Being Mentored by Fortune Most Powerful Women

Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and the U.S. State Department, under the leadership of Secretary Hillary Clinton, run the Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. This public private partnership places young women in mentoring programmes with Fortunes Most Powerful Women Leaders who share their time, talent and expertise in business with the next generation of international women leaders. Among this year’s mentors are: Ann S. Moore, Chairman and CEO at Time Inc. and Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience at Google Inc.

Having been honoured to be selected, I had three mentors; one of whom is Meredith Whitney, the CEO of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC. Whitney is called the First Lady of Wall Street and an Oracle for calling the financial meltdown when others didn’t see it. She came into prominence in 2007 when she accurately predicted that Citigroup will be forced to cut its dividend to prop up its leaky balance sheet, forecasted the losses and write downs at Bank of America, Lehman Brothers and UBS, as well as the adverse impact of the bond insurers on the banks’ bottom lines. Her advisory firm focuses on research and insights in macroeconomic regulatory reform and company specific analysis of mortgage, housing and credit card industries.

A drive through Manhattans streets are research and analysis opportunities: the emptiness of restaurants, assessing the packages carried by the pedestrians and quizzing the driver about how he is experiencing the US economy, not to mention the multiple databases and information sources her company subscribes to that her driven team are immersed in seven days a week. Clients believe that Meredith’s multi data references and insights make them smarter and ahead of the curve to make the right and timeous decisions and therefore money. Attending meetings with her, where in most cases, she is the only female in the room, from Chairman to Partners, block off chunks of their day to have an information session with her.

Meredith Whitney released her latest report to clients whilst I was in New York in April May 2010 where she says that there are big problems for banks in the future. US banks will continue to haemorrhage from losses on nonperforming loans and U.S. home prices will fall again amid increasing supply and sluggish demand. She is unwavering in her belief that there is going to be a double dip in housing and that the banks are under reserved again. Whitney predicts that US largest banks are vulnerable to another dip in the consumer credit market even though Wall Street rebounded in the first quarter, consumers haven’t experienced enhancement in their finances. Meredith worries that job creation expected from the private sector in the next few months will be neutralised by accelerating job cuts at the state and local government levels who presently account for 15% of total US employment. She estimates that at least 1 million government jobs are at risk. Equally concerning, is the role of small business which employs 50% of the total US workers who continue to see credit contraction. Therefore small business lack confidence to hire. Jobs are critical to a meaningful US recovery.

Meredith says when Goldman Sachs and fraud are mentioned in the same sentence, this truly spells a different world. Whitney believes that the significance of the Congressional hearings, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s civil suit over the Abacus transaction and a criminal investigation which are casting pitiless attention on Goldman’s business practices are a sign of playground politics by picking on the most powerful, it assures that the rest of the pack will cower. Whitney says that the reputational risk issue is bound to inspire even greater attention to the management style of CEOs and employee empowerment and how companies mitigate risk of rogue individuals tainting whole institutions.

It seems that the worst of the financial crisis may be behind us, but the bad in our world economy is not over. As entrepreneurs, we should be asking what opportunities are coming our way and what contigencies should we have in place to survive anymore shocks that might grip our economies?

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