David Nussbaum

MA in Theology. Now Chief Executive at The Elders, the human rights group founded by Nelson Mandela.

Chief Executive at The Elders, the human rights group founded by Nelson Mandela.

What has been your career path?

Completing my second theology degree at New College, I decided not to pursue an academic or teaching career (I had in any case not been intending to work in church employment, the ministry). Instead, I wanted to get a technical qualification and move into the commercial world.

After two theology degrees, its a bit late to do useful things like becoming an engineer, but accountancy looked possible, and I’d been good at maths. Jesus said that you can’t serve God and money, but he didn't say that you can't study God and money!

So I trained and qualified with PriceWaterhouseCoopers (as they are now called), and then moved into venture capital with 3i plc for three years.

From there I went into the manufacturing industry in the paper and packaging sector, ending up as Finance Director of a quoted European PLC. I also became a non-executive director - and later Chair of the Board - of Traidcraft, the Christian-based Fair Trade organisation.

Then I moved to be Finance Director of Oxfam: a big change, not least in remuneration, from being a PLC director.

After some years there, I took up a new role as Chief Executive of Transparency International (the global anti-corruption organisation) based in Berlin, though weekly commuting was a bit tough on my wife and our four teenage kids.

In 2007, I became Chief Executive of WWF-UK, the conservation and environmental charity.


How has New College influenced your life?

My experience at New College was part of what trained me to think. My dissertation was on 'Augustine (an influential Christian theologian 1,700 years ago), Scripture and Power', and I've been thinking about how people use and think about power ever since.

Studying at New College helped to mature my thinking and perspectives on the world, to assess evidence and bias in sources, and to understand how assumptions and cultures affect the way people think. And it helped me to explore my Christian faith intellectually, and determine to work at it outside as well as inside the cloister and the church.

My career path was certainly not planned (at least, not by me!) from the outset: but it does show how studying theology can develop into unanticipated paths.