On April 7, 2014, FWA Members and guests attended an exclusive Fireside Chat on Leadership with Dick Parsons, the former Chairman and CEO of Time Warner, former Chairman of Citigroup, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dime Bancorp, Inc. (one of the largest thrift institutions in the United States) and Managing Partner of the New York law firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler. During his career, Mr. Parsons also held various positions in state and federal government, served as counsel for Nelson Rockefeller and was a senior White House aide under President Gerald Ford. Named the top CEO in the Entertainment Industry by Institutional Investor magazine in January 2005, Mr. Parsons is currently a Senior Advisor at Providence Equity Partners and is the founder of PanAfrican Investment Company.
The event featured a one-on-one interview with Mr. Parsons and Sarah Smith, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer of Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs, an FWA President’s Circle firm, also hosted the event and a post-event reception for Mr. Parsons and participants.
Mr. Parsons encouraged the audience to always “be the person other people want to see succeed.” During difficult times, Mr. Parsons noted that a leader must keep perspective, never get frazzled, balance the situation (recognizing that most are not usually “life or death”) and stay the course when a problem needs to be solved. “You need to understand where you want to go and with whom; stay focused, resilient and persistent,” Mr. Parsons advised. He also shared a quote he read that resonated with him – and the attendees: “Good leaders get others to believe in them; great leaders get others to believe in themselves”.
In order to remain successful, Mr. Parsons noted that a leader must have several qualities, in particular good listening skills and empathy with employees so that you can gain their trust. In addition, it’s important to take an active role in increasing your company’s diversity, no matter how challenging that may be. For example, after only three years as CEO of Time Warner, Mr. Parsons increased the number of women and African Americans in VP and higher positions from a minimal number (when he arrived) to about 150. He stated that good leaders are responsible for their staff and thus must make sure they have what they need do their job efficiently. “The tougher the situation, the more intense and interesting it is,” Mr. Parsons concluded.
Regarding impact investing, Mr. Parsons noted that it’s an important asset class that continues to evolve. He sees a real interest with investors and anticipates growth.
The FWA’s Fireside Chat on Leadership Series brings senior financial services executives to the FWA membership to provide exclusive one-on-one perspectives on leadership. The event with Mr. Parsons was co-sponsored by the FWA Distinguished Speakers Committee and the FWA Impact Investing Committee.