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Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street

ISBN: 978-1-118-19019-7
240 pages
March 2012
US $27.95 Add to Cart

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A Q&A with John Taft

Author of Stewardship, Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street

 

What is “Stewardship” and what will readers learn about it?

This is a book about the core principal of stewardship – which is a word that often means different things to different people. To me, stewardship is “the choice for service.” Readers will find out how stewardship failures on the part of some leaders in the financial services industry caused the pain we experienced the last four years – and how we all need to re-embrace stewardship values to solve globally important issues facing us today.

Why was it important for you to write this book?

I think we’re at an inflection point in the evolution of our financial system, as well as on other key societal issues such as fiscal policy, income inequality, resource scarcity, population growth and environmental change. If we want to make the world a better place, staying true to stewardship principles will help us choose the path to sustainability for us as individuals, as a society and as global citizens.

Why are all book proceeds going to charity?

I decided to contribute all the proceeds from the sale of my book to charity because I think it’s very important to support the communities where our clients and employees live and work. I also believe donating the money to help leave the world a better place is consistent with the message of the book, which is all about serving others.

Why are you so passionate about stewardship?

I come from a long line of public servants. Each of the Tafts who came before me led with courage, integrity and conviction. So I think my family legacy, and the importance of core principals to my family during generations of public service, is what led me to express my deep commitment to service and stewardship throughout my career – and ultimately, to write this book.

How did Wall Street culture contribute to the financial crisis of 2008-2009?

I think Wall Street forgot its true mission, which is to connect people who have money with people who need money – and to do so in such a way that the economy grows and everybody benefits. Wall Street’s role is an intermediary role. Instead, certain firms acted like principals, trying to generate profits for shareholders and for their own accounts. That caused the system to breakdown – with too much risk being combined with too much leverage and too little capital.

How can investors and business leaders reconnect with stewardship values?

There’s a growing trend toward investing in companies that behave like responsible stewards. The concept is that these companies will outperform companies that don’t behave responsibly. With more investment dollars following this strategy – often called Environmental, Social and Governance investing – investors and businesses are starting to create a virtuous circle. My book talks about the economic benefits and other favorable results this approach may help create.

What have the last four years taught us?

There will always be extreme events – and the ones that have the most impact on our lives will be the ones we don’t foresee, such as the market dislocation and economic crisis we’ve recently experienced. What we should learn is that we will be tested again by future emergencies. And that we have to prepare now, before they hit, to mitigate the risk. The other lesson we should have learned is what happens when you lose touch with your stewardship responsibilities.