Monday, September 23, 2013

Fortune 100 CEO addresses trust in financial services industry

TIAA-CREF CEO Roger Ferguson addresses audience at 2013 Sutton leture
Roger W. Ferguson Jr., president and chief executive of TIAA-CREF, packed the house at KU Edwards Campus Oct. 16. Students, faculty and the general public gathered to hear his talk on the process of, and need for, rebuilding trust in the financial services industry.

He began by bringing attention to the fifth anniversary of the U.S. economy’s devastating meltdown. The unemployment rate is still high, he said. He added: We have not yet escaped the after effects of the 2008 financial meltdown.

Ferguson discussed the importance of trusting the financial services industry and what an important tool financing is in society.

“Financing is creating the architecture for setting goals,” he said. He elaborated on the four different steps necessary to bring the financial service industry back.

First, considering what is in the best interests of stakeholders through a long-term view. Second, holding management accountable for supporting a culture of long-term thinking, a no surprise environment and an ethical performance. Third, regulating and supporting a broader view of roles within the industry by asking, “what kind of culture is this?” Lastly, long-term stakeholders are responsible for influencing the company to be honest and behave with values.

“We can rebuild trust by handling a better ethical performance,” he said. “Ethics is an enabler of our dreams and aspirations.”

To wrap up his lecture, he passionately discussed the importance of trust. Ferguson used TIAA-CREF as an example of why trust is so crucial.

“People put their life savings into TIAA-CREF and this is because they trust you’ll be there in 75 years,” he said.

When answering questions from the audience, he highlighted how far we are from achieving trust in the financial services industry. Ferguson acknowledged that trust is simply not returning, noting how Millennials perceive financial services.

TIAA-CREF, a Fortune 100 financial services company, is the leading provider of retirement services. Ferguson’s lecture served as the 2013 Walter S. Sutton Lecture, co-sponsored by the School of Business and KU’s International Center for Ethics in Business.

by Mackenzie Leander

Friday, September 20, 2013

Marketing professor mentors two of top three teams in case competition

The teams from assistant professor Jessica Li’s integrated marketing communications class waited nervously for the Target representatives to tell them the results of the case competition. Weeks of hard work led to this moment.

The case study, made possible by marketing and strategic management lecturer Joyce Claterbos, was titled, “The War for Guests.” It involved developing a marketing strategy to help Target attract more customers. Li mentored two of the teams, whose presentations were also part of the final project for her class.

“For the final project, I let them choose between several options including participating in the Target competition,” Li said. “I hoped that by doing the case competition they would use some concepts and principles we learned in class.”

Zach Watchous, a member of one of the teams Li mentored, explained one of their ideas, a groceries-to-go service. Using a smartphone, a customer would input a grocery list and the Target employees would have the items waiting curbside when the customer drove up.
Credit: SXC

“You do this maybe 30 minutes before you leave work,” Watchous said. “Someone who doesn’t want to go to the store has their groceries that much faster and pretty much effortlessly.”

Jayant Narula said his group focused on three points. The first was a marketing campaign that focused on Target’s superior customer service. The second, a technological enhancement of sales strategies and devices, is meant to ensure everyone who walks in the store buys something. Marketing communication was the third point, and Narula said his team used the teachings from Li’s class more on this point than any other.

“It was about conveying all of our strategies and positioning effectively and efficiently so the customer knows our policies and why we’re above and beyond the competition,” he said.

Both students agree that the experience of the competition will benefit them in the future.

“It’s one thing to present to your class,” said Narula. “It’s another thing to compete with others while Target employees, people who are actually in the industry, judge you.”

Li believes these kinds of experiences are crucial to a good business education.

“I think it’s important for students to get as much real world experience as possible in their class,” she said. “Using opportunities that are out there to get the students more exposure to actual companies and experiences that can help them in their careers later on is definitely something I’m going to build into my future classes.”

by Dan Dutcher

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

MAcc student travels to Central America to teach financial literacy

When Adam Buhler learned about Project Belize, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t resist. Buhler graduated from the KU School of Business in May with an accounting degree and is now earning his master of accounting. This summer, he worked as an intern for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and when the company chose him to participate in its annual financial literacy education program, he was ecstatic.

Project Belize, started in 2008, seeks to incorporate basic financial skills into the public school systems of developing countries. Each year, employees from every level of PwC travel to Belize City to help, primarily, high school students learn budgeting and basic entrepreneurial skills. The group also works with teachers, principals and parents.

During the summer, the kids in Belize City can choose to go to various camps such as sports camps or art camps. Buhler worked at a local high school with teenage students who chose to attend the financial literacy camp.

Shortly after the camp started, Buhler, and the teachers with whom he was working, discovered that one of the students, a 17-year-old, didn’t know how to read or write. Feeling discouraged and ashamed, the student contemplated not coming back the next day.

“I sat down with him, read him the instructions and helped him spell words,” Buhler said. “As I helped him with that first project and got him engaged with things, he got really excited. He thanked me several times the very last day and he was sad that we were leaving.”

All of the volunteers wore T-shirts provided by PwC and on the last day, the students signed them. The students in Buhler’s class decided it would be cool to trace their hands onto his shirt.

“It was a really touching experience having them leave an imprint on our shirts and on us personally,” Buhler said. “It was very special. They just have an inviting and loving spirit.”

Buhler credits the business school faculty and staff for landing the internship at PwC. He said their encouragement to get as much out of the internship as possible is what gave him the motivation, drive and desire to participate in Project Belize.

“This was, far and away, the most outstanding experience of my internship,” Buhler said. “Without the KU School of Business and the relationships and connections I’ve made here, I would not have had that experience. I believe that whole-heartedly.”

Buhler was the only person from the state of Kansas to participate and said it was fun to represent KU. Kansas is recognized around the world as a basketball school, but the volunteers from Project Belize now know that KU also has a great business school.

To view more pictures of Buhler’s trip, go to his photo album.

To learn more, go to the PwC Project Belize website.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Business alumnus speaks on finding professional success

Monday marked the season opener of Monday Night Football, but that didn’t deter the hundreds of people who filled the Lied Center to hear Robert Kaplan speak. Kaplan talked about leadership, self-discovery and answered questions from the audience at the 2013 Chandler Lecture.
Robert Kaplan gives 2013 Chandler lecture

The KU School of Business alumnus started the evening with his definition of a leader and how people become leaders. The cliché, “Leaders are born, not made,” is inaccurate, he said.

“Not only can leadership be learned,” Kaplan said, “but I have not yet met a leader, who has been successful over a sustained period of time, who didn’t have to learn how to be a leader.”

Kaplan also spoke about the topic of his new book and the title of the lecture, “What You’re Really Meant To Do: A Road Map for Reaching Your Unique Potential.” He outlined three steps everyone can take to maximize their potential for success. The first is to find your strengths and weaknesses, as related to a specific job. Second, understand what you really love by finding your passion. The last step is to understand yourself. Kaplan suggested writing down your three stories: The facts of your life, your success story and your failure story. Everyone, he said, has these stories.

“I don’t know where this will take you,” he said, “but if you do this, you will be happy.”

At the end of the lecture, he talked about what separates good leaders from great leaders. One of those things, he said, is character.

“Do for others without regard of what’s in it for you,” Kaplan said.

He also noted the importance of good professional relationships within a company. Face-to-face meetings and conversations have to happen, he said. “You can’t build a good relationship through email.”

He answered a few questions from the audience and, at the reception afterward, signed copies of his book.

Kaplan is the Martin Marshall Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration and senior associate dean for external relations at Harvard Business School.

by Dan Dutcher