Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Womens Forum, Gloria, BCRF, The Gentlemen's Fund, and What if?

I'm back! After 10 days of travel in Europe and two days reconnecting with my family, the week started off with a bang! Although I promised not to continue to make this blog a report on the activities of Jacki Zehner, please allow me to comment on the important events of this week. First, on monday evening I celebrated 35 years of the existence of the New York Women's Forum with a roomful of the most incredible women in the city ( and a few good men!). I am honored to a member of this diverse group of educators, non-profit leaders, writers, business women, donors and more. It was created to offer a space for women to gather, connect, share, and help one another achieve their life goals, and serve the community. Their education fund provides scholarship funds to women over the age of 35 achieve their academic goals. Truly an inspiring evening.

Last night I co-hosted a party for the Ms. Foundation in continued celebration of the 75th birthday of their founding member Gloria Steinem. What was so special about this gathering was that in the room was a an incredibly diverse group of people - from a 14 year old young man, to a 60 year old iconic hedge fund manager. Gloria shared stories from her life of activism and focussed on the effects of the 'gendered' world we live in. We all imagined living in a world where all people where not inhibited by expectations and limitations, but rather came to be their full selves.... A very special evening indeed.

I am now dashing to the Breast Cancer Research Luncheon and then to GQ magazine's Gentlemen's Ball - founded by our good friend Pete Hunsinger ( picgtured) , publisher of GQ. As I wrote last year Pete created this fund to raise awarenenss and funds for important causes, including the one mentioned below. I thank and honor all the amazing men in the world that are using their resources - their time, their treasure, their talent - to make a better world.

I would love to call your attention to an amazing organization and an amazing person that I have featured previously on this BLOG. Lamont Hiebert is an abolitionist, a singer/songwriter, and one incredible human being. "Love146 ( his non-profit) combats child sex slavery and exploitation with the unexpected, and restores survivors with excellence". In a recent blog he calls us to imagine if it where white males being trafficked, instead of women and girls, would more be done? This is one of the most important issues of our world and we all need to think deeply about how we can be part of the solution. Thanks Lamont for all you do to make this world a more just place.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Deauville, Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg Global Seminar, Philanthropy for Global Impact

From France where I attended the Women's Forum For the Economy and Society conference to now Salzburg where I am attending the "Smart Change" Investing in Women and Girls - Leveraging Philanthropy for Global Impact Seminar - what a week! Yes this is where I am staying (to the left) as it is the location of the Salzburg Global Seminar, a place where for 50 years people have gathered to think, share, organize, mobilize and more. For Sound of Music fans, it was filmed here! ( at least in part) Before you get too jealous know that we are working our bottoms off trying to advance the womens movement with little time to take in the views.

As someone said early on we are indeed trying to solve a "wicked problem." Moving our world towards a place of greater equality and equity is complex indeed but there have been breakthroughs here, at least there have been for me. The Women's Funding Network has provided us with a framework that I truly believe has handles for everyone to grab on to. ( more on that to come) You might ask who is present here for this conversation and it is very broad based - Executive Directors of non-profits, donor leaders, government NGO leaders, academics, philanthropy consultants and more. In terms of geographical representation we have women and men from all over the world including Nigeria, Jordan, The Netherlands, and more....

So I know I owe my readers much more content and less travel updates and I promise it will come. Having attended three global conferences in two weeks, the other being the World Business Forum, I have content, people, ideas, knowledge that could keep me writing for weeks to come.

Tidbits from Deauville.............

I had the opportunity to speak on a panel with Halla Tomasdottir of Audur Capital who is from Iceland and started an investment management firm based on feminine values that one the Cartier Award. She is a rock star and a new best friend!
watch her here

I did have the amazing opportunity to spend some time with Melanne Verveer, The US Ambassador For Global Women's Issues. She is one incredible woman and I cannot tell you how encouraged I am to know she is in Washington representing all of us.

For the take on the conference from the New York Times click here and here. From the Guardian click here. For a special piece related to our release of the NCRW hedge fund report, click here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Womens Forum, Crititical Mass and Paris

It was a couple of amazing days in Deauville, France for the "Women's Forum for the Economy and Society." There was an aweseome line-up of speakers and attendees from around the world. I made many new friends including two inspiring women working in leadership development in Australia, and an absolute rock star from Iceland who who has created a new financial advisory firm. We launched the NCRW Women in Fund Management report to a roomful of people, and were interviewed by reporters from all over the world. In many of the sessions people asked the question if "Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers and Sisters, would we be in the place we are today? " and we were there with answers and opinions.

One idea that we had put forward in the paper definitely seemed at the center of focus for many, and that was the idea of an absolute need for a 'critical mass' of women in positions of power and leadership. The evidence is abundant that diversity leads to better decision making so the question was, why has that not happened? The reasons of course are listed in out report but one has to ask the question, "if not now, when?" I say now.....

Nina and I returned to Paris today and spent the day walking around this magical city. I am off to Salzburg tomorrow for a women's donor gathering. More from Austria later in the week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Off to Europe....

I am sorry I have not been able to write about last week's conference just yet but I have been madly preparing for my trip to France and Austria. We are doing a launch of the Women in Fund Management Paper at a global economic forum, and then I am off to a donor conference in Salzburg. I hope I will have easy access to blog from Europe but if not... I will have lots to post when I return. Best wishes...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs

Finally I read a 'fair' article on Goldman Sachs! After the absolutely ridiculous piece in Rolling Stone a few weeks back, and the surprisingly harsh words by Paul Krugman, Holman Jenkins in this weekends WSJ writes of his interview with the firms CEO Lloyd Blankfein. As a reminder I am a former partner of GS, having left in 2002, and worked directly for the man you see to the left.

There are many good things about Goldman and there are some things that could be a lot whole lot better, which is true for any firm. Bottom line is that Lloyd was very right in saying that GS has superior risk management and human capital that when added together is the best of any firm anywhere. Because of those things and more they weathered the financial meltdown better then all other large players. The key question asked to Lloyd was "would they have gone under if the gov't did not intervene?" The answer of course is YES because under that scenerio EVERY financial institution would have melted and the world as we know it would be gone. Goldman was not in a liquidity crisis per se but in a world where all faith in financial institutions was evaporating, GS was not immune. Some would say ' YIPPEE' to the idea that GS should cease to exist but I would suggest they have not thought it through. We need healthy, risk taking financial institutions, but the question remains, should they be accountable for the greater good? I say yes and this is where I am disappointed in Goldman. I expect them to be better then all the rest not only in their risk management, but in holding themselves to a higher standard to be leaders in the industry. Why? Because they can.

We need to change, dare I say transform, our financial institutions and I look to Goldman to lead the way. Why? For exactly the same reasons as why they survived and thrived, because they have superior risk management and human capital that when added together is the best of any firm anywhere. They should also come to realize it is good for their business long term. It is also good for their business for the general public to actually think they add a lot of value and not a stable of greedy little piggies.

Should Goldman in an ideal world have done a lot more to prevent the crisis? Yes. Should they now put it upon themselves to do more to make the system a whole lot stronger? Yes. This is fair criticism but again it should be directed to all the large financial firms. Now that it seems we are out of danger with respect to a financial meltdown, I would encourage GS and other CEOS to come clean, and move forward in a positive direction. This direction should not only be about making money, which seems a lot easier now that a few of the largest firms are gone, but rather to balance making money with a greater good.

I wish Lloyd would have said in this interview "Holman, there were a lot of things I wished I would have done differently before and during this crisis, but especially before. I wish that we had used the insight that we had regarding the problems in sub-prime mortgages and other credit products to not only make money for GS and our shareholders, but to warn Washington of the problems we saw on the horizon. I wish we were not only less of a player in creating toxic waste product, but not a player at all because we forsaw the problems, including huge potential losses for our clients. I wish we set the bar for our behavior a lot higher and encouraged others to follow us. I wish we would have emerged from this crisis having been seen as doing the right thing not only for our employees and our shareholders, but for the public as a whole, at least as much as could have been reasonably expected from a publicly traded company. I have learned many lessons from almost failing as an institution, and I will put them to practise as we move our firm, our country, and our world forward in to a more sustainable economic and financial future."

I know dream on, but honestly, I believe this. I believe that there is not a cement wall between what is done in the best interest of a public company, and what is the best interest of the general population. I believe that firms like Goldman and leaders like Mr. Blankfein should be held accountable for a greater good and should WANT to be. Afterall, is that not why, in part, he should be paid $56 million. ( ok forget that, no one should be paid $56 mm for being a CEO) I believe that is true especially in the financial services business and especially for firms that are deemed too big to fail. I believe that what this world needs is more responsbile and accountable leadership from ALL for all.

I am worried about our collective future. I truly am. At the World Business Conference this past week I heard the likes of Bill Clinton and Jeff Sachs talk about how we are on a collision course for disaster in terms of how we are using resources and more. I also feel very strongly that we are on a long road to economic recovery in this country. So what , WHAT, will be the 'thing' that helps us get on a more positive track? In part I think it will be this. That we will have a revolution. "A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time." What will drive this revolution is that we decide that what we need to do is unleash positive human potential. That we to unleash people's passion to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. How will this get started? When leaders from all sorts of places, including Goldman Sachs, step up, big time. When they begin to acknowledge that they themselves can do better, and help to create a culture where people are encouraged and supported for being problem solvers, creative thinkers, and challenge the status quo. We all need to be inspired right now. Not only by words, but more importantly by actions. We need actions by visable and powerful people that balance the self interest with the interest in the common good.

Hey Goldman. Perhaps think about taking a few hundred million that you are going to pay your people and ask them for ideas on how that money can be used to help our country and our world? Perhaps ask your employees if they would be willing to take a pro-rate share of their compensation and use it for real solutions to real problems identified by them. Solicit ideas, then fund them. By the way this does not necessarily have to be charitiable giving, but investing in businesses that will create jobs. How about using those dollars that would have gone to comp and give everyone a pro-rate share in the GS Humanity Fund? Pay yourselves less over the short term to invest in our collective future. I have lots of ideas and I hope you all do to. If you want to talk about them, call me.

It is time to get creative and unleash human potential. It is time to think less of self-interest and more of the greater good. It is time for leaders to step up and for the every day Joe and Jane to demand that they do or boot them out of there. If it is not now then when?

Have a great Sunday................

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My 45th Birthday....................

What is there to say about turning 45, except ....... at least it is not 50! Ha ha.... My forties have truly been the best 5 years yet and I thank my family and friends for making it another year to remember. I got my share of Wonder Woman Cards this year and one of my fav presents was WW Season Two on DVD. ( thank you Laura and Allie) My next fav one was a shelf/bookholder/clockstand that my son made for me with writing all over it... which we now affectionately call the "Mom Shrine." For anyone who asks me "Jacki, what would you like as a present?" My answer, anything with a PEACE sign on it, or anything Wonder Woman. That makes gift giving very easy. Thanks to all those who sent good wishes. Thank you.
I do have to share with you what my daughter wrote in her card. We had this tradition of hand made cards that I love. She said - "When I think of you I think of love, peace, happiness, New York, Financial Crisis, fun, friends, Canada, and saving Women!" Who says kids do not pay attention?
This weekend I will be back telling you about the two days spent at the 2009 World Business Forum in NY ( Bill Clinton, Paul Krugman, Jeff Sachs.....) , and my dinner with the legendary Nouriel Roubini. It has been a week of major moves in the currency which I have been writing about for some time. There have been some particularly though provoking OPEDS of late which I will direct your attention to. For now it off to enjoy the last few hours of my birthday with my truly amazing husband. God Bless you all...........

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Unemployment, Meredity Whitney, and more....

Well for anyone waiting for good news about the economy they did not get it yesterday with the unemployment report. “Payrolls shrunk by 263,000 from the previous month.” ( 175,000 was the street estimate) Ok, now get ready. The total number of people that have lost their jobs since the recession began is million and the total number of people on assistance is 15.1 million. Barrons goes on to talk about what they consider a better estimate of unemployment which includes part-timers and more and that number is 17%. ( read the full story here in Alan Abelson’s column) Bottom line they continue to deliver a bearish economic rant and I would have to agree.

I would encourage you to read a piece by Meredith Whitney (pictured hear) that appeared in the journal on Friday. She opens this way – “Anyone counting on a meaningful economic recovery will be greatly disappointed. How do I know? I follow credit.” ( read the full piece here) Her argument is that small businesses cannot get financing, and this is a huge problem. “In the US small businesses employ 50% of the country’s workforce and contribute 38% to GDP. Without access to credit, small businesses can’t grow, can’t hire, and too often end up going out of business…”

You know my friend was beating me up the other day saying that I am a perma bear and have missed the boat. My response was this, I have been and do remain very bearish on the ECONOMY but my view on the markets ( equity, credit and currency) has actually been highly variable. There is a difference. Just because you are negative on the economy does not mean you cannot be positive on the markets as it depends on what news you feel is build in to the market. Right now, I am negative on US equities, credit spreads generally, and the US dollar, but I have not been that way all year. March was clearly a buying opportunity as so much negative news was priced in, but that, I believe, is not the case now. Also just because markets get ‘cheap’ does not necessarily mean one should ‘buy’ as it truly depends how much of your assets are already invested. What I have learned about myself is that I invest with a macro view, and when that macro view is negative, I have a hard time buying risky assets even if they look “cheap.” Too many years of trading bonds I guess…..

Next week I will be attending the World Business Forum in NY featuring the likes of Bill Clinton, Jeff Sachs, Warren Buffet, and more. I am also attending a dinner with Nouriel Roubini, also known as Dr. Doom, so I will be reporting back on that as well. Stay tuned and have a nice weekend.