Robert Druskin joined DTCC in April 2011. This article is the second in a two-part series in which Druskin gives his perspective on the company after one year on the job. To read the first part, click here.
How do the people at DTCC use you as a resource?
Typically, people bounce ideas off me, and I share my own ideas. Just like anyone new to the company, I sometimes have a perspective that is different from people who have been here longer. Rather than be prescriptive, I try to reach consensus on what we should do.
Senior executives don’t need to make every decision themselves. That’s not our job, except in certain circumstances. Our job is to make sure the right decision is reached, the right people are participating in the discussion and the right issues are raised – based on a free exchange of ideas and the appropriate amount of debate.
Hopefully, that type of process will allow everyone to coalesce around a decision. Of course, if consensus can’t be reached, someone has to make a final decision. But that’s less than satisfying for a leader. It’s always preferable to get to a point where everybody agrees on the right way to go forward.
What are some of the company’s priorities in terms of its people?
At DTCC, we build ideas. We have to think creatively about what’s good for the industry, what our clients want and the regulatory arena in which we operate. And we need great people to do these things, people who can think and execute and challenge the status quo. So, just as we’re looking at capital planning and risk management in new ways, we’re also evaluating our Human Resources programs to be sure we’re building and carefully managing our talent pool.
One important issue is the integration of long-term employees and outside talent. As we expand certain areas of the business, such as Risk Management, and move into new businesses, we sometimes need to bring in people from the outside with new skill sets. Change is always good, but when you mix people who know the business inside out with new folks who have fresh ideas and different ways of thinking, it takes a bit of finesse to make it work. It’s almost like putting two companies together.
Have you noticed any shifts in the corporate culture over the past year?
The company is developing a more commercial mindset. We’re building better analytical tools; the level of analysis continues to improve; and the emphasis on economics is stronger across the company. People are very focused on the fact that resources, capital among them, are not infinite. We have to manage the business and approach opportunities carefully, and make sure we have the right rigor around all our activities.
I've also observed more open debate and discussion across the company, which is essential because, as I always say, this is a team sport. Everyone who works here has a stake in the company. No 9 people – that’s the size of our Management Committee – or 187 people – that’s the size of our officer population – can do everything by themselves. So we have to continually focus on open communications. We have to encourage people to speak up, ask questions and challenge ideas – in an appropriate way.
How does a company achieve that degree of openness?
You ask people their opinions. You give them a fair hearing and really consider their ideas. You create an expectation that if their idea is the best, it will move forward. And if someone has an idea that doesn’t work, you don’t make them feel badly about it. One of the worst things you can do is tell someone they had a really dumb idea, because you can bet that person will never come forward again.
In my view, someone who has 100 ideas, maybe one of which works, is better than someone who has no ideas – by an infinite margin. Some of the smartest people I ever worked with had crazy ideas, but every once in a while, there would be a home run.
Of course, folks have to understand that not every proposal they make is going to be accepted because there may be a better solution. But the decision should never be personal. It should always be about using our collective best efforts to move the company forward. As I said earlier, the job of the senior person is to make sure the best decision is reached.
We also have to be accepting of mistakes. If someone makes a mistake while trying their best, and it wasn’t a reckless thing to do, there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone makes mistakes. Most things are measured risks and, as an organization, we have to accept goodfaith errors. Making mistakes actually helps a company improve.
So we have to encourage these kinds of behaviors to really foster openness. And the senior people in the company have to set an example, because the tone is always set at the top. All of us in senior management have to be models. It’s not revolutionary, it’s evolutionary. Creating a culture of open communications comes with time, and with continual reinforcement.
What is the most rewarding thing about being DTCC’s Executive Chairman?
Working with great people. No job can be a good one if you don’t like and respect the people you work with. And I like the people here immensely. They’re smart. They work together – the teamwork here is really excellent. They have enormous pride in the company, as they should. And they’ve been very welcoming. People are usually the best or the worst part of any job, and here they’re the best part. @