How Will Citigroup’s Sandy Weill be Remembered?

sandyweill2 How Will Citigroups Sandy Weill be Remembered?

PR Verdict: “F” for Sandy Weill and his attempt to be secure a kinder slot in the history books.

How will history remember Sandy Weill, the former CEO of Citigroup and architect of the largest financial services firm that nearly went under?  Judging by a recent article published in Fortune, if he has his way, he would like to be remembered as a visionary philanthropist.  History may not be so kind.

In an embarrassingly soft-ball article, the former CEO waxes lyrical about his philanthropic endeavours for the first part of the interview.  These include the creation of the National Academy Foundation as well as generous contributions to the arts and healthcare, obligingly listed by the magazine.

As for the tough questions about the near collapse of the financial system, his own bank’s astonishing destruction of value and the excesses of executive compensation, Weill says nothing of any interest.  Given his experience and formerly revered status, now was the time, at the age of 79 to rescue an irredeemably doomed reputation.  Regarding executive compensation Weill sounds more like a PR intern working on a draft Q&A, opining,  “people should be paid appropriately”.  He adds that fixing banks that are  “too big to fail is a problem” but offers no solution or insight.  He concedes that “people made mistakes that created issues” but blithely adds “it’s time to move on.”

PR Verdict:  “F” for Sandy Weill and his attempt to secure a kinder slot in the history books.  Speaking in generalities and turning attention to philanthropic endeavours will not redefine a hopelessly damaged reputation.

PR Takeaway: If you want to change a point of view say something surprising.  Salvaging a reputation requires more than throwing money at charitable causes.  At Weill’s venerable age he has nothing to lose. Why not make some radical fundamental observations while also acknowledging some personal role in the crisis? It might have given him the reputational rewrite he seems to crave.   Next time have a look at Warren Buffett for some pointers on how to make people sit up and listen.

To read the article click here. To read more click here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

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Why Else Would You Work On Wall Street?

nyse 300x225 Why Else Would You Work On Wall Street?

The PR Verdict: “D” for Wall Street and its lack of creativity in generating compelling reasons to work there.

It’s been almost a week since disgruntled Goldman’s employee Greg Smith penned his NYTimes op-ed on his former employer. The fallout continues.  Multiple articles have appeared questioning the future of Wall Street.  Have graduates lost interest in applying?  Are current employees reconsidering career choices as they look at their shrunken bonus checks?

On the other hand, James Gorman CEO of Morgan Stanley told Fortune that when he spoke recently at Wharton Business School there were two overflow rooms of students eager to apply.  He added that only two managing directors, out of a total of 1800, had resigned since shrunken bonuses were paid.

Who to believe?

Whatever the truth, this discussion is ALWAYS about compensation and nothing else.  It’s as if Wall Street’s management is unable to find any other reason to work there.  Stuck in a PR maze, management is unable to articulate compelling alternative incentives apart from financial remuneration.

The PR Verdict: “D” for Wall Street and its lack of creativity in generating compelling reasons to work there.  No wonder the industry’s image is stuck in a negative spiral.

By solely focusing on compensation there is little hope of changing the ongoing conversation.  There are many careers that sing their praises on benefits and values which have nothing to do with compensation. Wall Street’s  HR departments and management committees might want to look to them for some much needed inspiration.

To read the article in Fortune click here. To read about how Wall Street is losing its appeal click here.

What’s your PR verdict on how Wall Street sells itself as a career choice?

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Is It Tough For You To Get By On $350K Per Year?

andrewschiff Is It Tough For You To Get By On $350K Per Year?

The PR Verdict: “D” for the PR who slipped up.

Pity poor Andrew Schiff who is Communications and Marketing director at Wall Street brokerage firm, Euro Pacific Capital. He recently leapt to unwanted fame following a Bloomberg article about how smaller bonuses are leaving Wall Street workers strapped for cash. The article has made him the new poster boy for Wall Street being out of touch.

The article disclosed Schiff’s salary of $350K and a bonus over $50K. This doesn’t put him anywhere near the top league of Wall Street heavy hitters but it does place him in the top 1% of earners. Living in 1200 square feet in a rented apartment in Brooklyn, with two children at pricey private schools, he observed there isn’t a lot of spare change left in the Schiff household at month’s end. Schiff’s point was his lifestyle is at variance with the routine description of Wall Street excess.

The PR Verdict: “D” for the PR who slipped up.  Ouch! Unfortunate to have made this gaffe, given Schiff’s job as PR and Marketing head.  Next time, before any interview, formal or informal, agree the ground rules.

No doubt Andrew Schiff was pleased to help out a journalist at Bloomberg. Why not? But next time, before answering, make sure the ground rules of the interview are pre-agreed.  In this case the interview should have been ‘on background’,  i.e. the journalist can use the quotes but not attribute them to Schiff directly. Far better for Schiff’s comments to have been attributed to “a Marketing Director at a Wall Street firm”.  Though cumbersome and bureaucratic to agree Ground Rules before every interview, it inevitably saves later heartache.  Sometimes it really is worth going back to first principles.

To read the original article click here. For the fall out click here.

How would you grade Schiff’s comments and his subsequent interviews to follow up media. Go ahead and grade him:

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