CLP Sits Down With William D. Cohan

Welcome back from the lockdown!

While we were out of the office, CLP Strategies’ Pen Pendleton sat down with Vanity Fair’s Special Correspondent and a columnist for the NYT’s Dealbook, William D. Cohan to discuss a range of current issues, including: the challenges for journalists during the lockdown; the pandemic’s economic impact; and the response of financial industry leaders and policymakers.

The discussion was sponsored by Roxhill Media and Signal AI.

Above all, the discussion focused on Wall Street, where Bill worked for 17 years before writing professionally. Post-lockdown, he struggles to picture a senior banker succeeding if Zoom calls permanently replace pitch meetings and visits in clients’ offices. He remembers his own experience as a banker and doubts that today’s associates can succeed if they are stuck working from home, unable to impress their supervisors in person.

Cohan also addressed the pandemic as a potential opportunity for financial services to rebuild public trust and approval by funneling capital to Main Street. He was dubious, but noted that bankers he interviewed for a Vanity Fair column seemed to speak for businesses across the spectrum when they called for an end to the lockdown.

He has mixed feelings about the economic leadership in Washington. Fed Chairman Jay Powell “has to be applauded for what he did,” but Steve Mnuchin is a “sycophant” whose tax cut did nothing for the economy other than lining the pockets of America’s largest corporations.

Cohan is also dubious whether corporate leadership can realistically take on the wider social responsibility of serving all “stakeholders”, rather than primarily shareholders. For instance, Jeff Bezos could award $50k in Amazon stock to every warehouse employee with hardly a dent in his own wealth. Still, if CEOs would personally address wealth inequality, Cohan thinks it would be “refreshing.”

Finally, he touched on his most recent book, which is about four classmates at Andover who are now deceased; and his next book, which will be about GE and will include material from interviews he conducted with Jack Welch over the years.

We want to thank Roxhill Media for this opportunity and hope you find the interview interesting.