Ruth PoratOn Leading Through Crisis And Google’s Latest Moonshot To Rebuild The U.S. Economy—One Small Business At A Time
Ruth Porat, the stalwart chief financial officer of Alphabet and Google, is no stranger to a crisis. She began her career at Morgan Stanley in 1987, a mere seven weeks before Black Monday—the largest single-day decline in trading history at the time. “At that moment, I was concerned that maybe my career was over before it even started,” she recalls.
Far from it. Porat is one of the rare corporate executives to have transcended the upper echelons of Wall Street to the highest ranks of Silicon Valley. While the scenery may be different, many of the challenges remain the same: navigating economic downturns, government investigations and regulatory hurdles. Of course, a global pandemic is a new obstacle. “This environment is more challenging than anything I’ve seen because you’re combining a health crisis with an economic crisis,” says Porat in her first-ever interview with Forbes from her home in Palo Alto, California. “The path forward is less certain.”
But Porat has deftly charted a path through uncertain territory before. During her 28-year tenure at Morgan Stanley, she held roles such as vice chairman of investment banking and global head of financial institutions before ultimately rising to the rank of chief financial officer in January 2010. “I certainly started in banking when it was not easy to be a woman in banking,” she says. “I haven’t thought about those shoulder pads for a long time, the bow ties, the scarves, the scotch, the horrible efforts to fit in.” What kept her there, she says, was the opportunity to “keep learning and growing”—remarkably, in the face of great turmoil. Case in point: being called upon by the U.S. government to help with the bailouts of insurance giant AIG and mortgage-financing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the Great Recession. “Much like the current crisis environment, one of the highlights of my career was advising the U.S. Treasury Department during the 2008 financial crisis,” she says. “I was able to use the skills I developed over a [lifelong] career for something that was so important at that moment in time for the country.”
Over a decade later, Porat has the same steely resolve when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, which has already taken a tremendous toll on the U.S. economy. Over 100,000 businesses permanently shuttered as of April, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. At the same time, 88% of small business owners say they’ve used all of their Paycheck Protection Program loan funding, according to a recent survey of over 1,500 businesses conducted by Goldman Sachs. And without additional government funds, 30% say they’ll exhaust their cash reserves by the end of the year. That’s why Porat is leading Google’s latest efforts to help get America’s ravaged small businesses and economy back on track. This while managing one of the world’s largest corporate balance sheets amid the looming threat of anti-trust lawsuits that may hold the fate of the entire tech industry in the balance. It may just prove to be her greatest challenge yet.
While Google is a corporate behemoth, its roots are in small business. “It’s so clear that small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy,” says Porat, rattling off the stats: They provide about two thirds of net new jobs, and 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the local economy.
Read More at https://www.forbes.com/sites/maneetahuja/2020/09/17/exclusive-ruth-porat-on-leading-through-crisis-and-googles-latest-moonshot-to-rebuild-the-us-economy-one-small-business-at-a-time/#6c04527344a9
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