Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Greetings from Park City, Utah! Wishing you all a very Happy New Year! Thank you for your support and for sharing your insights. It most certainly was a very interesting year and 2010 will likely be one as well.
In early 2010 I will be switching from blogspot to a website so stay tuned. Blessings to all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Financial Times Person of the Year - Lloyd Blankfein, Fannie and Freddie

The Financial Times names Lloyd Blankfein Person of the Year for how he handled his firm through the financial crisis. This bold nomination will most certainly be met with mixed feelings, but if you were to judge this CEO buy how his firm did for it's shareholders over the course of the year, you would have to say he did well. If you did not see this brilliantly written article by Bethany McClean in Vanity Fair about GS, read it now. I, like Bethany, tend to hold GS to a higher standard and I truly hope that they take on a greater role and responsibility for helping our economy return to solid ground. "To those to whom much has been given, much is expected."
If you are looking for a reason to get upset, and I encourage you not to, then read more about the goings on at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. For the past two years I have been writing about the problems at these two government sponsored entities, and the craziness continues. The government just uncapped the level of support they will recieve, and the losses that they will suffer will be so high that even thinking about the number makes be want to gag. In addition, the big pay packages to top executives was just revealed. Yes there are reasons to be upset about Goldman and other financial institutions, but most of them actually paid back the government for their support, and with hefty dividends. Not so for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I am truly not in to the blame game, but if you really must point fingers, then point them in the direction of Washington. I trace many of the problems we have had in the mortgage market to the growth of these two companies and the crowding out effect they created by growing their massive portfolios. One might ask if Fannie and Freddie did not leverage their cheap debt to invest in hundreds of billions of conventional mortgage product would wall street have created all the junk they did to generate higher yielding investments for their institutional buyers? We will never know.
I truly hope for a much better 2010. Though the equity markets have recovered greatly, deep problems in our economy, and around the world, remain. We are in such a deep fiscal mess and I doubt that the political will exists to make some very tough decisions that will lead us to longer term strong economic growth. Again, so many to blame, so many would a could a should a's, but I want to close that book and stop looking back and increasingly look forward.
I hope that 2010 will be the year of strong leadership, creative solutions, and thoughtful public engagement. Further I hope that 2010 will be a year that when we look back a decade from now, we will see that diversity of thought and action really took hold. We will see that 2010 was the year that we questioned old leadership and engagement models, and fresh perspectives found their voice because it was broadly recognized that was what was missing. I hope it will be a year that women's leadership takes a giant step forward, instead of a step back.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let 2010 Be The Year You Get Financially Fit!!

What is on the top of your New Years Resolution List? Get in better shape? Get organized? Make more time for friends and family? How about taking charge of your finances? LEARNVEST can make it all easy, fun and best of all, it is FREE! LEARNVEST is a new start-up company I am thrilled to be a part of because I am passionate about girls and women, well everyone, becoming financially literate. The site is full of GREAT content and you can sign up for the LEARNVEST DAILY to get financial tips delivered to your inbox. Sign up for the 2010 Financial Bootcamp and you will have a month's full of coaching about everything you need to know about your finances. Give this gift to your friends and do it together. Please forward the link, tweet and help us make this bootcamp a movement! Money is a resource that we cannot affford to waste. Let's get smart about it, improve our lives, and change the world!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Goldman Sachs, the New York Times

For the record I did NOT speak to the NY Times about the Goldman retired Partner meeting that was held last week that I attended, but I was the one that asked Lloyd the question that is the subject of the cover page story in the NY Times today. "As CEO of Goldman Sachs, what do you want your legacy to be?" Mr. Blankfein had a long, thoughtful and very good answer. The Times did get it right in saying that "he, like his predecessors, hoped to position Goldman Sachs to capitalize on whatever opportunities might arise during his tenure." He went on to talk a lot more about it but since those meetings are off the record, as they should be, I cannot add to what was reported.

The article talks about the growing importance of trading and in my opinion, yes it is true, and has been for some time. It is debatable whether it is a good or bad thing. With respect to the question of being long term verus short term greedy, I personally think greedy is just not a good thing period. Greed is out GOOD is in, and Wall Street needs to embrace this big shift. As I said on CNN monday morning speaking to the changes that need to and should happen in financial services, we need firms like Goldman to ever increasingly use their knowledge, their insights, their resources, and some of their profits to help build a strong domestic and global economy. The price they should pay for growing to be so big to be big too fail, is a certain amount of responsibility for the overall economic and financial system. This is a new world where the strong need to help the weak and much will be asked and expected of the strong. Many have tried to put numbers around how much GS benefited from government programs, and that number is impossible to come up with, but clearly the public thinks it is bigger then Goldman does and wants a good chunk of it back. If I were running the firm, given how well GS is doing and the tremendous needs out there particularly around job creation, I would be pulling out all the stops to continue to come up with some good, fundable and impactful ideas. I wrote about a Virtue Fund a few weeks ago, and I still really like the concept!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Tipping Point.....( and yes, it is about WOMEN)

It is has been another one of those days, well two days actually. They were the kind of days that leave my head spinning with ideas, with possibility, with solutions!

Last year around this time I wrote a couple of my favorite entries of the over 300 I have now posted on this blog. If you have time, and you will need some time, please take a look. ( here, here and here) Now these are not the polished opeds you will find listed to the right, but some rants about what I felt was wrong in the world. It was in naming what was wrong, that the system FAILED, that enabled me to truly begin to focus on the solution set. It has been an incredible year. A year of such deep learning and understanding and I feel so grateful to everyone who has and continues to inform my thinking and help me on this crazy journey.

So this is what I am going to do tonight… weave together some words, some themes, from the writings of last year to the events of past two days. Each word, each phrase could be it's own blog entry but since I can't do that this word cloud of sorts will just have to do.

But first. We are at a tipping point. I know it. Last year it was more about seeing the problems then imagining the possible solutions. I knew in my heart that the problems we were facing (financial crisis, economic problems, poverty, violence...) were deeply connected to the absence of women in positions of power, the absence of power in the hands of women, and the underutilization of women’s economic power, but I could not really articulate it, let alone prove it. Now I feel I can do both. The data is out there in a variety of research reports ( old and new ) that I will soon list on my new web-site! (the list is LONG) But there is more to it. What was needed was a logic model that connects the facts, the data, to an investment thesis about why women and why now. ( The Business Case ) Further we needed a framework to capture the wicked problem of gender inequality, and we now have it thanks to the brilliant thinking of Chris Grumm of the Women's Funding Network - The Human Security Framework. Finally I have been imagining how to bridge the gap between the needs and opportunities of the for profit sector, with the non-profit sector. Although that is a very tall older I have ideas on where to begin, envisioning partnerships that make such good sense. These are all pieces of the puzzle that are finding their way in to place. It has taken years, but I am finally seeing it! I said it last year and I am saying it now…. Invest in women. INVEST in women. INVEST IN WOMEN!

Before. FAILED. Financial Crisis. Bad Business Models. Private Equity. Leverage. Risk. Lack of Women. Leadership. Are You Ready for a Revolution. Brokenness. Hope? Invest in Women. Critical Mass and more..

Monday. CNN. Pres. Obama. Fat Cats. Wall Street. Unemployment. Job Creation. Lend. Partnerships. Consulting. The Business Case for Women. The Global Forum for Women and the Economy. Next year? Female Davos. Center for Work Life Policy. Board Meeting. Corporate Engagement. Gen X. Lack of Progress. Economist Magazine. Mathew Bishop. Philanthrocapitalism. Women Moving Millions. Women’s Funding Network. Partnerships. Shared power. The Democratization of Philanthropy. Grassroots leadership. Scaling up not Trickle Down. Tuesday. Gary Haugan. The International Justice Mission. Human Slavery. Rescue. Persecute. Aftercare. Structural transformation. On the ground expertise. Human Security Framework. UBS. Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Women of Wealth. Social Change Philanthropy. Business Week. Why women? Why now? Management as a Social Innovation. Female Entrepreneurship. Lack of Capital. Barriers to entry. The Economic Power of Women. TARP. Job creation. Partnerships. Change the Paradigm. Subway. 73rd street. Party. Learnvest. Start-up. Financial Literacy. Feminism. The Feminine Mistake. Gloria Steinem. Destiny. Wonder Woman.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

CNN Appearance - Monday Morning

PursePundit to appear on CNN American Morning with William Cohan, Author of House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street - Monday morning around 7 am, to talk about Obama's message to Wall Street. Tune in!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Goldman Sachs Announces Changes to Executive Comp

I have been writing a lot about leadership over the past few weeks as responsible and moral leadership is much needed to lead us out of this financial, economic and social crisis. Yesterday I gave the shout out to CEO Jeff Immelt for his bold remarks, and today I would like to compliment the leadership shown by Goldman Sachs in adjusting their compensation structure. I have recently written about Goldman’s outstanding business principles and challenged them to ensure they are living up to them. They also have a set of compensation principles, which in print look outstanding indeed. CEO Blankfein was quoted as saying “we believe our compensation policies are the strongest in our industry and ensure that compensation accurately reflects the firm’s performance and incentivizes behavior that is in the public’s and our shareholders’ best interest.” Whether it be in cash or stock I am not sure what the ‘right’ level of compensation that is in the public’s best interest, but this recent action is most certainly a step in the right direction. More on this from the WSJ. A few weeks ago we called for them in this oped to be a leader in the industry, and they are doing just that!

For the record I am against these bank bonus taxes, and not because I was once a banker of sorts and have friends that are bankers. My reasoning relates to "what is a bank" and "what is a banker?" One of the main issues contributing to this crisis is the development of a shadow banking system, largely unregulated, that dwarfed the real banking system. Hedge funds, private equity funds, the GSEs, rating agencies, mortgage brokers, and so forth are all part of the system that contributed to this disaster and to impose a tax on only those in a classsic bank is just not right. I do think compensation got out of control in general and was deeply one sided and the public is paying for the clean up. That said what is needed is more of what I wrote about in the first paragraph. Responding to public pressure, shareholder pressure, and I hope in part by thinking about what is 'right' firms will and should rethink and be held accountable for their compensation practises. Government telling companies ( non bail out ) what they can pay their people is in my view against what this country is about and very dangerous indeed. What I have no space to go in to is the compexity and craziness of actually implementing something like this.... I deeply respect that so many people are suffering great financial hardship, but in this one writers opinion, a bonus tax does little to solve the problem. What will is real leadership and accountability.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jeff Immelt Speaks Out!!

In this blog I try to put forward people and ideas that can or do have positive impact on the world. Though there is the occasional rant about all things wrong in the world, increasingly I want focus on the good! With that in mind I want to commend Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, on taking a bold step yesterday and speaking openly about how corporate leadership has failed us, and what leaders need to do going forward.

This morning the Financial Times reported on a speech Mr. Immelt gave at West Point Military Academy where he said his generation of business leaders had succumbed to "meanness and greed" that had harmed the US economy and increased the gap between the rich and the poor. Mr Immelt's attack on his fellow corporate chiefs - made in a speech at the West Point military academy - is one of the strongest criticisms by a top executive of the compensation and business practices that prevailed before the financial crisis.

FT - I do not see this as an attack. I see this as more of an apology and more importantly a call to action for the leadership of corporate America ( which is 95% male CEOS of Fortune 500 companies) to think about their role in bringing upon us the Great Recession and help lead us out of it. He his putting his values out there by saying "the bottom 25 percent of the American population is poorer than they were 25 years ago. That is just wrong." He goes on to say "Ethically, leaders do share a common responsibility to narrow the gap between the weak and the strong." We need so much more of this kind of leadership. These kinds of bold words should be commended and we should hold Mr. Immelt accountable, as the CEO of one the world's largest companies, to increasingly put these values, his values, in to action.

I am honored to be part of an Corporate Leadership and Ethics Roundtable, organized by Auburn Theological Seminary, that gathers CEO level business leaders in the NY area to talk about important moral and ethical issues they face in running their businesses. I am good friends with President Katharine Henderson, with whom I recently wrote two opeds - "Can Goldman Sachs Find God?" and " If Wall Street Repents can Main Street Forgive?" on the Daily Beast. These conversations need to be going on as it is in part through having a private space to share, that leaders who step forward on moral issues will find their voice and stand together to have a positive impact on society as a whole. Thank you Mr. Immelt for taking a stand. If I were in the audience I would have given you a standing ovation.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rudyard Kipling's - IF

I continuously ask myself the question - "Am I spending my time on this planet wisely? Given the tools and resources I have been given, am I using them well, to build something, or build on to something, responsibly?" I went to bed thinking about this and woke up with this poem, my favorite poem, in my head. I hope you enjoy it.....

Rudyard Kipling's - IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,But make allowance for their doubting too;If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,Or being hated, don't give way to hating,And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;If you can meet with Triumph and DisasterAnd treat those two impostors just the same;If you can bear to hear the truth you've spokenTwisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginningsAnd never breathe a word about your loss;If you can force your heart and nerve and sinewTo serve your turn long after they are gone,And so hold on when there is nothing in youExcept the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,If all men count with you, but none too much;If you can fill the unforgiving minuteWith sixty seconds' worth of distance run,Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

(but of course I would change another ending, "You will be a woman, my daughter")

In 'googling' for a cool image I came upon this blogsite as my first hit. I just claimed another sister. Her blog theme "Find the Good. Be Inspired" - that is what we all need to continuously do. Have a GREAT Day.
PS - I just noticed that this was my 300 th post!!!! Another reason to celebrate.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Requiem for the Dollar" - Read this.

I just read one of the most important business articles I have read in a long time. The Wall Street Journal - " After a glorious run, has the greenback become the General Motors of currencies, hobbled by bad management? James Grant mourns the loss of his beloved classical gold standard and says that paper money has had its day." It commands two pages of the WSJ and you will see why once you read it. I agree with him, in part because my husband has been talking about this for years. Years. Houston we have a problem....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How Can We Help the World's Poor? Nic Kristof

This is not an easy question to answer but one that we all need to ask ourselves. On November 20th Nic Kristof tried to answer the question in a NYTimes oped. Click here to read it. He says something very important, that "It’s clear that doing good is harder than it looks." Although this is very true, doing good is also something we can choose every minute of the day. As it relates to helping the world's poor the complexity increases dramatically, and that is why we need big thinkers and doers to help lead the way. Nic highlights the work of the Acumen Fund, an organization I have written about before and am a big fan of. Acumen is an amazing example of a new and innovative approach to this challenge, and it's leader Jacqueline Novogratz is a true force of nature.

Nic and his wife Sheryl Wudunn wrote "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression in to Opportunity for Women Worldwide." If you have not read it yet, please do, and buy copies for others. They are truly a power couple, and we need to see a lot more couples stepping forward in partnership to make the world a better place. I am honored to know them personally and am looking forward to a special event with them both this week. I will report back on how this book is turning in to a global movement.

John Mauldin, John Hussman and Reckless Myopia

I am a big fan of John Mauldin and his newsletter. Below please find an excerpt from another must read piece. Click here for the whole article.

"Long time Outside of the Box readers are familiar with John Hussman of the eponymous Hussman Funds. And once again he is my selection for this week's OTB.

This week he touches on several topics, all of which I find interesting. As he notes:

"We face two possible states of the world. One is a world in which our economic problems are largely solved, profits are on the mend, and things will soon be back to normal, except for a lot of unemployed people whose fate is, let's face it, of no concern to Wall Street. The other is a world that has enjoyed a brief intermission prior to a terrific second act in which an even larger share of credit losses will be taken, and in which the range of policy choices will be more restricted because we've already issued more government liabilities than a banana republic, and will steeply debase our currency if we do it again. It is not at all clear that the recent data have removed any uncertainty as to which world we are in. "