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Insights from the 16th annual Stanford Economic Summit: Trust, trade, talent, and more

3/15/2019 Heidrick & Struggles

This year’s conference of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) brought together academic, corporate, and governmental experts to delve into topics that Brad Warga, a Heidrick & Struggles partner in charge of the San Francisco office, described as “current and unsolved issues with no right or wrong answers.” Lee Hanson, a vice chairman in the San Francisco and New York offices, highlighted the scope of the day: “From how antitrust sentiment in Europe versus Silicon Valley is affecting the technology industry (particularly Facebook, Google, and Apple) to the likely shape and impact of Brexit on the United Kingdom to the future of the cannabis market. We also heard a very eye-opening panel from cybersecurity experts about how a $60 piece of code can wreak incredible havoc on the financial system.”

The day kicked off with a reminder that we were exactly ten years on from the S&P 500’s low point during the financial crisis, and the debates on these crucial topics were forward-looking, collegial, and robust; a running theme in the room was a search for more optimism. Hanson added: “Mary Erdoes, the CEO of J.P. Morgan Asset Management, provided some comic relief by starting off with a comment about how ironic it was that she was being interviewed by the author of How Big Banks Fail, Darrell Duffie.” Erdoes then went on to offer insights on how her firm is thinking about investing in today’s environment and how she leads a global group of 25,000 people.

David Boehmer, a partner in the San Francisco office, noted that the panels throughout the day “connected together to create a fantastic view of critical issues that leaders are addressing every day. Mary Erdoes describing her ‘typical day’ was such a great snapshot of this, and it was great hearing her speak through how, on a daily basis, leaders need to cut through these massively complex issues in order to make decisions for their clients and their respective companies.”

Liz Simpson, partner in charge of the New York office, stressed that “talent was a hot topic,” particularly in the first two sessions. Patrick Collison, CEO of Stripe, was asked by an audience member if great management or a great product were the key to Stripe’s success (he said it was management, given that Stripe types of products have been around for some time). The cybersecurity panelists talked about how protecting a company against cyberattack doesn’t come down to buying more software programs; it comes down to the people you hire and staying ahead of problems. Collison also talked about how to choose what to do in life, noting that many people focus on doing the same things—such as going to college—and that other choices, such as dropping out and pursuing a different path, as he did, may be one way to bring different ideas to the innovation mix.

Other notable topics included Collison’s views on how openness to immigration and opportunity (he is an Irish immigrant to the United States) can lead to greater innovation, and a discussion among Alan O. Sykes and Susan Lund, economists from Stanford and McKinsey, respectively, and Tamara Lundgren, the CEO of Schnitzer Steel Industries, on the shifting composition of international trade, from goods to services, and the increasing component of services trade in even the heaviest of industries.

Finally, Jerome Powell, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, discussed how the Fed communicates its thinking and its plans to go on a “listening tour” so it can communicate more effectively. The spirit of the day may be encapsulated by Powell’s inserting some light moments into his talk while offering clear and substantive insights on how the Fed is planning for the road ahead after balance-sheet normalization.

Heidrick & Struggles is proud to have sponsored and participated in such an enriching day of discussions. We look forward to incorporating the ideas from this and the many other academic and corporate events we participate in around the world into our thought leadership and the work we do with our clients every day.


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