Chuck Prince, CEO of Citigroup

I was at the TIE Tri-State annual event in New York yesterday and participated on a venture capital panel helping young companies refine their pitches and business strategies. There were some interesting software and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing)companies that presented. On the BPO side, it was quite fascinating to hear about the types of services that companies were willing to outsource-for example, in the finance sector, basic credit analysis and research, analytics, and even some financial modeling. In today's NY Times (free site but need to register), there is an article about teleradiology-X-ray and M.R.I. analysis being outsourced to India.

For those of you that do not know, TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) is a wonderful group and stands for the Indus Entrepreneurs signifying the ethnic South Asian or Indus roots of the founders. TiE stands for Talent, Ideas and Enterprise. From speaking with some of the members, it was clear that there was alot more buzz and energy this year versus last year, especially due to the pickup in the economy. Speaking of economy, TIE was able to bring Chuck Prince, CEO of Citigroup, as a keynote speaker. Chuck did a great job as he was quite funny (he had the room in laughter a number of times) and also had some interesting things to say about the economy and entrepreneurship. Here are some relevant notes I took from his keynote discussion:

*Chuck outlined his bio in more detail and fleshed out how he came to be CEO of Citigroup. Basically, he ended up as General Counsel of Commercial Credit Corporation which was about to run out of money in 1986 when Sandy Weill swooped in and bought a large stake in the company and took it public. What Chuck learned about people over the years is that the great ones have intensity, passion, and a desire to win. He said that luck helps and even played a role in his career progression.

*Chuck has no doubt that the economy will perform well for the next 18 months. However, he strongly believes that the economy is susceptible to the election cycle. No existing President wants a recession in year 3 of a 4 year term as they are gearing up for a re-election. Of course, his big concern is what happens in January of 2005 when the President is faced with how to handle the budget deficit. If the economy does not pick up in a self-generating way, we could be faced with policy that could slow the liquidity-driven growth we are now experiencing.

*Longer-term, Chuck believes the world economies will segment into 3 distinct buckets of growth:

1. Dynamic growth characterized by young populations in India and China;
2. No growth characterized by homogeneous economies such as in Western Europe that are not open to immigration with aging populations, low growth rates, and a sagging economy;
3. Balanced growth economies like the US which is open to immigration and hetegenerous from a population perspective.

Unless Western Europe rethinks its immigration policies, it will not be able to sufficiently replace its aging population with young workers to drive growth. This could result in huge problems down the road.

*On offshore outsourcing, Chuck believes that is something that is just going to happen. Who would have guessed years ago that Toyota could make better cars in Japan and ship them to the US to put the auto industry at a competitive disadvantage? It happened. The same thing will happen in the service sector. Chuck believes it is inexorable. Therefore, companies should focus on services/products that need to be done locally, those that require a physical presence. Everything else that can be done offshore will be done offshore. Please see an earlier post if you want to read more about my thoughts on using offshore resources.

*If Chuck could give a young CEO advice (business related other than focus on family and ethics), he would tell that person that execution capability is the most important trait that a CEO can possess. One needs to move the ball and get things done. He has seen thousands of people who were smart, loyal, and dedicated but could not execute or get things done on a timely basis-they were all UNSUCCESSFUL. His advice is to write your issues down and check them off. Move the ball. I couldn't agree more with Chuck on making sure you execute.

*As an aside, he also encouraged us to read Robert Rubin's new book titled "In an Uncertain World." He said that Bob is a fascinating man, and that he enjoys working with him at Citigroup.

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