This month, Active Voice salutes recent graduates of higher education now entering the workforce. This edition features commencement remarks delivered by our Putnam President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert L. Reynolds, to the graduating class of Bentley University’s Graduate School of Business on May 21, 2022. Mr. Reynolds is a thought leader in the investment and retirement industries with more than 30 years of experience and has served Putnam as President and CEO since 2008.
Graduates, I am honored to share this occasion with you as you step forward into exciting new career trajectories. Several decades of business leadership, public policy engagement, and philanthropy have confirmed my belief that a career in business should also be a career with purpose. Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite, ninth president of Bentley University, has stated “I believe strongly that business can be a powerful force to solve problems that plague humanity.” I couldn’t agree more. Toward this end, I will share some of the principles that have guided my way.
First, each of you has everything you need.
In the years and decades ahead, you will have many opportunities to contribute in ways that you cannot imagine today. While your education and career achievements are important, remember you are your own best asset. When you believe in yourself, greatness awaits.
Second, embrace people.
Trusted relationships with ethical, intelligent, and talented professionals will guide you through good times and bad. What’s more, collaboration and creativity with a team almost always triumph over individuals working alone. Diversity empowers this work, bringing to the table critical perspectives and fresh ideas. Mentorship is important. In my career, I was fortunate enough to work with financial services visionaries like Hugh McColl, who transformed North Carolina National Bank into today’s Bank of America, and Ned Johnson of Fidelity, a once-in-a-generation innovator who helped millions of Americans save for retirement. When you encounter luminaries in the future, seize the chance to build a relationship and engage in constructive projects together.
Third, embrace change.
I pursued a career in financial services, an incredible industry that has cycled through constant waves of change and reinvention by embracing new technologies, globalization, and regulatory evolution, and by introducing innovative products and services that only a few years ago seemed unimaginable. And that’s just one industry. Most of the industries that will dominate the 21st century economy barely existed a generation ago. And the systemic changes coming in the next generation will make the changes of recent decades look like a warm-up. Remember, dynamic change is an essential precursor of innovation. Moving forward is imperative. Change propels organizations and people to improve. Our future is built on the foundation of unknown possibilities.
In sum, pursue a career with purpose.
Consistent with these principles around embracing people and embracing change, I encourage you to think broadly about the larger society in which we all live and work. When I began my professional life, I had only a vague sense of where I would go and what I would do. But when I went to work in the trust department of the North Carolina National Bank, I had an opportunity to directly help hardworking people build financial futures for themselves and their families. This gave me focus, and I took up a career-long project in public policy with the goal of deepening the pools of worker savings, improving the efficiency of workplace retirement savings plans, and extending the coverage of these plans to include more working people.
More recently, I have had an opportunity to engage in the field of sustainable investing, which focuses on environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, issues. As with retirement savings, we have learned new, practical lessons about how we can drive business expansion and economic growth in a way that is ethical and transparent, while minimizing harm to the natural environment and maximizing public benefit.
In your business careers, you will have many opportunities to impact society for the greater good through individual and corporate citizenship, in a spirit of sustainability and inclusion. Seize them. While the world around us seems to lack cohesion and community, I believe that we can each do our part to pursue common ground and social benefit. As you develop your own sense of mission in your professional and personal lives, I urge you to remember that a dynamic career — your career — is ultimately an opportunity to serve others.
Congratulations to the Bentley University Graduate School of Business class of 2022!