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Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street Hardcover – March 6, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

John Taft comes from a distinguished political family well known for its commitment to integrity. In Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street, John Taft builds on that legacy and presents an intelligent, thoughtful argument for the importance of establishing service to others as the key to saving ourselves from the ongoing financial crisis, and creating a more stable and more compassionate financial system.

When the financial crisis hit in 2008, Taft was on the front lines with investors and employees, and experienced their extreme turmoil. Driven by a conviction that purposefulness, accountability, humility, integrity, and foresight are our duty, and that making the world a better place is our calling, he outlines in this book his belief in stewardship's core principles. These principles are the answer not only for minimizing the scale and impact of future financial crises, but also for addressing the major societal challenges facing us today.

Wide-ranging in its coverage, the book looks at the ways in which a lack of stewardship contributed to the financial crisis, how to strengthen banking regulation, and much more. Including an in-depth analysis of the ways in which Canadian banks responded to the crisis with integrity and established themselves as models of fiscal responsibility, it looks to the future with optimism. To illustrate his arguments, Taft employs engaging end-of-chapter vignettes that show his ideas in action. Extensive appendices on EU financial reform, the Basel III Accord, and thoughts on creating a more compassionate future augment the text to create a fascinating guide to a better future.

Born out of Taft's participation in legislative and regulatory efforts to rewrite the rules under which the U.S. securities industry will operate for decades to come, the book offers a unique response to the challenges of the financial crisis. It looks at the way in which a lack of integrity contributed to the Great Recession. It also shows how a renewed commitment to helping others has implications for the future of the financial services industry, the prevention of future crises, the protection of the environment, and much more. Stewardship is a compelling read with far-reaching implications.

From the Back Cover

Praise For Stewardship

"This is a powerful and moving book that deserves to be widely read.The idea of stewardship captures powerfully what is needed today.I just hope the financial industry listens."
Gillian Tett, U.S. Managing Editor, Financial Times, and author, Fool's Gold

"When I was asked by a good friend to read John Taft's manuscript with the possibility of providing a comment about it, I groaned at the prospect of reading another dreary, self-justificatory treatise. I could not have been more wrong. Mr. Taft draws on his considerable experience in the financial industry to produce an essay that is thoughtful, constructive, and, in a word I rarely get to use in the context of the financial crisis, inspiring. I am glad to recommend it."
Barney Frank, Congressman (D-MA)

"John Taft demystifies the complex inner workings of the financial services industry. He provides a simple, but elegant, approach to restoring trust and confidence in the U.S. financial services markets."
Ron James, President and CEO, Center for Ethical Business Cultures

"Like his father and grandfather and great grandfather before him, John is another Taft who understands we are all stewards and with that comes responsibility. Stewardship is not just a book for Wall Street. It's a book for you and me."
Doug Lennick, coauthor, Moral Intelligence

"Timely, well-argued, deeply humane. Taft is the sort of leader financeneeds as it emerges from the crisis."
Matthew Bishop, New York Bureau Chief, The Economist and coauthor, The Road from Ruin


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 111819019X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118190197
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,029,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

John G. Taft is CEO of RBC Wealth Management-U.S, one of the largest full-service investment, advisory and wealth management firms in the United States. John is a former chairman of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), a current member of the CFA Institute's Future of Finance Advisory Council, and has served a wide range of not-for-profit and public service organizations. Prior to his finance career, John was assistant to the mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, and a journalist. He is a direct descendant of U.S. President William Howard Taft and Senator Robert A. Taft.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Brian Walsh on March 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There have been many books written on the financial crisis of 2008, however few of them have addressed the real underlying causes of the crisis. John Taft's book, Stewardship, diagnoses the root causes of the crisis and offers a cure or way forward for the financial services industry. This makes it a very valuable contribution to the "crisis literature" and a must read.
Taft's main point is that we need to re-embrace a stewardship culture; a culture where serving others is paramount. Taft quotes the motto of his prep school "to serve and not be served" to drive the point home. Stewardship implies seeing clients as an end in themselves rather than a means to an end. Taft broadens that to the mission of any financial institution; "Financial Institutions are, or ought to be, a means to greater ends". This approach is not some wimpy or socialist answer to the crisis but rather a path to building profitable growth and a lasting franchise. The rapacious nature of our banks in the mid 2000's, epitomized by creation of synthetic CDO's which pitted one client vs another client with the bank usually profiting or betting with one of parties, has certainly been shown to be detrimental to the long term franchise of the bank!!
The book digs deep into what a stewardship culture means and what attributes are needed to cultivate such a culture. Taft identifies the key attributes to be humility, integrity, sense of purpose, and foresight. He also uses a number of compelling
anecdotes and personal reminiscences to illustrate his points. He clearly links this approach to the overall economy and implications for personal investing.
I have one main "beef" with the book and that is it's favorable characterization of Canadian banks; being a Canadian myself maybe I am overly skeptical of my homeland.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Loarie VINE VOICE on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Greg Smith's recent public resignation (New York Times, March 14, 2012 [...] from Goldman Sachs, "Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs" underscores what has become a toxic and destructive atmosphere at one of America's leading financial institutions. A culture that was centered on teamwork, integrity, and a spirit of humility, and always doing right for the clients was once the firm's "secret sauce." Advising clients and doing the right thing has now traded places with do anything to make money even at the client's expense - A Den of Thieves.

John Taft adds to the story of this lost culture not just at Goldman Sachs but on Wall Street as a whole in his just released "Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street.' As CEO of RBC Wealth Management-U.S. and Chairman Emeritus of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the leading securities industry trade group representing securities firms, banks and asset managers in the U.S., John has had a front row seat as both an observer and unwilling participant in the financial crisis of 2007-2009.

In "Stewardship," Taft highlights the importance of stewardship - a calling which centers on a "conviction that purposefulness, accountability, humility, integrity, and foresight are our duty, and that making the world a better place" - and examines how the absence of stewardship contributed to the crisis. Stewardship once was king on Wall Street when privately-held partnerships focused on servicing others and put their own capital at risk. Now, with OPM (Other People's Money) and the demands of being a publicly traded stock, the culture has changed to one that has proven detrimental to our country's financial health.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Matt Urbanski on October 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Regardless of intentions, this book simply doesn't have much to say. To paraphrase: The world needs more good people that care about others. If we have more of those kinds of people around, the world will be better. That is the core of the book and the rest fills in with mainly fluff around this idea.

There is a recount of the financial crisis that is pretty standard, nothing new there. He also shares his support for current regulation change without presenting an overly strong or convincing argument supporting his opinion. He uses the example of Canadian banks as his support but doesn't paint a full picture regarding the tradeoffs involved in being generally more conservative. Plus, one anecdotal example doesn't cut it when talking about as big an issue as he's trying to tackle.

While I certainly don't disagree with his message about being a good person, and I don't have much of an argument opposing his statements about the financial crisis or regulation, after reading this book, I don't feel like he said anything new or noteworthy.

I give two stars because for the Kindle price of $15 I expect more and I don't think Taft delivers ideas that are powerful or unique enough to deserve the price tag, even if the proceeds go to charity.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Inspired reader on April 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amazons' description of this book doesn't do it justice. It is so much more than an analysis, it is a passionate and honest account of what really got us into the financial mess we have been dealing with these last couple of years. And, moreover, it is written by one of the few leaders in the financial industry who has the courage to tell it like it is. I don't imagine that this story of "Finance Run Amok" will have the other Wall Street Firms lining up any time soon to recruit Taft but then, if they had learned anything at all about the error of their ways, they would.

Taft not only writes well, he makes the subject matter compelling for everyone and shares moving personal and professional anecdotes and vignettes along the way. Earlier Wall Street storytellers have all pointed fingers and described complicated financial scenarios, but not Taft. While he doesn't ignore any of the facts, he brings it all home with one clear theme: the financial industry is not living up to its fiduciary duty to put their clients' interests first.

I wish Wall Street would make this book required reading for all those who deal with clients, but I also wish Taft would expand his search for good stewards beyond the financial industry (starting in Washington!) because, when all is said and done, we could all benefit from a return to these core values.

I was inspired by this book. It reminded me that looking outwards and focusing on leaving the world a better place is the secret to a fulfilling and meaningful life. And, while I know that Taft has thus far steered clear of the family business, (his great-grandfather was President WH Taft), in this age of moronic campaigns and absent political stewards, I can't help wishing he would reconsider.
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