Grad Speech: My Top Ten List

My graduating MBA students recently voted to give me their Teaching Excellence award for 2020-21 – thank you thank you thank you! Here’s a snapshot of my acceptance speech; my Top Ten list:

  1. It’s all about China (in international business, that is)
  2. Keep digging deeper – look beneath the obvious & the superficial

 This reminded me of an old banking legend about a well-dressed woman who came into a bank branch in Manhattan to request a cash loan of $5000 for a two-week vacation in Cancun. The banker said, I can’t lend without collateral; I don’t even know you.

But the woman replied, See that Rolls Royce parked at the curb? It’s worth $150,000; you can keep it as collateral if I don’t pay. And so the banker approved the loan.

Two weeks later, the woman returned to the bank with $5000 and $15 interest (two weeks at 8%). The banker’s assistant pulled her car up to the door.

Walking the woman out to her car, the banker said, I checked you out and you’ve got plenty of money. Why borrow $5000 for your vacation?

And the woman replied, How else could I park in Manhattan for two weeks for just $15?

 3. Girls education is the silver bullet to development

4. On the other hand…remember there’s always another hand, and another, and another. Think about all sides to the problem!

5. Don’t be afraid to put family first: It’s a legitimate option. This may not be your choice – which is fine! – but hopefully it is an option. For me, personally, in every decision that forced me to choose between family and job, I chose family.

6. There are no free lunches or miracles in finance: You can’t abolish the risk-reward tradeoff. I once heard a story about a tourist who goes to a zoo and sees a lion and lamb lying together in one cage. The amazed tourist asked the zookeeper, How do you manage to keep a lion and a lamb together? The zookeeper explained: It’s easy, we just put in a new lamb every morning

7. In finance, character matters more than numbers. The great financier J.P. Morgan once told a Senator this, and the Senator asked, “Is not commercial credit based primarily upon money or property?” Morgan replied, “No, sir; the first thing is character.” The disbelieving Senator persisted: Really? Before money & property? And Morgan answered, Before money or anything else. Character is everything.

8. Remember the front page of the New York Times: If something is likely to look bad on the front page of the Times, then it’s probably a bad idea.

9. You are in the midst of a financial revolution: Put gender and social issues front and center in every decision you make.

10. Ask questions. The infamous financial scammer Bernie Madoff justified his actions by saying that his hapless investors were “sophisticated people” and should have known better. “People asked me all the time, how did I do it,” he explained. “And I refused to tell them, and they still invested. Things have to make sense to you. You should ask good questions.” Great financial disasters usually happen because people don’t understand what’s going on, and don’t ask enough questions.

 So get out there, and use this education plus your own skills and talents – and do well, and do good!