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Hundreds of Professionals Including Leading CEOs and Other Top Executives Turn Out For Global Business Forum Hosted by School of Business Administration

January 16, 2009
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Global Business Forum crowd The University’s inaugural Global Business Forum Jan. 15 and 16 drew nearly 700 people including the top executives from some of the world’s most prominent companies. The Forum, which was organized by the School of Business Administration, featured keynote addresses by the CEOs of such companies as McDonald’s and The Coca-Cola Company, as well as nearly two dozen panel sessions which also featured prominent business leaders. Highlights of day one included presentations by Michael L. Ducker, president, International of FedEx Express, Alberto Ibargüen, president and chief executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, and Arun Sarin, former CEO of the Vodafone Group.

Barbara Kahn, dean of the School of Business 
 Barbara Kahn, dean of the School of Business
Administration opens the Global Business Forum
 Donna Shalala
UM President Donna E. Shalala takes questions
from the audience.
"When we started planning this event more than a year ago, we knew that the time was right for a Forum of this nature, addressing the power of the connected world. But today, in the wake of a historic world economic crisis, the timing is truly remarkable,” said Barbara Kahn, dean of the School of Business Administration, in her opening remarks. “I can’t think of a better time than right now, with what we have seen in just the last few months and as we look forward to 2009, to focus on the issues that will be addressed here over the next two days,” added Kahn in her opening remarks.

Shalala, in the opening keynote address, said that the current global economic crisis provides students with a “real-world learning experience that no classroom can simulate.” The longest-serving U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services in history, Shalala also discussed the health care crisis, noting that the Obama administration will have to come up with solutions to tough problems such as the rising cost of medical care and the 47 million uninsured people in the nation.

Shalala was followed by Alberto Ibargüen, who discussed a range of issues, from the continuing rise of  “social media” and how the Obama campaign made effective use of it to spread the president-elect’s message, to some of the media innovations of the Knight Foundation, the Forum’s presenting sponsor.

He responded to questions concerning the future of newspapers, saying their role as the primary form of connectivity has been lessened with the emergence of cable television and the Internet, but that there is still a place for the “thoughtful, fact-based journalism that has served us well.”

Ducker discussed issues ranging from how global connectivity has shaped the modern world to challenges the world faces, including improving the current economic climate.

Arun Sarin, former CEO of Vodafone Group Plc, speaks
to luncheon audience.

Arun Sarin, former CEO of Vodafone Group Plc, the world’s largest mobile phone company by revenue, addressed a luncheon audience, discussing the rapid pace of technology and how coordinated action by several countries is needed to help solve global problems.

On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning the audience of mostly business professionals - including many UM alumni – participated in 17 concurrent panel sessions focusing on issues ranging from the global financial crisis and alternative energy to health care, the environment, sustainable urbanism, women in leadership and the developing economies of Latin America and Asia. The sessions, which featured nearly 60 panelists from all over the world, were hosted by Schools across the university, including the School of Business which organized six panels.

 Panelists (L-R) Barbara Talbott, Matthew Rubel
(MBA ’80), Jose Armario (MSPM ’03), and Richard Fain

Among the business school panels was “Innovative Customer Engagement Strategies in the Global Marketplace.” The panelists included Jose Armario (MSPM ’03) group president of McDonald’s Latin America and Canada, Matthew Rubel (MBA ’80), chairman, CEO and president of Collective Brands, Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Barbara Talbott, executive vice president for marketing for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Speaking before a standing room only crowd in the School’s Storer Auditorium, the executives discussed and answered questions about the innovative strategies each of their companies employs to stay competitive in the global economy.

"I came here thinking it would be a good networking opportunity,” said Ann Lief, president of the Lieff Company about why she registered for the Forum. “It has been [a good networking opportunity], but even more so, it's been intellectual and a good learning opportunity to get this global perspective on global economics.”

The conference participants were clearly impressed by the number of senior level executives featured in the plenary and panel sessions, as well as by those in the audience.

"I'm impressed with the caliber of people here speaking and attending,” said Jason Auricchio of Northwestern Mutual. “It's been great being able to pick their brains and have conversations, and also connecting with power players in Florida and in the world. The speakers are experts in their fields and everything they say is so relevant to today.”

Muhtar Kent, president and CEO of The Coca-Cola
Company, addresses Friday lunch gathering.

At Friday’s luncheon, Muhtar Kent, president and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, addressed the global financial crisis, saying it has created an environment of uncertainty and confusion. But said he is very optimistic about the future.

“It’s tough out there, very tough,” said Kent. “Most financial experts and economists tell us it will likely get even tougher before it gets better. That said, in my heart and in my head, I also believe that America will come out of this crisis stronger and sooner than most people anticipate.”

The Forum closed with keynote addresses by Frances Aldrich Sevilla-Sacasa (AB ’77), former president of U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, Jim Skinner, vice chairman and CEO of McDonald’s Corporation, and Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric Company.

Frances Aldrich Sevilla-Sacasa (AB ’77), former
president of U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth
Management, speaks during closing plenary session.

Sevilla-Sacasa provided a unique perspective based on nearly 30 years of high-level banking industry management roles, with special expertise in wealth management for wealthy families. She addressed the impact that technology has had on banking, calling it the biggest single change in the industry. She also said dealing with wealthy families has changed as new generations are generally well traveled, well informed, tech-savvy and are much more connected with the world. She added that they are more interested in using their money for social good and that successful advisors are those who can communicate effectively with this generation.

Skinner focused on a number of business principles which he said have become more critical because of the highly connected world – those he called “must dos.” He said companies must have the “ability to innovate quickly,” communicate a clear vision and be good global citizens. He also pointed to the need to be customer-centric.

 Kahn and Skinner
Dean Barbara Kahn meets with Jim Skinner, vice
chairman and CEO of McDonald’s Corporation, prior
to his speech.

“We all know the modern-day consumer truly is king,” said Skinner. “It’s easier than ever for people to tune out messages, side step sales pitches and customize everything they see, hear and purchase. Now more than ever, consumer relevance is the name of the game.”

Skinner pointed his company’s “i’m lovin’it” global marketing initiative as an example of how McDonald’s speaks in one voice across the globe.

Jack Welch, the well-known former CEO of General Electric, closed the Global Business Forum with a one-hour question and answer session moderated by Shalala. Welch said that the current turbulent economy requires new thinking.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” he said. “If anyone tells you he knows what he going to do, dodge him.” He also had advice for business schools: “Throw out the syllabus!  How can you teach the syllabus you wrote in September when the world is upside down? You have to teach what is happening today – it is a great opportunity.”

Shalala and Welch 
UM President Donna E. Shalala moderates the Q&A
session with Jack Welch, former CEO of General

The Forum’s presenting sponsor was the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The title sponsor was Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida Inc. Other sponsors included Bank of America, U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, TotalBank, Blackline Systems, FedEx Express, the University of Miami Citizens Board, The Jeffrey Group, The Miami Herald, PODER magazine, and WorldCity Business magazine.

Check back soon for more transcripts, videos and photos from the Global Business Forum.

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