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Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street Hardcover – Mar 6 2012

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A better answer to the financial crisis March 8 2012
By Brian Walsh - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There have been many books written on the financial crisis of 2008, however few of them have addressed the real underlying causes of the crisis. John Taft's book, Stewardship, diagnoses the root causes of the crisis and offers a cure or way forward for the financial services industry. This makes it a very valuable contribution to the "crisis literature" and a must read.
Taft's main point is that we need to re-embrace a stewardship culture; a culture where serving others is paramount. Taft quotes the motto of his prep school "to serve and not be served" to drive the point home. Stewardship implies seeing clients as an end in themselves rather than a means to an end. Taft broadens that to the mission of any financial institution; "Financial Institutions are, or ought to be, a means to greater ends". This approach is not some wimpy or socialist answer to the crisis but rather a path to building profitable growth and a lasting franchise. The rapacious nature of our banks in the mid 2000's, epitomized by creation of synthetic CDO's which pitted one client vs another client with the bank usually profiting or betting with one of parties, has certainly been shown to be detrimental to the long term franchise of the bank!!
The book digs deep into what a stewardship culture means and what attributes are needed to cultivate such a culture. Taft identifies the key attributes to be humility, integrity, sense of purpose, and foresight. He also uses a number of compelling
anecdotes and personal reminiscences to illustrate his points. He clearly links this approach to the overall economy and implications for personal investing.
I have one main "beef" with the book and that is it's favorable characterization of Canadian banks; being a Canadian myself maybe I am overly skeptical of my homeland. However, I view much of the Canadian banks success in navigating the crisis as being due to their oligopolistic control of banking and excess profits they make in their retail banking franchises, as it is to Canada's more conservative culture.
One last point; this is an exceedingly well written book. Taft may be a banker but I think his first love is writing, while not disclosed in his bio, Taft worked as a reporter after he finished high school and again after he graduated from Yale!!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Too much fluff, not enough substance Oct. 4 2012
By Matt Urbanski - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Regardless of intentions, this book simply doesn't have much to say. To paraphrase: The world needs more good people that care about others. If we have more of those kinds of people around, the world will be better. That is the core of the book and the rest fills in with mainly fluff around this idea.

There is a recount of the financial crisis that is pretty standard, nothing new there. He also shares his support for current regulation change without presenting an overly strong or convincing argument supporting his opinion. He uses the example of Canadian banks as his support but doesn't paint a full picture regarding the tradeoffs involved in being generally more conservative. Plus, one anecdotal example doesn't cut it when talking about as big an issue as he's trying to tackle.

While I certainly don't disagree with his message about being a good person, and I don't have much of an argument opposing his statements about the financial crisis or regulation, after reading this book, I don't feel like he said anything new or noteworthy.

I give two stars because for the Kindle price of $15 I expect more and I don't think Taft delivers ideas that are powerful or unique enough to deserve the price tag, even if the proceeds go to charity.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Den of Thieves - Why Greg Smith and Others are Fed Up With Wall Street March 21 2012
By Thomas M. Loarie - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Greg Smith's recent public resignation (New York Times, March 14, 2012 [...] from Goldman Sachs, "Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs" underscores what has become a toxic and destructive atmosphere at one of America's leading financial institutions. A culture that was centered on teamwork, integrity, and a spirit of humility, and always doing right for the clients was once the firm's "secret sauce." Advising clients and doing the right thing has now traded places with do anything to make money even at the client's expense - A Den of Thieves.

John Taft adds to the story of this lost culture not just at Goldman Sachs but on Wall Street as a whole in his just released "Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street.' As CEO of RBC Wealth Management-U.S. and Chairman Emeritus of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the leading securities industry trade group representing securities firms, banks and asset managers in the U.S., John has had a front row seat as both an observer and unwilling participant in the financial crisis of 2007-2009.

In "Stewardship," Taft highlights the importance of stewardship - a calling which centers on a "conviction that purposefulness, accountability, humility, integrity, and foresight are our duty, and that making the world a better place" - and examines how the absence of stewardship contributed to the crisis. Stewardship once was king on Wall Street when privately-held partnerships focused on servicing others and put their own capital at risk. Now, with OPM (Other People's Money) and the demands of being a publicly traded stock, the culture has changed to one that has proven detrimental to our country's financial health.

"Stewardship" also provides insights for individual investors to insulate themselves from another economic crisis by linking Taft's insights on the overall economy to personal investing. To reinforce his main points, Taft provides stories at the end of each chapter based on is personal experience and observations to show his ideas in action. He also provides extensive appendices on EU financial reform, the Basel III Accord, and thoughts on creating a more productive future centered on human dignity.

While Taft provides some solutions for the financial services industry and its regulators to help strengthen the entire financial services system, his main focus is on us and our need to get back to "service culture and a personal focus on fulfilling our calling" a culture built on long lasting values and instills trust. What Taft is focusing on is not just endemic of the financial services industry but of society - private and public enterprise, and government. His message is for all. This is a great addition to the many books (see all the books I have reviewed on this subject by going to "See all my reviews," click Listmania in the left column, and scroll down to "The Great Recession 2007-2009 and Beyond") on the financial crisis and to what ails society.

Footnote - my one concern with this book is that Congressman Barney Frank is listed as endorser of "Stewardship." Frank, from all that I have read thus far on the meltdown was a major player and was not a good steward in his role as an elected official on the finance committee.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
When all is said and done April 8 2012
By Inspired reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amazons' description of this book doesn't do it justice. It is so much more than an analysis, it is a passionate and honest account of what really got us into the financial mess we have been dealing with these last couple of years. And, moreover, it is written by one of the few leaders in the financial industry who has the courage to tell it like it is. I don't imagine that this story of "Finance Run Amok" will have the other Wall Street Firms lining up any time soon to recruit Taft but then, if they had learned anything at all about the error of their ways, they would.

Taft not only writes well, he makes the subject matter compelling for everyone and shares moving personal and professional anecdotes and vignettes along the way. Earlier Wall Street storytellers have all pointed fingers and described complicated financial scenarios, but not Taft. While he doesn't ignore any of the facts, he brings it all home with one clear theme: the financial industry is not living up to its fiduciary duty to put their clients' interests first.

I wish Wall Street would make this book required reading for all those who deal with clients, but I also wish Taft would expand his search for good stewards beyond the financial industry (starting in Washington!) because, when all is said and done, we could all benefit from a return to these core values.

I was inspired by this book. It reminded me that looking outwards and focusing on leaving the world a better place is the secret to a fulfilling and meaningful life. And, while I know that Taft has thus far steered clear of the family business, (his great-grandfather was President WH Taft), in this age of moronic campaigns and absent political stewards, I can't help wishing he would reconsider.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Stewardship Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street March 16 2012
By Christine Gehring - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As an employee of RBC Wealth Management, I had a heightened sense of curiosity to read John Taft's new book Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street. The book reads very well and provides a fascinating insider's view from the Executive Suite circa 2008-2009. He does not overdramatize (nor does he minimize) the tremendous responsibility he felt in making vastly important decisions quickly in a highly pressurized market environment, in which uncertainty and fear were ever-present. His commitment to do the right thing for our clients is evident as he recalls these turbulent months.

He provides precise, concrete steps that the financial services industry and its regulators can take to strengthen the entire financial system. Additionally, he provides very specific measures individuals can take to bolster their own financial situations to provide themselves with a higher level of protection when the next "Black Swan" event descends upon us.

His inherent commitment to the idea of stewardship clearly reflects his upbringing in a family with a multi-generational dedication to public service. It is no marvel that he believes that the idea of stewardship should not be exclusive to the financial services industry. He cites glaring examples of an absence of stewardship in the halls of Capitol Hill and other seats of government in the Developed World as well as in environmental and sustainability challenges. He asserts that long-term healing can only come from each of us reconnecting with our own sense of stewardship, behaving accordingly and inspiring others to reconnect with their own.