Charting the New Financial Landscape

On November 7, nearly 250 students and professionals came to HBS for the 2009 Finance Conference, hosted by the HBS Finance Club, for a day of speeches, panel discussions and networking. Barclays Capital was the Diamond Sponsor for the Conference and J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citi, Credit Suisse, Evercore and Goldman Sachs were also sponsors.

Barclays Capital CEO Bob Diamond kicked off the conference with a keynote speech discussing how much stronger Barclays became as a result of the 2008 financial crisis through its acquisition of Lehman Brothers’ North American businesses. He said, “We never thought we would be able to acquire a U.S. bulge bracket investment bank.when Lehman failed, we were the only firm ready to act.”

Mr. Diamond also highlighted some of the challenges of integrating the Lehman businesses, such as firing 4,000 of 14,000 employees, retaining clients despite a week-long service interruption, and building a “One Firm” culture. Lastly, he discussed the changing role of government, both as an increasingly active regulator and as a critically important client, given the massive increases in fiscal deficits and government ownership of failed companies.

Roger Altman, founder and chairman of Evercore Partners and former Deputy Treasury Secretary, delivered the second keynote speech and used his unique perspective on government and Wall Street to discuss the causes and impact of the financial crisis. Robert Pozen, Senior Lecturer at HBS, delivered the closing keynote address regarding how to prevent a future crisis from occurring. Professor Pozen recently wrote a book, Too Big to Save, laying out his prescriptions for the financial system in more detail, leading HBS Professor Bob Eccles to introduce his colleague with one serious, important request: that the attendees purchase Too Big to Save and give it a five-star review on Amazon.

In addition to the keynote speeches, the Conference featured eight panels, covering topics from restructuring and turnarounds to alternative investments. The Corporate Finance panel featured Brian Hoffman (HBS ’92), Chief Credit Officer of IBM, and Jim Prevost (HBS ’85), VP of Acquisitions and Divestitures at
P&G, discussed how corporations are protecting themselves while preparing for future growth. They argued for protecting margins rather than cutting prices since it becomes very difficult to raise prices even when the economy recovers. In addition, since so many competitors are struggling now, strong companies can opportunistically acquire good businesses at reasonable prices.

One of the most exciting panels was a case study of the U.S. government’s rescue of General Motors, presented by Nick Sakellariadis of Citigroup. He argued that despite the deal’s poor financial return for the government, saving three million jobs and stabilizing the economy convinced the Automotive Task Force that they should invest in GM. The case generated so much interest that the Q&A session ran 20 minutes into the lunch break. The Future of Mergers & Acquisitions panel also generated significant interest, with more than 100 people turning out to hear senior bankers from Credit Suisse, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup share their perspectives. Although deal volume is dramatically lower in 2009 than it was in the LBO boom of 2006 and 2007, the bankers believe that a strong recovery will occur in 2010. Globalization and emerging markets will be key drivers of M&A activity, while healthcare and financial institutions are the industries where deal activity is likely to pick up first.

One of the major reasons many people attended the Conference was to give themselves a head start on the job search. This looks to be another difficult year for MBA recruiting, and the start of RC recruiting season two weeks ago means many employers are already identifying high-potential candidates. The conference provided numerous ways for students to improve their job prospects. The Careers in Finance panel provided a safe forum for students to ask questions about career paths, differences among firms and the qualities recruiters seek in candidates Networking opportunities were also plentiful. After each panel, HBS students used their well-honed pit-diving skills to meet panelists and exchange business cards. Lunch was set up with designated tables for each firm so participants could eat with their employer of choice. At the end of the conference, a happy hour and career fair allowed attendees to meet and mingle with representatives of each firm. Lastly, conference sponsors used the resume book of attendees to develop invite lists for targeted events.

In all, the 2009 Finance Conference was a huge success. Registration and attendance increased more than 50% from 2008, the number of panels doubled and a keynote speech was added. tag heuer replica for sale There are many people who deserve credit for making the conference happen. Professors Nabil El-Hage, Ryan Taliaferro, Daniel Bergstresser and Bob Eccles moderated panels and introduced keynote speakers. Brad Mauney and Pat Donohue were the Co-Chairs of the conference and did a terrific job securing sponsors and speakers and ensuring that everything ran smoothly. More importantly, they supervised a great team of RCs. Jason Hu, Jennifer Neff, Yichen Tang and Chen Weng marketed the conference. Tina Hou and Max imilian Roos were responsible for keynotes and sponsors, respectively. Melvin Hibberd, Blake Kurisu, Lukasz Garbowski, Fangli Gu breitling superocean replica, Bogdan Gogu, Karmen Lau, Evan Shore and Raymond Yeung managed the panels. Lastly, Boat Vashirakovit and Chingiz Gadimov ran the operations.

Brad Rolfes is Co-President of the HBS Finance Club.