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Innovation Is Key to Success

Innovation is the key to successful investment banking, said Brady Dougan, AB ’81, MBA ’82, CEO of Credit Suisse Group during a CEO Spotlight sponsored by the student-led Investment Banking Group at the Charles M. Harper Center. “It’s a great place to start at entry level.”

One of the reasons innovation is required to be successful, he said, is because investment banking “recreates itself every 20 years.”

Eighty percent of the revenue we make in businesses now come from businesses that didn’t exist 20 years ago, he said. When Dougan started off in investment banking, he said he was in derivatives or the “swap business.” He said he did eight swaps in a year then. Now, he said, you can snap your fingers on a trading floor in the amount of time it takes to do eight swaps, but back then if you were successful, you did eight swaps in a year.

Dougan advised future MBAs to work overseas to lay the foundation for their careers in today’s global market. “It’s not a question of whether you should,” he said. “It’s a question of which direction you go. Working in different areas of the world is really valuable. This is a global business.”

During a five-week period in September and October, Dougan visited Moscow, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Jeddah, Riyadh, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, San Paolo, Mexico City, Zurich, London, New York, and Chicago, he said. “And I wouldn’t say that’s atypical,” Dougan said.

Many job candidates are interested in working in big economic centers such as New York or London, he said. “I think that’s good, but I would also suggest that you get some pretty interesting experiences in smaller branch offices,” Dougan said. “It’s usually on a much more intimate scale. You can get to know other parts of the business and see how they work. You also get exposure to things you wouldn’t otherwise: such as going to breakfast with the CEO when he comes through town!”

Working in management is a valuable experience, but not just because it furthers careers or places people in senior positions, he said. “It can produce a tremendous amount of good in a broader, nobler sense,” Dougan said. “A lot of people want the fame, prestige, or perks that go with management. To me that doesn’t really work. What works is if you are sincere about helping the people you’re working with, making the organization succeed, and making the people succeed. People are smart. They can see the motivations of their leaders.”

The evolution of the global economy makes today an ideal era for students of the Chicago School of Business approach, he said. “It is becoming a more global world and in many respects a somewhat more rational world,” Dougan said. “Thoughtful analysis, quantitative approaches to things, and what I call a more collegial approach are becoming more and more effective. They are the future of global business. I think students from Chicago are going to play a very, very important role in these markets as they change.”