Archive Executive Careers Blog


  Wednesday, 24 Sep 2008 | 4:23 PM ET

Showing Them Who's Boss

Posted By Dr. Ron Brown, Portfolio.com

I was recently promoted to be the head of a division, overseeing some of my former colleagues that I used to socialize with. How can I now establish my authority and signal the changed nature of our relationship?

You need to quickly reset the context of your relationship with your former peers, ideally by meeting with them to discuss the changes and your expectations of them. As part of the carrot approach, you can use your familiarity with them to discuss how you'll support their goals and aspirations, perhaps by using a line like, "Who better than me to be your boss if you perform well?" If appropriate, establish yourself as their champion.

You want them to know that if they do well for you, they'll be rewarded, but you also have to be very clear about where the lines are drawn in your new relationship. So you might not go to the same happy hour where you all used to go and grouse about work; maybe you adapt that to a more work-oriented social event where employee accomplishments are recognized, or perhaps a lunch now and then.

Inevitably, some folks won't be as accepting of the new situation, and for them, you'll have to use the stick by holding them extremely accountable for their work or performance, perhaps with some regular reporting requirements. A change in leadership is one of the best times to reset expectations, and establishing a high bar is also a good way to keep their minds on their tasks and off of you.

One of my clients—a director in a manufacturing company—faced a lot of resistance from one particular ex-colleague when he was promoted above him. My client asked everyone to come in at 8:30 in the morning, and his former pal used to waltz in at 9:00 or 9:15. My client took him aside and took a positive approach first, telling him that he was an important member of the team and that my client needed him to back him up.

But the lateness continued, and my client had to get tough and tell his former pal that his behavior was going to affect his performance review and bonus. The ex-pal gave him the usual "I can't believe you're doing this to me" line and did start showing up on time—but with a bad attitude. Eventually, my client got him transferred to another department, which is something you should always consider doing early on when faced with this type of situation.

If my client had let his former friend's behavior continue, others would have viewed his lenience as weakness or inconsistency. The point is, you can't let your ex-colleagues' assumptions about your past relationship get in the way of you getting your new job done.

Dr. Ron Brown is a leading expert in the fields of leadership development and organizational change. He is the founder and president of Banks Brown, a management consulting firm that specializes in providing skills to optimize the performance of leaders and organizations. He can be reached at rbrown@banksbrown.com or 415-788-5444. Questions for Power Plays can be submitted on this page .

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com

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  Wednesday, 24 Sep 2008 | 10:33 AM ET

The New Face of Investment Banking


Everyone and their mother’s favorite industry observer are calling Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs’ status switch to holding companies the end of the large independent investment bank as we know it.

They’re also calling the historic move—which reverts the state of banking in the United States to pre-Glass Steagall days, before provisions were enacted that separated investment banking from commercial banking—the end of Wall Street. Which is no exaggeration.

What two weeks ago had been considered the investment banking bulge bracket is now, in effect, dead: Goldman,Morganand Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America) have all moved into the blue-collar deposit game, and Lehman Brothers has been swallowed by British giant Barclays.

Once Goldman and Morgan acquire deposits and build out their consumer businesses (expect this to begin in the next few months), they’ll be directly competing with BofA, Citi and JPMorgan Chase, thus creating a group of five monstrous commercial banks, with significant investment banking arms, in a formation resembling the one ruling the world of public accounting (the Big Four, and everyone else).

However, outside the Fab Five, there still will be several independent U.S.-based investment banks whose prestige for not playing the commercial game—as well as for being smaller, more intimate franchises—will significantly rise with the death of the bulge bracket, making them more highly-desired destinations for those looking for pure, white-collared investment banking careers.

Lazard, dually headquartered in the U.S and U.K., will arguably leap to the top of the remaining independent heap. An already incredibly prestigious institution with a dark-blue blood line that dates back to 1848 (to New Orleans), Lazard is also the largest of the remaining free-standing financial advisory/asset management firms, with about 2,500 employees. (As proof of the weight of its advice, Lazard, which has a strong restructuring practice, was tapped to counsel Lehman on its bankruptcy filing, the largest in history).

Beyond Lazard, the landscape is fragmented, with at least seven other investment banks vying for the lion’s share of prestige. Names like Jefferies & Company (also a relatively large firm, with about 2,400 employees) and Houlihan Lokey (a little over 800 employees) have been around for a combined 85 years, and are now considered the leading middle-market merger and acquisition advisors. These two firms, notoriously destinations for investment banking-minded graduates edged out of final-round bulge-racket interviews, will now attract even higher-quality talent—both young and experienced—with the demise of the big independents.

A handful of the rest of the top remaining pure-play players—Greenhill & Co., Evercore Partners, Moelis & Company, Perella Weinburg Partners and Centerview Partners; each with between 125 and 300 employees—are relatively newer to the scene, having been spawned in recent years by bankers with big-institution pedigrees.

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In 1996, former Morgan Stanley President Bob Greenhill started his eponymous firm, while two former Blackstone insiders partnered to create a bank called Evercore. Ten years later, an ex-Goldman insider and former Morgan banker got together to hatch Perella Weinberg, and Centerview was born when veterans of Morgan, Wasserstein Perella and UBS joined forces.

Moelis & Company, the infant in the advisory game at 14 months old, takes its name from another former UBS dealmaker, Ken Moelis, whose resume contains some of the highest-profile firms of investment banking’s yesteryear: Drexel Burnham Lambert and DLJ (Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette).

More recently, Moelis transformed a second-rate UBS into a global M&A player, and he’s already made quite a mark with his new firm. Since its birth in July 2007, Moelis & Co. has worked on deals for the likes of Yahoo!, Hilton Hotels and Anheuser-Busch, and while other banks merge and purge their ranks, Ken and company keeps fattening up: before the end of the year, the firm expects to increase headcount by 25 percent.

In addition to these eight firms, a handful of others in the middle-market investment banking game will be taking advantage of the big-bank fallout, picking up fallen employees with bulge bracket experience; insiders with significant client relationships will be especially sought after. Keefe Bruyette & Woods, Thomas Weisel Partners, Oppenheimer & Co., Baird, Cowen and Company, JMP Securities and William Blair, among others, all stand to gain a dealmaker or two.


Derek Loosvelt is Vault.com’s global finance editor. Read his blog here. He has a BS in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in creative writing from The New School. He is a writer and editor and has worked for Brill’s Content and Inside.com. Previously, he worked in investment banking at CIBC and Duff & Phelps.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com

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  Tuesday, 23 Sep 2008 | 10:49 AM ET

Career Breakdown--Or Opportunity?


The turmoil that we are experiencing in the financial markets worldwide is creating havoc for many.

From a macro-perspective, we hear the horror stories of banks and companies that are being affected, but there are thousands of individual stories from people and families who have been adversely impacted: personal wealth depleted and career dreams shattered.

We have not seen the complete fallout from the market crisis yet. There will, no doubt, be more bank failures, consolidations and layoffs. This is a time to reflect, take inventory and prepare for the unknown. There are some very practical things that you can do to prepare, including:

Skills Assessment. Conduct an honest assessment of your skill set. Think about the things you have learned and determine new skills that you would like to learn. Develop a plan to gain exposure to these new skills and a way to learn them. Figure out how your current and new skills might be transferable to another industry. Find a way to articulate these new skills in interviews; and be able to write them down. Ultimately, they should be recorded on your updated resume.

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Renew Your Networks. The best time to network is when you really don't need anything. Learn to extend yourself to others and offer assistance to them when they need it. But even if you have not been networking and find yourself unemployed, reach out to as many people as you can and let them know of your predicament. You will be surprised at who and how many people will be willing to assist you. You also will be surprised at those who will not; do not take it personally.

Follow Your Passion. Sometimes unemployment can be a blessing in disguise.

More than five years ago after a confluence of circumstances, I took a severance package from my employer, The Home Depot. After taking some time off, I fully anticipated that I would seek employment with another large multinational firm as an HR director. In the interim, I decided to take time to do some soul-searching. This allowed me to step back and make hard decisions about how I could use my passion to make a living. I have been an independent HR consultant and leadership coach ever since. The whole process allowed me to find my vocation - not a job. I believe that everyone has a vocation or calling. If you follow your vision, your provision (money) will be there. It does not mean that the journey will be easy, but eventually it will all come together.

Whether you are unemployed already or you feel you might be headed in that direction, it is important to understand and/or update your skill set, renew your networks and follow your passion. This combination of things can only assist in catapulting you to new and higher ground. Don't let the financial market woes and their aftereffects be a setback - utilize this time as a chance to create bigger and better opportunities for you and your career.


Wendell Bryant is the Principal of Bryant Solutions Group, LLC, a Human Resources Consulting firm that specializes in Executive Coaching, recruiting strategy, and organizational assessment. His corporate career included managerial and executive stints at The Procter & Gamble Company, General Mills, Inc, Ernst & Young LLP, and The Home Depot. He is a graduate of Morehouse College.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com

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  Monday, 22 Sep 2008 | 10:22 AM ET

Experience, Leadership And Age: How They "Work" Together

Posted ByErik Sorenson

Much has been made in this presidential campaign – and much more will be made – about the value of experience and who is qualified to lead.

Often, relative youth is cited as a negative. Presidential candidate Barack Obama is 47 years old and has served short stints as an Illinois state senator and as a U.S. Senator. (Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is even younger, but that's another blog.)

His opponents say he lacks the experience necessary to be President. I’d argue, however, that some of our nation’s superstars, our most successful CEOs, are often under the age of 50, and that success in business is a terrific analogy for the business of politics and national governance.

First, some examples. Consider the ages of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs when they rose to the top of American business (with Microsoft and Apple, respectively.) How about the Googleguys? Or Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook? Forget concerns about leaders under the age of 50. These guys were under the age of 30 when they took their now-famous companies to the top. And how about leaders of more conventional big businesses? Jeffrey Immelt was 46 when he took the reins from Jack Welch (who was also in his 40s when he became CEO of GE way back in the 1970s.) Ken Chenault of American Expresswas 46 when he became CEO. We’ve even seen it before in Presidential politics – consider Bill Clinton, JFK and Theodore Roosevelt, all in their 40s when they became President.

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  Friday, 19 Sep 2008 | 2:56 PM ET

"Survivor": The Lehman Brothers Episode


The fallout from the financial crisis plaguing Wall Street has become as nail-biting as a "Survivor" tribal council, and no one has experienced more drama than the staff of Lehman Brothers.

On Monday, Lehman’sU.S. employees thought they’d been voted off Manhattan Island when their employer filed Chapter 11, preparing to liquidate and call it day. Tuesday, British bank Barclays swooped in and offered to buy parts of Lehman’s U.S. investment banking operations, temporarily reversing the fortune of Lehman 10,000 employees.

And yesterday, Barclays publicly released the terms of the deal, which called for these Lehman employees to be either kept on (and paid) for 90 days or given severance equal to 20 percent of their previous-year salaries. Those who stay will also receive bonuses from the pool Lehman set aside for end-of-the-year payouts before it filed bankruptcy (though, this pool is expected to be just 60 percent of the on a year earlier).

Indeed, it’s been a tough week to be a Lehman employee (made somewhat more comfortable, perhaps, by the relaxing of its infamous formal dress code; this week, employees have been allowed to come to “work” in business casual attire), and today, although 10,000 of them have a little more security than they did on Monday, their jobs are still in jeopardy.

Support staff and back office groups will almost certainly be cut due to overlap with Barclays, as will other units, though it’s still not clear which will be shown the door (both Barclays and Lehman are well known for their fixed-income prowess, so it will be interesting to see whose names are on the pink slips and which firms, subsequently, will pick up the fallen bankers).

For the time being, the best option for employees whose groups aren’t certain feel the brunt of the British axe is to stick it out and hope for the best. The worst case scenario is they’ll receive a small severance package if let go; at best they’ll survive, pick up a bonus at year-end and change the name on their business cards to “Barclays” come 2009.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Lehman tribe continues to chew its fingers, as the firm’s European and Asian investment banking employees as well as its asset management staff have yet to find saviors.


Derek Loosvelt is Vault.com’s global finance editor. He has a BS in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in creative writing from The New School. He is a writer and editor and has worked for Brill’s Content and Inside.com. Previously, he worked in investment banking at CIBC and Duff & Phelps.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com


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  Thursday, 18 Sep 2008 | 11:43 AM ET

Private Equity: A Safe Job Haven--Or Not?


Earlier this week, in a CNBC exclusive interview, Wilbur Ross, CEO of WL Ross & Co. noted that in the current tumultuous financial environment, private equity firms and buyout specialists may reap a rather depressing benefit--the ability to scoop up distressed banks at rock-bottom prices.

Will this sector of the financial services industry be a safe haven for those left holding pink slips? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not.

This week, as Wall Street was in tumult, the annual Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst Conference went on at the tony Waldorf Astoria Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Seeking Alpha called the scene at the conference positively “calm” despite the storms brewing downtown, though a survey of attendees did point to some pessimistic thinking: 64 percent of attendees agreed that the deal flow for the rest of 2008 will be patchy as the financial markets recover from recent events. How observant of them!

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  Tuesday, 16 Sep 2008 | 3:48 PM ET

What About BofA, Merrill Employees? They're Endangered Too

Posted By Marcy LernerVault.com

Overshadowed by the 25,000 Lehman Brothers employees who woke up Monday morning to discover that their employer had gone bankrupt, tens of thousands of Merrill Lynch and Bank of America insiders are also left wondering what will happen to their jobs now that their companies have agreed to combine in a $44 billion deal.

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  Monday, 15 Sep 2008 | 2:08 PM ET

Lehman After Chapter 11: Where Can Employees Turn?

From Vault.com ...

Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy means most of its 25,000 remaining employees will soon be out of job without a substantial severance package, leaving them with little breathing room with which to search for a new job. Understandably, Lehman employees are dismayed, angry and anxious, asking themselves, What do I do now?

The answer is: several things.

Hitting up financial recruiters is an essential first step, and many insiders are well aware of this—reports this morning say headhunters’ phones are ringing off the hook. Indeed, recruiters know who’s looking for talent, and today, there are many financial firms hungry for the high-class talent coming out of Lehman . (They’re likely also hungry for Merrill Lynchtalent, given the firm’s agreement to be acquired by Bank of America for $44 billion).

Aside from headhunters, insiders should be contacting clients as well as colleagues at other big banks. Lehman’s name is one of the most prestigious on Wall Street, and several Lehman groups could be assets to other clients or competitors. It’s not unlikely that an entire group could be swallowed by a (former) competitor, or that a few of Lehman’s corporate clients will want some the bank’s insiders to perform related financial functions for them.

Employees might also consider becoming a big fish in a smaller pond, aiming their searches at some of the smaller investment banks on Wall Street, commonly called the middle market. These firms—such as Evercore Partners, Houlihan Lokey and Jefferies & Company—will likely win big with Lehman folding, gaining top bankers with top clients. Already, these smaller firms have done well in the midst of the credit crisis, picking up former Bear Stearns bankers as well as bankers at other firms who’ve been laid off since the crisis began.

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  Thursday, 11 Sep 2008 | 10:55 AM ET

The Headhunter Always Rings Twice

You’ve been making boatloads of money trading derivatives for a bulge bracket investment bank in New York. You’re happy with your job, and your employer is happy with you (because you’ve making them boatloads of money).

One day, you reach for the phone on your desk, expecting it to be the bond analyst you called 20 minutes earlier, but instead it’s Ms. So and So from X, Y, Z & Co., a firm you’ve never heard of because, you soon learn, it’s a executive recruiting firm. In the next 45 seconds you also learn that X, Y, Z has been enlisted by another bulge bracket investment bank (which happens to be one of your firm’s major competitors) to hire someone that does exactly what you do.

This recently happened to a VP of sales and trading, who had to make a quick decision: Do I take the call or not?

Some execs are naturally leery of taking calls from recruiters. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll be overheard. Maybe you’re happy as a clam in your current gig. Or maybe you’re just too brutally busy to bother.

But keep a few things in mind. One, headhunters are paid by the firm looking to hire you, so nothing comes out of your pocket if you end up taking the position. Two, headhunters aren’t cold callers; they’ve received your name after a detailed search for qualified candidates, likely asking other firms in the industry that work with yours, and perhaps even speaking to some of your clients. Three, even though you might know right away the job’s not a good fit for you and you might lose several minutes of valuable work time by speaking to the headhunter about the opportunity, in taking the call and being respectful, you’ll have developed a relationship with the headhunter who might call you again with another opportunity, which just might be that perfect fit.

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Overall, you have little to lose by listening to the headhunter’s offer. When taking the call, be respectful, listen carefully, ask questions and seriously consider the offer. You never know, it could just be the job you’ve been looking for (without having to look for it). And if not, you just might hear back in the near future with an offer you can’t refuse.

As for the VP, she listened to the headhunter, decided to interview for the job and, after several rounds of interviews, was offered the position— which promised more compensation and, more important, a new working environment, new coworkers, a new trading floor and new management. “I’d been working for the same firm for seven years,” she says, “and even though I was happy where I was, I figured a change would be good.”

Two months into her new job, her hunch has been right on. Working with different people in a different office for a different firm has indeed reenergized her and put her on an even faster career track – and as a bonus, she enjoyed her first month-long vacation in a long time.

Marcy Lerner is the VP of Content and Editorial Research at Vault.com. She graduated from the University of Virginia and has a MA in history from Yale University.

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  Wednesday, 10 Sep 2008 | 2:35 PM ET

Blogging And The CEO

The blogging CEO is not a new creature in the internet landscape – some members of the blogging CEO club have diligently posted since the days of the dot-com bust.

But as more and more companies embrace the web as a key marketing tool, an expanding number of top execs stepping up to vent their spleens on everything from the challenges of leading a large corporation to musings on the mundane.

Here’s a rundown of some of the best CEO blogs; take some inspiration from these visionary leaders if you’re thinking of starting your own executive-level blog.

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystems
One of the oldest and most comprehensive CEO blogs, Schwartz posts insightful, well-written and even, dare we say it, entertaining entries. His focus on developing great products for Sun’s customers shines through in every post.

Posting frequency: Once or twice a month

Bonus: Easily visible and comprehensive list of links to downloadable Sun products and other promotions.

Mark Cuban, Owner, Dallas Mavericks Cuban isn’t technically a CEO, but he’s large and in charge – and full of opinions on everything from the business of sports to HDTV adoption.

Posting frequency: A few times a week

Bonus: In a recent entry, Cuban reminded readers that the average lifespan of an unflattering news story is three weeks, while the average lifespan of a piece of good press is three days. Good advice if you’re thinking of entering the internet fray as a blogger to combat bad press – as Cuban himself did.

Dave Kellogg, Mark Logic
Kellogg, CEO of startup Mark Logic (which is developing XML server) has been blogging since 2005 on everything from business plans to XML database development.

Posting frequency: At least once every business day, usually by 8:30 am Pacific time; sometimes Kellogg posts two or three posts over the course of the day.

Bonus: If you’re a tech exec interested in database development, this blog is chock-a-block with info on the latest developments search paradigms.

Bill Marriott, Marriott International
Marriott discusses business developments (including the recent renovations of this hotel chain’s major properties) and his pet interests (education, health care and the environment). A great example of how to achieve a blog with the perfect mix of content that touches on both the personal and the professional .

Posting frequency: Weekly

Bonus: Marriott International recently revealed that reservations booked through links from Marriott’s blog accounts for almost $1 million in room revenue. So yes -- CEO blogs can provide a quantifiable ROI.

Mike Critelli, Pitney Bowes
Critelli, the executive chairman of Pitney Bowes, is a very prolific and outspoken blogger; like Marriott, his well-written posts also illustrate a great blend of the personal the professional. In recent weeks, he’s hit on topics ranging from governmental issues to the environmental impact of direct mail.

Posting frequency: A few times a week

Bonus: In a recent post, Critelli illustrated his life-long interest in the promotion of financial literacy through a string of anecdotes concerning his long history of thriftiness, reaching back to a set of second-hand golf clubs purchased at a Salvation Army outlet.

Now that you’re full of inspiration – need a few more pointers on getting your own blog off the ground? Check out a podcast of a panel from the 2008 Milken Institute Global Conference on the pros and cons of CEO blogging. Or, take pointers from productivity guru Merlin Mann (43 Folders) on how to generate compelling content for your new communications mouthpiece.

Michaela R. Drapes is an editor at Vault.com. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and has degrees in radio/TV/film and English. Before joining Vault, she was an editor at award-winning business publisher Hoover’s Inc. and covered an array of industry sectors, including pharmaceuticals, amusement parks, real estate, and international banking and finance.

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About Executive Careers Blog

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