“True leadership today means doing the arithmetic right and disclosing the results transparently, telling citizens to look beyond the narrow self-interest of the present moment and accept the concept of shared sacrifice,” Henry Miller ’70, chair of Marblegate Asset Management, said in his keynote address to students, faculty members, alumni, and industry professionals at the Program for Financial Studies’ second annual conference, “Turning Around Governments, Companies, and Attitudes,” on November 2, 2012. “To paraphrase the president, we need to spread the sacrifices around because that’s what’s going to be needed to create an America that is viable.”
Miller, a member of Columbia Business School’s Board of Overseers who has played a major role in a multitude of reorganizations including AIG, Kmart, and Polaroid, shared how the lessons he has learned restructuring private companies could help solve both national and local deficit problems. Miller believes the main obstacles to fixing many states’ debt woes are pension benefits promised to public sector employees, which states now struggle to fund. “If public service employees don’t fear a diminution of benefits, they should,” Miller said, adding that policymakers need to make clear to the public that unless defined benefit plans are revamped and potentially replaced by 401(k)s and other less expensive options, states and cities may lack the resources to provide basic vital services. “To try to continue on our current course is to invite tragic consequence,” he said.
In addition to changing the retirement plans, Miller also suggested to increase the retirement age of public service workers — such as teachers and police officers — and possibly to merge smaller towns to prevent duplication of services like fire departments. “While politicians often advocate raising local property, sales, or income taxes, this should not be part of a business plan that does not also involve structural reforms to open-ended promises,” he said.
The conference also featured two concurrent panels of faculty members, alumni, and industry experts. One panel on asset management featured Andrew Ang, the Ann F. Kaplan Professor of Finance and Economics; Jacques Chappuis ’98, head of Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners; Amir Emami ’05, managing director of SGS Asset Management; and Robert Hodrick, the Nomura Professor of International Finance. The panel was moderated by Charles Jones, the Robert W. Lear Professor of Finance and Economics and director of the Program for Financial Studies.
Laurie Hodrick, the A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics in the Faculty of Business and founding director of the Program for Financial Studies (and chair of its advisory board), moderated a panel on corporate finance featuring Candace Browning ’79, head of global research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Charles Calomiris, the Henry Kaufman Professor of Financial Institutions and curriculum director of the Program for Financial Studies; John Moon, managing director at Morgan Stanley Capital Partners; and Morten Sorensen, the Daniel W. Stanton Associate Professor of Business. Both panels and the keynote address invited questions from the audience.
The Program for Financial Studies is governed by an 22-member executive advisory board and an eight-member academic advisory board that ensure that the program supports research and the development of intellectual capital, enhances the curriculum and activities for students, and creates external outreach opportunities to promote an ongoing exchange of ideas on timely topics of interest.
Videos of the keynote address and the panels, a photo slide show of the event, and a copy of the keynote address are available on the program website.