Student Stories

Dougan & the Future of Finance

The future of finance, Occupy Wall Street, and the secrets of leadership were just a few of the topics Brady Dougan (B.A. ’81, M.B.A ‘82) discussed in a private Q&A session held in Ida Noyes on October 20th.

Career Advising & Planning Services (CAPS) organized the event so that the alumnus and Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse, an international financial service company, could share his experiences with more than 280 students from the Chicago Careers in Business program (CCIB). CCIB is a selective three-year career-advising program that helps undergraduate students launch successful business careers through weekly workshops and networking opportunities.

Dougan, who received his bachelors from the U of C in Economics and his M.B.A. in Finance from Booth, expressed uncertainty regarding the effect that the Occupy Wall Street movement will have in fostering a reform of the financial market. Dougan believes that in order to improve the financial market, the industry must return to its “original principles,” which include investing capital from clients into the people that can use it effectively.

“That is fundamentally what we do. That’s what banks do, that’s what financial systems do. When it does it well, it creates huge value for the world,” said Dougan. “I think that there was too much innovation just for innovation’s sake. Innovation should really be driven by what clients want.”

Despite the precarious state of the financial market, Dougan maintained that the finance profession is a wonderful field to work in because there are plenty of opportunities to “make a huge difference” and to give back to the community.

“I think it is an industry where the sky is the limit. You can really move as quickly as you want and you can accomplish whatever you want,” said Dougan. “It is a great business for people with fresh minds who come in and think about it in a different way because it is so dynamic.”

Dougan suggested that the most successful financiers possess qualities such as intelligence, creativity, exceptional work ethic, excellent interaction skills, and a willingness to seek and take advantage of opportunities—a quality that has been especially beneficial to Dougan and Credit Suisse in several aspects.

The broad experience that Dougan gained while he worked in New York, London, and Tokyo before becoming the CEO for Credit Suisse enhanced his leadership skills. Ultimately, however, the reasons behind the desire to manage and lead are paramount to developing excellent leadership abilities, according to Dougan.

“A lot of people want to get to a senior position in a company because they are drawn by the fame, power, and money. In my view, all of those are not very good reasons,” said Dougan. “A good reason is that you want to make an organization great. You want to make the people better. I think that is actually something that people will understand and realize.”

As for Credit Suisse, rather than view the 2008 financial crisis as a time to lay back, the financial service company assessed the unstable situation as an opportunity to “distinguish themselves,” thereby improving their prominence and value in the financial industry, according to Dougan.

“People don’t remember that we didn’t take any government money in 2008, but what they do remember is that our people were focused on our clients through a very difficult time when our clients needed us,” said Dougan. “They [will] remember that.”

Dougan hopes that the Q&A session will leave a lasting impression on the CCIB students. He stated that his primary reason for making these appearances is to develop a positive rapport with the students that will compel some to work for Credit Suisse in the future. He holds University of Chicago students in high esteem because he believes that a liberal arts education enhances one’s ability to adapt to foreign situations and critical thinking, skills that Dougan thinks are “rare and powerful.”