Serving stakeholders

Banks occupy a central position in society and the economy. People have passionate opinions about them – some arguably misguided, some appropriately challenging. I hope to do three things here that might enhance public debate. Serving Stakeholders from Harrison Young First, I want to offer a conceptual model and some vocabulary – tools I find useful[…]

Wall Street? Or a public interest summer job?

I went to my fiftieth reunion at Harvard last week — the undergrad “college,” not the business school.   There were 1200 men in the Class of 1966, and 400 women at Radcliffe, the single-sex college a few blocks away.  The institutions are now fully merged. About 450 alumni/ae and 250 partners came the reunion,[…]

What is a healthy bank culture?

When people express concern about bank culture, there are three things they could be referring to.  The first is risk culture, which has to do with professional skill and discipline.  How does a bank stay safe and sound?  The second has to do with the need to be trusted, and the moral obligations banks take[…]

The emerging art of board composition

When a board turns its attention to the judgments that cannot be delegated, the meeting can resemble a good dinner party – with a group of men and women who respect each other but have different thinking styles and backgrounds engaged in spirited conversation.    Board composition used to be secret chairman’s business.  It was[…]

Why it’s critical to care about board culture

A lot of what we believe about management comes from the military. Organization charts display hierarchy. Boards have authority and ultimate responsibility but they cannot accomplish their mission by issuing orders. In creating boards, and judging boards, we are interested in soft issues as well as hard. We care about culture. I want to share[…]

Your job, my job, our job – the balance between Boards and management in governance

One of the principles of traditional governance is that a board oversees rather than manages. Both activities involve inspecting. While it is normally the boss who inspects, it is worth noting that both parties have the same objective: getting it right. Inspector and inspected are on the same team. As such boards participate in decision-making because as[…]

Why bankers should read poetry

In December of 2011, Monash University unaccountably gave me an honorary degree.  Having failed to get into law school in my twenties, in my sixties I became a doctor of laws.  In exchange, I was asked to give a graduation address — in this case to approximately 350 Asian recipients of finance and economics degrees.[…]

Lessons from a career in banking

When I got an appointment as an executive-in-residence and fellow at the University of Melbourne, I consulted an old friend who’s had an academic career. I wanted to know what to expect? “They’ll probably ask you to give a little talk about your work,” he told me. He meant my research focus. I interpreted “my[…]

Thinking about banking

Some years ago, I was introduced to a well-known writer at a party in Melbourne. “Harrison’s a banker,” my host said helpfully. “Gee,” responded the writer without missing a beat, “I’ve never met anyone in organized crime before.” I spent half a second searching for a clever response. But the Global Financial Crisis was raging,[…]

Why bankers should write novels

Writing novels will teach you that there has to be a story. We humans are programmed to want one. It is how we organise reality. If you make your living lending money or trading bonds or writing insurance you care about remote but plausible contingencies. To a novelist, remote but plausible contingencies are plots. This[…]