Daniel Doctoroff is no stranger to financial crises. He has been through several in his career, and he had this to say to a crowd of 50 students at a Saybrook College Master’s Tea:
Doctoroff, the current president of financial information-services company Bloomberg L.P., told the story of his own career through a series of pitfalls and recoveries.
After graduating from Harvard in the 1980s, Doctoroff said he was faced with an equally poor economic environment.
“1980 was when the last great recession was gathering steam,” he said. “It was ugly.”
After Harvard, Doctoroff attended the University of Chicago Law School and landed a job with Lehman Brothers (“a very safe investment bank”) upon graduation.
Three years out of law school, Doctoroff tried to start up an investment fund that would, in today’s lexicon, be called a “private-equity high yield,” he said. Black Monday hit two months after he started the fund: On October 19, 1987, the stock market fell over 22 percent.
In 2002, Doctoroff joined New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as deputy mayor for economic development. Doctoroff’s appointment came at a time of great economic hardship, with Wall Street and the nation reeling from the attacks of Sept. 11.
“My 30-year career has been determined by the four major financial calamities of the last 30 years,” he said, only half-joking. “That qualifies me to at least give you a few lessons about what to do in these downturns.”
America always emerges from downturns, Doctoroff said, once confidence returns to the market.
“History really has taught us over and over again that this too shall pass,” he said.
Innovation tends to drive the economy, Doctoroff said, and could be the key to the current economic crisis. After taking the post of deputy mayor in 2002, Doctoroff said his research showed innovation lifted New York out of its last 11 economic crises.
“You can go to the previous 11 downturns and trace it to some sort of major innovation that created entirely new industries, thousands of new companies, and fundamentally made people feel different again,” he added.
Doctoroff said he believes the economic stimulus package proposed by President Barack Obama should boost support for alternative energy and focus spending on climate change.
Doctoroff told students to identify their passions and pursue them, adding that innovation is an outgrowth of investing time and resources in ways consistent with students’ passions.
Alexandra Chu ’11 said she sympathized with Doctoroff’s message of pursuing one’s interests.
“He was very good about telling people about how to keep their personal interests and businesses afloat,” she said.
Jeremy Poindexter ’11, a mechanical engineering major, said he enjoyed how Doctoroff discussed economic issues in understandable terms.
“I thought Mr. Doctoroff did a really good job of explaining the nuts and bolts of the financial crisis at a simple but comprehensive level,” Poindexter said. “As a science major who doesn’t know the intricacies of economic policies and the like, I still felt that I understood what was going on.”