greatly for a return to life in London.

Yoga and meditation are also seeping into Duvergé’s career more directly. As a private banker, he’s focused on East Africa, a region of the world with many Indian entrepreneurs (a legacy of the British Empire). They have a special relationship with both yoga and meditation, which Duvergé taps into. “I think Africa is quite sensitive to bringing consciousness and mindfulness to the workplace,” he says. “When I speak to entrepreneurs there, the challenge is finding reliable employees.” Meditation and mindfulness is a big tool in changing attitudes and cultures.

To that end, Duvergé is hosting meditation “summits”. 300 CEOs are attending the Conscious Companies summit in South Africa, where he’ll host a meditation exercise for them. There’s also the Young Presidents Organization, a worldwide leadership community with over 34,000 members – Duvergé is hosting meditation for them starting in June, in Kenya.

He stills maintains a good relationship with Goldman, who offered to relocate him to their office in Geneva, but leaving the bank at that point was a career-savvy move; it had only two relationship managers in the city when he was looking to move, and relocating from London would have been a career cul-de-sac for a 30-something year old executive director. There were no bad feelings, however, and he’s now a client for the firm. “They invite me to dinner. They treat me very well.”

His new place at Syz, however, was too good to turn down. “I’m so grateful,” Duvergé says. “Swimming [in the Swiss lakes], even in the at 6 degrees… All your stress, all your worries, you leave them in the lake. You get out and you’re reborn. It’s fantastic.” The bank, as well as its founding family, are very supportive of both yoga and its teaching. “These are among the values we want,” Duvergé says he was told. “I’m running a monthly meditation class. The bank gave me the board of director’s room – I’m not hiding on the ground floor in a cold room with no windows. The bank is really embracing it.”

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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