Clinton Global Initiative 2012: Where Is The Financial Industry?!

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I had the privilege of participating in the Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative last week, and to my eye the financial industry was sorely under-represented.

For many attendees the gathering was a very inspirational and emotional experience as it brought together heads of state, Nobel Prize laureates, celebrities, hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and non-profit groups, major philanthropists, and members of the media.

In addition to making financial commitments to address problem like poverty, disease, famine and women’s rights in the developing world, Clinton Global Initiative members are expected to contribute their expertise, intellect, knowledge and experience to find solutions to these challenges.   I felt proud to be among top representatives of private sector as an array of industry leaders from food, technology, healthcare, media, social media and many others were on hand, ready to contribute and offer their ideas.    At the same time, there was an obvious lack of companies from financial industry.

Of course, there are several exceptions as some of the usual suspects made an impression like Anthony Jenkins, Group CEO of Barclays PLC and Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.    Both gave presentations, participated in small group discussions and took questions from the audience.

But where were the other industry heavy weights?     Where were the banks, hedge funds, and private equity firms?

Of course, the financial sector has been under pressure this year given the lingering economic flatness and ongoing scandals that have surfaced in the wake of the economic crisis.   Moreover, the Clinton Global Initiative is comprised of a more liberal, DNC audience while market makers are leaning towards Mitt Romney this year, even though the president continues to draw support from the investment community.

One would think that the financial community has the capacity to contribute to the strategic planning and problem solving; after all financial firms aren’t cash poor as the sector has rebounded.   Or do they need a business reason to support global social issues and carry on the philanthropic causes?

Moreover, financial firms should be eager to improve their image in the public eye.   Between the latest scandals in the industry, public outrage over executives’ pay, negative publicity that hedge funds and private equity firms often face, the Clinton Global Initiative is a perfect opportunity to escape the dark corner of the media and safely leap into sunny spotlight as heroes.

In fact, some of the topics discussed at the Clinton Global Initiative, such as Access to Finance, Women-owned Businesses, Creating Value for Business & Society, Financing for Impact and Scale and several others could certainly benefit from their expertise to foster economic development in the  third world – after all, there is only one world not three.

Anna Timone (195 Posts)

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