Invesco CEO urges students to stick to their values and stay curious

What do you learn in 30 years of management? You have to keep learning.
Marty Flanagan

In 30 years of corporate management, you can learn a lot — if you’re open to it.

For Marty Flanagan, president and CEO of Invesco, leading a company is an exercise of curiosity and self-reflection, he told University of Georgia students gathered in the UGA Chapel on Feb. 13.

“You get hired for your technical skills, quite frankly,” Flanagan said. “But in reality, those who want to go beyond being an individual contributor will need to thrive within an organization.

“Without that awareness of those soft skills, that attitude of ‘How can I make a difference?’ ‘How can I solve this problem in the right way?’ ‘How can I learn more?,’ it’s a train wreck …. And it never ends. Right? So, be reflective; be curious; and be open-minded. These are important things for developing your success in business.”

Flanagan, who retires from Invesco on June 30, was on campus for the Terry Leadership Speaker Series, hosted by the UGA Institute for Leadership Advancement and the Terry College of Business. He will remain Chairman Emeritus at Invesco through the end of 2024.

His message to the students: stay true to your values, lean into challenges, and never stop evolving. He worked to build a company culture at Invesco that celebrates diversity and centers the needs of the company’s clients, employees and stakeholders.

“It’s the culture of the organization. It’s a culture that cares about clients. It’s a culture that cares about individuals,” he said. “And that’s just not my opinion, it comes out on our surveys we do all the time, and we’re actively doing surveys.

“I am proud of what Invesco is these days — the foundational values of Invesco and the culture of Invesco which allows the organization to move beyond any one individual.”

Invesco, which has clients in 150 countries and offices in 24, has developed a diversity of thought and culture of inclusion since Flanagan took over in 2005. Diversity has been foundational to the company’s core but leaning into that diversity is what made Invesco successful, he said.

Flanagan took over as Invesco’s CEO when the company needed a turnaround. It was difficult to leave Franklin Resources Inc., where he served as co-president and co-chief executive. He was reluctant to leave Franklin, but Invesco offered an intriguing challenge.

“It was somewhat of a challenged company at the time,” Flanagan said. “I said, ‘You know, I wonder if I could actually do this. I wonder if I could help turn this company around and have it grow.’

“I didn’t want to be now 62 and say, I wonder if I could have done that. I felt I had experience; I had the energy. And here we are. It was a wonderful decision. But you have to be very thoughtful when you make those choices. You have a long way to go, but you have to know when to take informed risks in your career.”

Flanagan told students to be mindful when choosing their first job and find a company where the culture is supportive and fits their values. He also advised them not to run from every tough experience. He’s not sure if switching companies every few years is good for their long-term growth, he said.

“When you’re not happy to go somewhere else, you really don’t develop so much as an individual,” Flannagan said. “They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but that’s not true. It’s brown on both sides. So, if you’re in an organization — assuming it’s a good culture and you’re fitting in there — try to make it better.

“Look a few years out, find ways to make a difference, learn and you’ll come out in the right spot.”