awards

Laurence D. Fink
September 24, 2015
Muhtar, thank you very much. I don't believe I deserve that kind introduction. And thank you for everything you do on behalf of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation. It is a privilege to be here and to celebrate the important work of the foundation and to be honored alongside Alex and Prime Minister Cameron. Heads of state and diplomats have gathered in New York this week for the UN General Assembly. Pope Francis is leading prayer at St. Patrick's Cathedral this very evening.

These world leaders visit New York at a time of great upheaval and significant conflicts around the globe including war, economic hardship and a refugee crisis that has shaken the world. Their time here, their discussions, their prayers, speeches and deliberations will be colored by these events. Their work will aim to promote self-determination, freedom to worship and the responsibility of our fellow man and the very goals that animate Rabbi Schneier and the Appeals of Conscience Foundation. The key lessons to be learned from the foundation's work is that each of us carry with us a great and deep responsibility, a responsibility not just to our immediate family or community but to a much broader group. We need to be thinking harder and more creatively about how we do things to affect more people broadly, Rabbi Schneier mentioned that earlier, and what ripples around the world and how it will affect the world.

And that matters not just in our personal life, that matters in our professional lives as much as it does for anything we do. And it also represents how our company is perceived worldwide. We cannot bifurcate our human and personal behavior with our professional behaviors. That is impossible to be a citizen of the world and bifurcating those two responsibilities.

As the financial crisis demonstrated, the business community, most of all the financial industry has too often forgotten their sense of responsibility. We forgot the tacit responsibilities and agreements that a responsible goes beyond the immediate group of shareholders and executives but extends to all our employees, obviously our clients and our customers, and the economy and society as a whole. In many ways, we forgot our responsibilities to build a sustainable financial system, one that can grow economies over 50 years, not growing economies over five years or even for that matter over one year.

In the years since the crisis the global economy has improved but the reputation of the financial industry for the most part has not. In part this is because we have often outsourced responsibility for fixing the system to our regulators and to policy makers, instead of being part of a constructive process. But outsourcing responsibility, saying this is your problem; that just doesn't work.

That doesn't work in marriage, it doesn't work at the office, it doesn't work in governing, diplomacy or today in our refugee crisis. It doesn't work for business. We cannot build a financial system that reliably serves people, a system that fosters growth, minimizes crises, unless we take that responsibility individually and throughout the organizations we represent.

An essential part of the process is building the right kind of culture in financial services and businesses as a whole, a culture that sees past the immediate profits and looks for the long-term. People donít live their lives quarter by quarter; businesses should not either. The excessive focus on the short-term, whether it is the mania around quarterly reporting or the increasing velocity of capital, hurts our ability to build a more meaningful lasting growth and a more meaningful and more inclusive society. It's damaging to our companies who are so preoccupied with what the market said about themselves or about their stock price, and they cannot invest in the long-term initiatives to build stronger, better services for their clients but more importantly a stronger ability to serve society.

It's damaging to the employees who are under such constant pressure to deliver short-term results, and they don't have the time for real innovation or for that matter for their families. It is damaging for the economy because it incents short-termism and it incents faster famine cycles of investment. There's no silver bullet for this problem but it has to begin with building a culture that sees long-term sustainable growth as both economic and a moral responsibility. That culture has to be built at the top by every leader of every company and reinforced at every level. It begins by acting as a partner. That means giving people the tools they need to have a more productive financial life.

It means working to solve economic challenges from the dearth of infrastructure investing and spending to the role of income inequality. It means working alongside regulators, policy makers to build a better, stronger and more sustainable financial system. Compliance cannot be seen as a nuance. Is there something so terribly wrong with following the rules? Nor can new regulations be seen only as something to fight or oppose to improve?

This is not to say that the system is perfect. I certainly have my disagreements with many of the regulatory policies and the current policies of enforcement. Where company fines stands for punishment of bad actors has proven to be ineffective instead of affecting the bad actors with their bad behavior. We can begin to change this adversarial relationship and we can build a financial system that serves everybody. We can build a financial system that builds a better future for all individuals so they can live fairly and decently in retirement.

As part of my job, I'm fortunate to travel around the world and meet all sorts of people, people of every race, every religion, political belief, nationality. I see everything. No matter where I travel, no matter who I meet, what I'm reminded every time I leave this country or leave this city, that we all want the same things out of life. We all have the same worries. We all want better futures for our families and a better life for our children.

We can achieve these things but it takes commitment. It will require us to accept that responsibility to each other; a responsibility to live up to the ideals that have brought us together tonight and to build a better financial future for everybody and everyone in the world. Thank you very much.
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