An address by Charles S. Sanford, Jr.

It has been my privilege to have worked at Bankers Trust for more than 30 years — that's a long time to stay in one place. I can't speak for anyone else, but these are my reasons for staying here:

  • Bankers Trust brings out the best in me. I didn't want to look back on my life and wonder about what could have been. I wanted to live out the possibilities, and I've done that here.
  • Bankers Trust is in the big league, not just for New York or the nation, but globally. If I have the ability to play in the major leagues, I don't want to play in the minors or watch from the sidelines. A boutique or regional or second-tier firm can't offer the same opportunities.
  • It's also true that working for a winner makes a difference. Having fun really is important — and you simply have more fun when you play on a winning team.
  • Bankers Trust always strives to be a highly ethical organization, not because we have to be but because we want to be. Unfortunately, as we have seen, that isn't always true of every firm.

We have high standards in every way. In addition to placing high value on ethics, we stress intellectual honesty in all our decisions. Intellectual honesty is more than what's legislated; it is inherent in the best people, those who take a broader view of their action than simply "What's in it for me?"

Intellectually honest men and women have the courage and conviction to say what they think, to be willing to make waves if necessary, but also to respect the opinions of others. The free and open exchange of ideas and opinions among colleagues is a fundamentally ethical thing.

  • I believe that people seek to associate with a firm whose values they respect, a firm that expects a lot from them and shows great respect for them. I think our ethical standard is one of the reasons that we have such a great number of very fine people associated with Bankers Trust.
  • Bankers Trust gave me opportunities to make my own decisions and show what I could do at an early age, when I hadn't been here all that long. I think you'll find that true here, too. Bankers Trust gave me chances to learn what I wanted to learn. Nobody spoon-fed me or wasted my time on trivia. With our decentralized organization, that is doubly true today.
  • Bankers Trust's high standards are especially relevant to the quality of our staff. By maintaining these high standards and, indeed, raising them whenever appropriate, our people are constantly challenged to develop new skills. That's good for them and for the firm. I think it also helps keep you young and keeps your outlook on work fresh and interesting. The only way for an individual to become obsolete at Bankers Trust is by refusing the opportunity to meet our standard and rise along with it.
  • Bankers Trust has a global perspective and offers global opportunities. I've found the exposure to other cultures stimulating, and I've had the chance to meet and work with people from all over the world. Not only that, I've had the chance to travel and get to know something of the world. That's important; parochialism is not for me.
  • Bankers Trust has always given me the chance to have a life outside of my work. I work hard, but I also have been able to be with my family, to read books, to travel.

The pace at Bankers Trust is obviously faster and more intense than it used to be. This is fully consistent with our goal of doing top-tier business in a global setting. Some firms make a fetish of always keeping you on call and have a reputation for demanding first priority on all your waking hours, but we don't believe your job has to resemble a military boot camp. It doesn't makes sense for the firm or the individual because people don't do their best work under those conditions, nor do they have much fun — and fun should be a part of it.

It's important to recognize that Bankers Trust is a committed, hard-working place — we all enjoy it that way; but we don't have to pretend we are working all the time. It's just as necessary to acknowledge the other important things in the lives of well-balanced men and women.

  • I want to be around people who are true professionals, and Bankers Trust is a thoroughly professional environment. Bankers Trust people strive to be the best in their field, to accomplish something of real value.
  • Bankers Trust's capacity for innovation means that people get to build their professional capabilities at the cutting edge. Bankers Trust is not a good place for the aspiring bureaucrat.
  • I also want to work with people who are not only top-flight professionals but also good people — people whom I would be proud to introduce to my family and friends. I have known very few people at Bankers Trust who didn't fit that description. Whom I work with is much more important to me than where I work.
  • Because the financial world is rapidly changing, I don't want to be trapped in an organization that is unwilling or unable to make dramatic changes. Bankers Trust has shown that it can transform itself to take advantage of new opportunities. It's a radical organization (in the positive sense of the word). How many other financial institutions are so dynamic?
  • My sense during my time at Bankers Trust has been that petty politics rarely gets in the way for long. People and ideas are judged primarily on their merits. Competition is directed more at the world outside than inside. Of course politics is part of human nature and is never absent in any group of people, but in some organizations it dominates everything — not here.

There were times when I looked at other organizations, but I never found another firm that combined so many of the qualities I was looking for.

That's how I see my career at Bankers Trust. But there is only one chairman, so maybe you're asking yourself if my case is singular and whether other people in the firm share the degree of satisfaction with Bankers Trust that I have.

I think in most cases the answer is "yes." We have a good track record for being able to attract the top talents we go after, whether recent graduates or more seasoned men and women. Those bright people wouldn't join us — and wouldn't stay — if we weren't giving them something they couldn't get elsewhere.

I've talked about my personal satisfaction in working at Bankers Trust. I don't think it is simply my experience, but rather our firm, that is exceptional.

The qualities that have served me well in my career and the qualities of our work that create economic benefit are qualities that begin at home: You might even call it our "social contract" with employees. This social contract describes what Bankers Trust and its people should expect from one another — and I think you'll see that it supports everything I have said.

The two things we cannot expect from one another are: one, guaranteed, lifetime employment without regard for individual performance or economic realities, and two, unconditional, blind loyalty.

As for the rest of the contract, you can expect:

  • No pressure to behave unethically, ever.

In return, Bankers Trust expects:

  • Ethical behavior with no exceptions, ever; not only as mandated by regulators, but also by intellectual honesty — by the relentless application of sound judgment and critical thinking to any undertaking performed on behalf of Bankers Trust.

You can expect:

  • Disdain for bureaucracy; a decentralized, entrepreneurial organization that pulls together when necessary.

In return, Bankers Trust expects:

  • That you will take responsibility for breaking away from a "pack" mentality, respecting the correct answer more than the consensus answer, with the result that decisions are based on the best information and the best interests of the firm rather than on politics.

You can expect:

  • Unwavering commitment to excellence — both yours and the corporation's — toward the goal of becoming the leader in global finance.

In return, Bankers Trust expects:

  • Constant dedication to winning, by playing hard but fair.
  • Agreement that a "comfortable second place" is never good enough; hard work to accomplish something worthwhile — not simply for its own sake and not to the exclusion of a balanced life.

You can expect:

  • Opportunities to develop your skills and demonstrate your value to the firm; sufficient autonomy and resources to get the job done right.

In return, Bankers Trust expects:

  • Your eagerness to take initiative and to be judged and rewarded by the results.
  • Curiosity, skepticism and the imagination to see beyond accepted conventions and to profit by doing business differently.

You can expect:

  • Intense effort to distribute advancement, recognition and compensation fairly based on performance and market standards, giving proper weight to teamwork and longer-term contributions to the enterprise; an institution that is run as closely as possible to a pure meritocracy.

In return, Bankers Trust expects:

  • Unsurpassed professional skills; a dedication to quality that demonstrates wisdom rather than mere cleverness; a commitment to the idea of meritocracy in the service of our constituents: clients, shareholders and all of our colleagues.

You can expect:

  • Honest and constructive feedback on expectations and performance.

In return, Bankers Trust expects:

  • Your willingness to give and take constructive criticism in open debate, a sine qua non for intellectual honesty.

You can expect:

  • An environment that is committed to providing continual opportunities for you to develop your skills, to become more capable and better educated; for those who distinguish themselves with superior performance, increasing participation in the ownership and governance of the firm.

In return, Bankers Trust expects:

  • Your ability to be a primary force in driving your own career without a lot of supervision.

You can expect:

  • Respect for your dignity, without regard for status or job category; an environment that encourages people of different backgrounds to work together and learn from one another; the rejection of conformity and stereotypes.
  • In those instances when it becomes apparent that the fit between an individual and his or her assignment is poor, that the firm will make every effort to provide the opportunity for that individual to acquire additional skills that may equip him or her for another assignment within the firm.

In return, Bankers Trust expects:

  • Genuine interest in the welfare of the entire firm; willingness to work as part of a team and for the good of the firm, not just for individual glory.

We all should feel good about the choices we make, especially the choice of a career, because that's where we spend most of our time and our talents. That's where we find our colleagues and it's the means by which we can provide ourselves with some of the important things in life.

In my opinion, having fun at what you do is vital and respecting yourself while you do it should in no way interfere with your sense of humor nor your desire to win.

When you succeed in a place where the standards are high and you're challenged to learn new things all the time, you become in the end much, much better than you thought you could be. Your highest achievement is a very good thing to give — to yourself and to society.

Copyright 1997 Bankers Trust New York Corporation. All rights reserved.

Charles S. Sanford, Jr., a 1958 graduate of the University of Georgia, is the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Bankers Trust Corporation. In 1997, the Terry College of Business dedicated Sanford Hall in recognition of the significant contributions made to the Terry College and the University of Georgia by Charles and Mary Sanford. He has served as a trustee of the University of Georgia Foundation since 1986, and his family's association with the University spans many generations, dating as far back as 1835.

Other speeches by Mr. Sanford are available at the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library (special software needed) and at the Terry College of Business.