Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit got under way in Laguna Niguel, Calif., last night with Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat doing the opening interview. Porat was at Morgan Stanley before Google, and advised the U.S. Treasury during the financial crisis. Asked what she learned from that experience, she gave three key lessons:
- “The most important lesson was you need to identify your source of vulnerability and protect against it early.” For banks, the problem was liquidity; but the lesson can be generalized. Identify your vulnerability, and defend against it.
- “The problem for AIG was its derivatives business In London,” which it didn’t understand. “You wouldn’t drive a car with mud on the windshield.” Good data and data analytics are critical to good governance.
- “You have to have the will and the means. All too often, when you have the will you no longer have the means.” In short, take the tough decisions early, because it is going to be much harder if you wait until a crisis.
Porat attributes her success at Alphabet to a simple CFO credo: “Anchor everything in data, and great decisions will follow.” Good advice.
Among the 450 women in last night’s audience, was one very noticeable man–Goldman Sach’s brand new CEO David Solomon, who chose to spend his first day on the job with this inspiring group of women. He’ll be interviewed tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.
GE has sacked its CEO of 14 months, John Flannery, replacing him with board member Larry Culp. The news bumped GE’s shares up by more than 7%. Flannery was apparently not moving quickly enough to fix the company’s many problems, and the last straw was reportedly a looming accounting charge of up to $23 billion for GE’s power business. Wall Street Journal
Ian Read is to step down as CEO of Pfizer and become the pharma giant’s executive chairman. Albert Bourla, the company’s chief operating officer, will become CEO. Bourla has been at the company for 25 years, and Read said he was the right person to “deliver the next stage of growth” at Pfizer. Fortune
A longterm Facebook exec named Adam Mosseri has been promoted from being Instagram’s VP of product to leader of the whole operation. Instagram was abruptly left rudderless after the departure last week of co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, who were apparently frustrated by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s control over the subsidiary. Mosseri is reportedly close to Zuckerberg. Recode
Google Ad Chief
Google’s head of advertising and commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, is to become a venture capitalist at Greylock Partners. Ramaswamy has been with Google for 15 years, and has been a key player in its rise as an advertising giant. He will be replaced by engineering chief Prabhakar Raghavan. CEO Sundar Pichai: “I’ve worked with Prabhakar over many years now and can not think of better to lead our monetization efforts.” Business Insider
Around the Water Cooler
Stephen Miller and other White House hawks reportedly urged President Trump to block all student visas for Chinese nationals, in order to combat “economic theft” and to hurt elite universities where criticism of the president was rife. On the other side of the argument, U.S. ambassador to China Terry Branstad pointed out that such a move would harm smaller colleges. There’s also the matter of Chinese students’ spending, which adds to the service-sector trade surpluses that most states enjoy with China. Miller lost this one. Financial Times
Air pollution in China cause, on average, 1.1 million premature deaths a year. That’s according to a new study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The researchers also said the pollution could be wiping $38 billion from the Chinese economy each year, due to those premature deaths and impacts on food production. Lead investigator Steve Yim Hung-lam: “This is a fairly large and significant figure considering that it amounts to about 0.7% of national GDP.” South China Morning Post
The Trump administration is within a week or two of finalizing a ban on bump stock sales, the president said yesterday. The devices help people quickly fire successive rounds from semi-automatic rifles, and have been used in mass shootings such as that in Las Vegas last year. Gunmakers’ shares fell yesterday, perhaps also due to Californian Governor Jerry Brown signing new gun control laws Sunday. Fox Business
The global public trusts Presidents Putin and Xi to “do the right thing regarding world affairs” more than they do President Trump, a new Pew survey has found. On average, a mere 27% have this sort of faith in Trump, whereas 52% have confidence in German Chancellor Angela Merkel. France’s Emmanuel Macron scored 46%, Xi Jinping 34% and Vladimir Putin 30%. Pew: “Large majorities say the U.S. doesn’t consider the interests of countries like theirs when making foreign policy decisions.” CNBC