I am a Muslim undergraduate student in the US who is contemplating career options and thinking about the finance track that a lot of undergrads gravitate towards (positions in investment banking or investment management, for example). I attend a school where a good number of students go into finance and there are sizable resources (career center, alumni,etc. ) to help students with this route.
I do have hesitations/some questions from an Islamic point of view, the most obvious of which is the issue of riba/interest. Many of the roles in finance, unsurprisingly, directly deal with interest - an investment banker issuing stocks and bonds on behalf of a company, a wealth manager advising a client to invest a portion of his or her portfolio in certain bonds, etc. Even if one's work is not directly involved with interest/riba - maybe working as an accountant for a bank or strictly doing mergers & acquisitions, where you gain fees from services - most financial institutions gain a substantial portion of their profits from interest-based activities and have operations in the sourcing, processing, and vetting of interest-based products or transactions.
My question then is: is it permissible to work in a financial institution, even if you work in a role that does not directly deal with riba? For Muslims working in finance, either in work that directly or do not directly involve riba, how do you think about this issue?
I realize that virtually all companies and industries deal with riba at some level - loans, bonds, etc - but there is a difference between working in a company/industry that actively leverages, and uses interest to make a profit versus say, a beverage company that is short on cash and perhaps uses interest to gain short term capital, but interest is not the main engine for business operations and profit.
The prestige, pay, and exit options for such careers are of course very alluring, and why many of my peers take this route, but given the serious nature of riba in Islam, I just need some perspective on this. Perhaps I am being too serious or idealistic in the world we live in, or am I thinking about this right?