Morgan Stanley CFO Ruth Porat: How Wall Street Affects Main Street

 

 

 

While Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat was working with the Federal government to figure out AIG's bailout in 2008, she says that one of her biggest concerns was that a rapid collapse of the insurer could have profound implications for many, many other companies across the country. Small, medium and large companies could lose liquidity, and could find themselves unable to fund the kind of consistent growth that is vital to capitalism. She says that working through this crisis underscored for her how intertwined Wall Street and "Main Street" truly are.


In her Big Think interview, Porat says that she generally thinks of herself as an optimist, but that she's learned a lot from her years as an investment banker. "I started in August of 1987 only to see the market have one of the biggest crashes ever in October of ’87 and have seen a number of other cycles," she says.  "And after each one lessons are learned and I think that the pendulum often swings too far one way before it comes back the other way, but there is an important learning and growth opportunity that comes out of each one of these situations."

As one of the highest-ranking women on Wall Street, Porat says is concerned that there still aren't enough women rising through the ranks in finance. She says many women get sidetracked from careers in finance because they worry about problems with work/life balance, but notes that there are many roles a person can play within an investment bank—and the hours and travel requirements vary. Women who are interested, should take a closer look at the different drivers of the business, she says, because there's a chance something may fit. 

She admits that the first couple of years at a firm can be "very challenging" for someone starting out, and that it takes a lot of work to get up the curve to higher management positions. "But what is powerful about that is you're either opening doors to go and do so many different things, working with corporations, starting your own business or advancing in investment banking. So I would say think of it as almost a call option on the next part of your career."

On a more personal note, Porat also speaks about her experience battling breast cancer, saying that it's most important to first get as much information as you can about the disease from people who know about it—and then to remember to stay true to yourself through treatment.  For Porat, this meant continuing to work, even as she began chemotherapy: "For me, going to work meant that I was in control of my life," she says. "The disease did not define me. And so in many respects work was a really important part of me being healthy.

Related Articles

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

Surprising Science
  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

elephant by Guillaume le Clerc

Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons

13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.

It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.

Why cauliflower is perfect for the keto diet

The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.

Purple cauliflower. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
  • The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
  • It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Keep reading Show less