Rosie Rios, keynote speaker for the Tuesday Luncheon at the Executive Institute at AFP 2019, served as the 43rd Treasurer of the United States. Sworn in as Treasurer in 2009, she was part of the team that implemented the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In this interview, Rios looks back on her impressive career and shares what she learned about how markets, policy and business strategy are intertwined. She also provides treasury and finance leaders with advice on how they can support continued stability. The Tuesday Executive Institute Luncheon is sponsored by PNC.The following are four key takeaways from our interview:
The financial crisis didn’t come out of nowhere; there were a lot of signs. “This was not unlike what happened in August of 1929. I think what people forget is that the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, was already in place for a while. The recession had been going on for nine months even before the Lehman Brothers collapse in September. And, not unlike the Great Depression in 1929, there were some very significant signals in terms of stock prices, in terms of housing prices, etc., that were on par with some of the signals in the past.
When responding to a crisis, it’s essential to have a unified vision—even with people who may have opposing ideologies. “The Troubled Asset Relief Program was kind of unchartered territory for all of us. I think working on behalf of the Obama administration before the President was taking office in January and coming into the previous administration—I don't think any of us really hesitated. All of us, both the previous and the future administrations knowing that we all had to have this common vision, a common mission to make sure that a recovery was in place.
Even in troubling, uncertain times, there are still opportunities for growth. “When you're looking at an investment, when you're looking at the equity markets, you're looking at the public and private markets, you always have to think about this lens of how jobs are created, and where the growth's going to be. It's always about growth. And when Obama took office in January of 2009, our economy was still contracting at 6%. That's, that's crazy to think about that. Yet, you also had this enormous promise of what technology was doing in terms of creating this whole other niche of jobs and wealth, outside of what was happening in the rest of the world.
“Now, I'm back in my world of real estate finance. I'm working on what I call my rescue initiative—real estate for socially conscious urban empowerment. I’m looking at these very large projects to stimulate certain areas. Now, you absolutely have to take into account where that growth is going to be, where the jobs are going to be, and where the markets are going to be, based on this whole new segment of technology that wasn't there before.”
It can’t solely be up to the government to stabilize the economy. “It's not just the government that's going to bail you out. This has to be a public-private partnership. Obviously, companies that have experienced this enormous amount of growth in wealth are doing what they can, right? You've heard recently, Google announced their $1 billion housing fund, Wells Fargo did the same... I think it's great, and I think the more that you have that type of approach in terms of this responsibility your community, that's the only way this is only going to work.
“Certainly, I have realized that the biggest takeaway is that there is no knight in shining armor. We are all the knights in shining armor, each one of us, including the private sector.”
AFP 2019, this October in Boston, is where treasury and finance professionals separate the hype from the reality. Visit www.afp2019.org/register to sign up and use discount code PODCASTAFP2019 at checkout to save $100.