Citigroup exec speaks to business school

Citigroup executive Mark Rufeh told a University of Miami School of Business audience Thursday night that world economies are in the crisis of “epic proportions” and offered perspective on the road to recovery in the corporate world.

“We built what I consider to be the ‘Perfect Storm,’” Rufeh said, who is the chief administrative officer of Citi’s Institutional Clients Group.

Speaking in the Storer Auditorium, he said this crisis is not unprecedented and the lessons learned from it should not be forgotten.

“History has cycles,” he said. “These crises have been driven by a colossal failure of common sense.”

These failures include not being able to effectively manage and identify substantial risks of business.

Rufeh said large financial corporations need to recognize patterns in history and adjust their business plans to combat such failings in the future.

Rufeh suggested that instead of pouring resources into unstable business opportunities without completely assessing the risks, corporations need to first take into consideration the people they work for and the people who work for them.

Such large corporations must focus efforts on balancing the interests of consumers, services and institutions to restore strength in the economy.

“You have to care about your employees because at the end of the day, they’re all you have,” Rufeh said. “Our assets walk out the door every night.”

He explained that many leading corporations were swept up in business opportunities and neglected accurate risk calculations.

To stabilize the markets, corporations need to refocus business strategies around cutting costs and bad assets, understanding risks and serving the interests of the people involved in the industry.

“While we have lots of signs of optimism, we’re not out of the woods yet,” Rufeh said, adding that it will take time for these strategies to influence significant change.

Rufeh addressed ways that college students can learn lessons from this crisis and become a part of influencing change in the future.

“We all need to manage our own risks—be accountable for our lives,” Rufeh said.