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Willie Sutton Rule


The Willie Sutton Rule is a slang term referring to an investment strategy where investors go where the money is. It’s named after bank robber Willie Sutton, who allegedly said he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” The rule suggests that activities are directed towards areas where money is most abundant and easily accessed.


The phonetics of the keyword ‘Willie Sutton Rule’ are as follows:Willie: /ˈwɪli/Sutton: /ˈsʌtən/Rule: /ruːl/

Key Takeaways

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  1. The Willie Sutton Rule is based on the criminal Willie Sutton who, when asked why he robbed banks, allegedly replied, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ Essentially, this rule suggests looking for opportunities or solutions where they are most likely to be found.
  2. In the context of economics and policy-making, the Willie Sutton Rule often implies focusing efforts and resources where they’re going to have the biggest impact. For example, lawmakers might focus on certain sectors or demographics when creating policies if they believe there’ll be a higher return on investment.
  3. The rule, while simple, is a helpful reminder for strategic planning in various fields. From healthcare to business, focusing on areas with high potential can be more efficient and effective.

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The Willie Sutton Rule, named after the infamous bank robber, is a business and finance principle based on the notion of focusing resources where they’ll have the greatest impact. Sutton allegedly said he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” In business and finance, this rule emphasizes the need to focus on areas where money can be most effectively used or saved, whether it’s targeting high-profit customer segments, increasing focus on profitable products, or cost-cutting in high-expenditure areas. The significance of the Willie Sutton Rule is that it encourages strategic thinking about resource allocation, having significant implications on profitability, efficiency, and ultimately business success.


The Willie Sutton Rule, colloquially known as “going where the money is,” serves as a fundamental guide for many policy-makers and businesses when determining where to direct their efforts. Named after the notorious bank robber, Willie Sutton, who when asked why he robs banks simply responded with “Because that’s where the money is,” the rule promotes the targeting of areas or sectors where potential returns are ostensibly the highest.In the realms of finance and business, this principle has a specific application. Companies leverage the Willie Sutton Rule to identify profitable markets and modify their strategies correspondingly. Similarly, legislators, regulators, and tax authorities could employ this strategy to generate maximum revenue and enforce regulations more efficiently. Essentially, whether it’s looking to expand business, resources, or implement new policies, the Willie Sutton Rule informs where emphasis should be placed.


The Willie Sutton rule, named after the famous criminal who allegedly said he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is,” is a principle stating that where potential gain is highest, efforts should be concentrated.1. Taxing the Wealthy: Many countries around the world, including the US, follow the Willie Sutton Rule while deciding their taxation policies. They levy higher tax rates on higher income individuals because “that’s where the money is.” This can collect substantial revenue for the government, which could then be redistributed to support various public services.2. Investment in Profitable Ventures: Businesses can apply the Willie Sutton rule when deciding where to invest. Firms will choose to invest more heavily in divisions that have demonstrated high performance and profitability because these areas offer high potential monetary returns.3. High-Stakes Fundraising: Non-profit organizations and fund-raisers might concentrate efforts on wooing and soliciting donation from high net worth individuals or corporations, rather than focusing on small individual contributors because that’s where larger funds can be obtained. Please note that while this rule might lead to concentrating resources where the most return can be gotten, it’s also important to consider the ethical and long-term implications of decisions made based on this rule.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Willie Sutton Rule?

The Willie Sutton Rule, named after the infamous American bank robber, is an investing adage that advises financial planners and investors to go where the money is. This means focusing on areas where potential returns and gains are higher.

Why is it named after Willie Sutton?

The rule is named after Willie Sutton because when asked why he robs banks, he reportedly replied, because that’s where the money is. The term is used metaphorically in finance to indicate focusing on areas or investments that promise the most reward.

How is the Willie Sutton Rule applied in business and finance?

In the context of business and finance, it means targeting those areas or investment opportunities that are likely to yield the most returns. This could range from investing in promising sectors, pursuing affluent clients, or focusing on profitable markets.

Are there any risks in following the Willie Sutton Rule?

Just as Willie Sutton faced risks in robbing banks, following the Willie Sutton rule may also entail certain investment risks. An investment area may be profitable, but it could also be more volatile or have a higher chance of loss. Hence, risk management is crucial.

Is the Willie Sutton Rule only applicable to investments?

The Willie Sutton Rule isn’t only applicable to investments; it can also be applied to areas like marketing. For example, marketers can focus their efforts on platforms or channels where the most potential customers are found, essentially going where the money is.

How can one balance the Willie Sutton Rule with diversification?

While the Willie Sutton Rule suggests focusing on the most profitable areas, it’s important to balance it with diversification. This means spreading investments across various sectors, assets, or markets to manage risk and potential losses.

What’s a practical example of applying the Willie Sutton Rule?

A simple example of applying this rule might be choosing to invest in technology start-ups because they have the potential for high returns, despite being high-risk. Or a business may focus on developing products for affluent consumers because they have more money to spend.

What are the limitations of the Willie Sutton Rule?

The limitations of the Willie Sutton Rule lie in its emphasis on reward over risk. Profits can lead to complacency and lack of consideration for potential threats. Furthermore, this approach could also lead to a lack of diversification in investment portfolios, leading to higher susceptibility to market fluctuations.

Related Finance Terms

  • Opportunity cost: This refers to the potential gain that someone misses when choosing one alternative over another. It’s related to the Willie Sutton Rule as businesses have to make decisions on where to allocate resources for the greatest return, much like Willie Sutton robbing banks because ‘that’s where the money is’.
  • Income tax: This is a tax that governments impose on income generated by businesses and individuals. The Willie Sutton Rule can often be applied in tax policy, targeting areas where the most revenue can be collected.
  • Cost-benefit analysis: This is a systematic approach to estimating the strengths and weaknesses of alternatives in business decisions. It relates to the Willie Sutton Rule as it involves going after the options that provide the greatest benefits relative to costs.
  • Revenue optimization: This refers to strategically managing a business’s capacity to generate revenue. The Willie Sutton Rule can be applied in maximizing revenue by focusing on areas that yield the most profit.
  • Resource allocation: This refers to the distribution of resources among competing groups or projects in a company. Similar to the Willie Sutton Rule, resource allocation involves directing resources where they’ll have the biggest impact.

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