Sanford I. Weill ’55, Chairman and CEO of the global financial giant Citigroup returned to his alma mater last night and spoke to a packed Statler Ballroom about opportunities at his firm and starting careers in a changing financial world.
During his speech, Weill encouraged Cornellians interested in finance to jump in with both feet, saying his best advice to grads starting out was “three words: just do it! It’s a great business. It’s growing, It’s exciting. It’s always changing.”
Weill said that now is a great time for “risk takers and those who embrace change” to start their careers. He promised that if they chose to work in finance, “the only boring day in the week will be Saturday.”
“It is important to be a risk taker,” Weill said. “It’s okay to make mistakes. If you never make mistakes, you’ll never make the right decisions. The changes in the next 40 years will be much more accelerated than the last 40 years.”
Weill came to Cornell to head up the recruiting team of the securities and financial services arm of Citigroup, Salomon Smith Barney. Weill also accompanied the recruiting team to campus last year, and recruiters at SSB report that last year’s yield rate for accepting offers was 85 percent, unprecedented for the firm. That number also led the University among all firms last year, according to Carla Grillo ’76, a director in mergers and acquisitions for SSB.
Weill spoke on many developments in financial services, from consolidation to globalization. Weill also stressed the growth of financial markets in developing nations, saying that “the opportunity in the global marketplace is enormous,” adding that Citigroup boasts “the number one valued financial brand in the world, and this brand creates the opportunity for [Citigroup] to be the partner of choice.”
During his speech, Weill was questioned several times about SSB’s financial involvement with the controversial Three Gorges Dam project in China, which has been criticized for moving the homes of people living in the path of the dam and also for alleged corruption. Weill responded to these concerns by saying that the company understood that “this is clearly a very controversial project,” but that “we need to respect China.”
Weill said that he is “spending a lot of energy coming up with an environmental policy” and stressed the importance of this issue to SSB.
Grillo added that prior to merging with Smith Barney, Salomon Brothers was the first major corporation in the United States to introduce an environmental policy in the late 1970s.
Hundreds of students attended the event not only to meet Weill, but also in hopes of getting coveted interviews with SSB for their first job after graduation or summer internships during their time at Cornell.
Sarah Roccisano ’02 said she had given up a lot of studying time to attend the event, but was glad to have had the chance to speak to Weill following his address. “He was very pleasant and down to earth. He was extremely easy to talk to,” Roccisano said.
Archived article by Katherine Davis