Charles Schwab is the founder and chairman of The Charles Schwab Corporation. What began as a small discount brokerage company in the 70’s has evolved to become the nation’s largest publicly traded investment services firm, with close to $4 trillion in client assets. He is also the chairman of The Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, a private foundation focused on education, poverty prevention, human services, and health.  He is the author of several bestselling books with his latest memoir titled Invested.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He had to work extra hard to build his self-confidence to overcome his dyslexia and to keep up in class.
  • People with dyslexia are conceptual thinkers who tend to not get lost in the weeds. Some people are very literal in learning and need to go from step 1 to 2 to 3 while dyslexics can go from step 1 to step 10.
  • Seeing an inherent conflict of interest between commissioned stock brokers and the customers, he invented a new contrarian business model by paying salaries to people placing trades with a bonus tied to the overall success of the company.
  • After the tech meldtown of the early 2000’s, Charles had to come out of retirement to run the company again. He had to lay off thousands of employees and get the company turned around.  Sometimes founders are the only ones who can make the tough calls and drive huge fundamental changes to the business.
  • He was a consummate innovator who continually pivoted, redefined the business, and opened up new markets. He knew it was important to disrupt yourself before someone else did it for you.
  • When hiring, beyond skills and experience, he looks at their character and ethics and their responsibility to the customer.
  • “Excellence is an ongoing pursuit. You are always striving for it but you never achieve it.”

Steve Schwarzman is the co-founder and CEO of Blackstone, one of the world’s largest and most successful investment funds with over a half trillion dollars under management. Steve is an active philanthropist with a history of supporting education, culture, and the arts.  He holds a BA from Yale and an MBA from Harvard Business School.  His new book is called What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He has always been very competitive. When he graduated from Yale, he insisted upon an extra $500 a year in his offer from a prestigious investment bank so he could be the highest paid graduate from his class.
  • “What I lacked in basic economics, I made up for with my ability to see patterns and develop new solutions and paradigms, and with the sheer will to turn my ideas into reality.”
  • He single-handedly advised Tropicana on getting acquired, which was the second largest transaction in the world that year, even though he had absolutely no M&A experience up until that point.
  • “To be successful you have to put yourself in situations and places you have no right being in. You shake your head and learn from your own stupidity. But through sheer will, you wear the world down, and it gives you what you want.”
  • They closed on their first fund of $1 billion the morning of October 19th, 1987, aka Black Monday, the largest one day drop in stock market history. Just one day later and Blackstone might not have ever gotten off the ground.
  • After losing some money on a deal, he re-architected the entire investment decision making process to be much more rigorous with the goal of engineering out the risk so as to never lose money again
  • He has a philosophy to only hire “10’s”. Those people tend to be intelligent, articulate, calm, energetic, curious, and can envision the future.
  • “Excellence is being the best that you can be at whatever you choose to do.”

Roger McNamee has been a successful Silicon Valley investor for thirty five years.  He co-founded Silver Lake and Elevation Partners, two very successful private equity funds.  He also plays bass and guitar in the bands Moonalice and Doobie Decibel System.  He holds a BA from Yale and an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School. He has written 4 books, the latest one titled Zucked: Waking up to the Facebook Catastrophe.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Roger had a very unusual approach to tech investing which allowed him to be highly successful.
  • Learn why he started Elevation Partners with U2’s Bono.
  • Hear how one pivotal meeting with Mark Zuckerberg would forever alter the course of Facebook.
  • It was Facebook’s lack of anonymity that Roger felt was key to bridging the gap to a much larger mainstream audience that prior social media companies had failed to reach.
  • While they are technically a platform, Facebook acts more like a media company by using sophisticated algorithms to control the content that users see on the site.
  • Social media manipulates us by exploiting the weakness in human psychology.
  • Learn what filter bubbles are and why they’ve contributed to our accepting and spreading false information.
  • “Technology has changed the way we engage with society, substituting passive consumption of content and ideas for civic engagement, digital communications for conversation.”
  • “Excellence is an outcome that reflects mastery of an activity in a time and in a place.”

Bill Browder is the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital, which was the largest investor in Russia for a number of years.  More recently he has been spearheading a campaign to expose Russia’s corruption and human rights abuses. His efforts led to the passing of the Magnitsky Act in 2012.  He is the author of Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Learn how he became the largest investor in Russia and one of the top performing investment funds in the world.
  • If you follow your passion before there’s any real business opportunity, the profits will eventually follow.
  • He had an epiphany one day that if his grandfather was once the biggest communist in America, Bill would become the biggest capitalist in Eastern Europe.
  • Hear about the trade of the century that would help propel his fund from $100 million to over $4 billion.
  • Learn how the Russian police stole his corporation and then committed the biggest tax refund fraud in the history of Russia.
  • Learn how he sought justice for his friend Segey Magnitsky, who was tortured and murdered by the Russians, through the passage of the Magnitsky Act.
  • “Excellence is about rolling up your sleeves, putting in the time and constantly working at getting better in yourself at every step of the way.”