What they say...

Over the years, has the role of the CEO changed? In your own words, how would you define your role and vision?

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Wed 18 Mar 2009, 12:27 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 10:40 PM

Magee: “The role of the CEO is not a gift, a reward, or a thank-you present. The title is a massive responsibility and requires a great deal of experience an enormous amount of skill. I believe that nobody with less than 15 years management experience should ever become a CEO.

Tichansky: “Shorter tenures, for one! More time on HR [human resources] and CSR [corporate social responsibility]. Fewer outside board commitments. My vision is to serve customers and empower people.”

Reynolds: “The role of CEO has changed tremendously. You must be alert to the risks that your organisation is assuming, as well as set strategies and vision.”

Meyer: “I think I am the goal setter. Identifying where we need to be and making sure we have the external resources lined up to achieve our goals.”

What lessons are you learning during these recessionary times? What will be the most relevant takeaways once the downturn is over — and you are back on the fast track?

Stokes: “The CEOs who survive … will go back to the basics: They will protect their base, they will seek out new markets offering the best outcomes, and they will take advantage of new emergent opportunities. It’s the rule of Darwin: Survival is for those that adapt the quickest.”

Meyer: “You have to always focus on sales... not just to new clients, but to your existing clients as well. Your existing clients can make a significant difference in these economic times. Businesses are looking for trusted partners, and during these times your relationships with your clients are tested. … If you perform well, will prove to have long term value.”

Tichansky: “Tough times and tight budgets breed creativity, which is good. Tough times can breed indecision. If that’s you, admit it and get help. Waste no time correcting course.”

Reynolds: “Be aware of the risk that your organisation is assuming. The CEO is responsible for the pure existence of the organisation, and if you make a series of bad decisions, it could result in disaster. After this recession is over, the CEOs that have managed their organisation well will be in position for tremendous growth.”

Magee: “Planning is key. UAE is still great, but Bahrain is becoming a cheaper and more viable option for many companies. … I have learned the value of a good team, of motivating and encouraging them to be positive. I have learned that banks do not understand business and that finance guys should never run a company (or a country).

I have learned that CEOs need to be qualified. They also need training, they need peer groups, they need to meet more and share problems as well as successes.SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) will spring up everywhere, (if support and finance is available), and the fastest growth sector will be in this area.

If you were asked to make just one point at this CEOs’ forum, what would that be – and why? As the CEO of your company, what is the single biggest challenge/motivation facing your company?

Tichansky: “Growth and leverage will come back, if not as soon as we all hope. Confidence is key. [The] biggest challenge is managing change and reminding our people that we’re involved in something bigger than themselves.”

Magee: “Our job as CEO is to set expectations to our company team and to our shareholders. We must be ethical in all aspects.”

Stokes: “The world is undergoing a massive and seismic change unseen since the last Great Depression of the 1930s. It is a major correction following years on virtually unchecked and unparalleled growth. It will be painful, but it will be short-lived. Thereafter, the world will move forwards again. Even assuming the world total spend last year stagnated and for the next two years it declines by 15 per cent, the total world expenditure by 2012 will still be 50 per cent higher than in 2008. Thus, my message will be to ride the storm, batten down the hatches but be prepared to set sail fast once the recovery signs emerge.”

Reynolds: “The CEO has to be a visionary for the organisation and provide unique and exceptional leadership, and I think that point has been lost with many global organisations. The single biggest challenge/motivation is “getting there”. Given the tremendous amount of growth and opportunity, it is important to be staffed with experienced and talented professionals to seize the opportunity.

Magee: “That the market is still in need of a lot of creative and exciting new BIG ideas.”

As leaders in the industry, which of the two is more important at this critical juncture: restoring investors’ confidence or restoring the confidence of your employees?

Magee: “Investors. They need to see true leaders running companies/corporations and believe they have the experience to do the job, but with a clear understanding that it is the employees that make a business tick. Without their confidence, then you have nothing.

More investor confidence will come from reporting the successes rather than the failures. The Middle East CEOs need to get out more, need to talk more, need to be more transparent – only then will investors gain faith again.

Tichansky: “Investors! Many great ideas are in suspense without the needed active capital. Business people — and government policymakers — who can find ways to aid the flow of credit will be lionised.”

Meyer: “Investor confidence is key in these times.Employee confidence is a full-time job.”

Reynolds: “Our employees are very positive and engaged. For us the biggest issue is investor confidence.”

Stokes: “Both are important. Yes, companies must survive. Lay-offs are inevitable. But there are some companies that are more humane in their treatment, more sympathetic to the human cost of unemployed labor.

Those that are seen to be firm but caring will ultimate see a higher return than those that are caring only of shareholders and brutal to their workforce.”

Once the current economic environment is behind us, what role will risk management play in the corporate sector?

Meyer: “This will be critical. Everyone will be under the microscope, and understanding internal and external risks will be critical. ... It will be the new buzz word.

The old words of ‘Quality,’ ‘Green,’ and ‘Customer Service’ are now behind ‘Risk Management.’

Reynolds: “It will play number one in financial services. t will take a much higher profile in corporate America, particularly in financial services.”

Magee: “The CFO will emerge again and will not be a subservient accountant who does what he is told. CEOs will be a LOT [more] accountable, and auditing firms will have a field day once more.

CEOs will be more accountable, there will be less jobs for the boys and more hiring of qualified CEOs with ‘the boys’ training underneath them. Risk management will be far more prevalent – but it must not be allowed to stifle creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Tichansky: “Boards will be very cautious. CEOs will be under greater scrutiny to prove out their decisions. The role of the activist director is still being defined.”

Stokes: “Governments and shareholders alike will demand that the business and financial world become more transparent, more regulated, more internally controlled, than ever before.

Risk as a discipline will be escalated up the organisation in terms of importanceand cascaded down the organisation to all staff in terms of corporate and individual relevance.”


James “Jim” Reynolds, Jr.

Co-founded Loop Capital Markets in 1997 and is responsible for all its investment banking, trading and institutional sales activity. He has been in the financial services industry for more than 25 years, working previously in municipal sales at Smith Barney and in the Corporate and Institutional Client Group at Merrill Lynch. He also set up and headed the Midwest Municipal Bond Sales desk at PaineWebber in Chicago.

Trevor Stokes

Executive Director of Business Development for the Bahrain Economic Development Board. Prior to joining the Board, he was the CEO of Amex (Middle East), and he has worked in marketing and general management roles at Unilever and Inchcape Middle East. He has spent over 25 years living and working in the Middle East, half of which has been in Bahrain

Joseph P. Meyer

Chairman of FirstView Financial and has more than 20 years of management experience in large companies and start-ups. He founded the first payroll debit card company in 1997, started up another ACH payment processing business and founded a debit card company called Skylight. He is a former President of BellSouth Products, a subsidiary of BellSouth Telecommunications.

James Magee

The founder and CEO of the World CEO Forum. He has been in the Middle East since 1986 and has launched and worked on several projects in the region. He has worked with the UAE Chambers of Commerce, the Dubai Tourism and Commerce Board,the Economics departments, and Dubai World Trade Center. He also is Director of Global Event Management and Vivid Event services.

Peter Tichansky

President and CEO of the Business Council for International Understanding, a private, non-profit business association in the US funded by multinational corporations in different industries. He has held this position since 1996 and first joined the council in 1987. Before that, he worked at a democratic development institute in Washington, D.C., where he also founded Gowran International, a public affairs firm.

More news from