Mark Taylor: His values-based, data-driven decision

The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni (and Dean Taylor) faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.

In 2007 and 2008, as world markets tumbled into history’s worst global financial crisis, Mark Taylor was managing the European arm of a $10 billion global hedge fund—and 95 percent of his clients were pension funds. The crisis demanded staff reductions in his team, and with returns down, remaining employees took massive hits to their incentive-based compensation.

“How do you motivate a staff when you’re in the middle of a financial crisis?” Taylor asked. Part of the answer: Leverage as much data as possible to analyze long- term fundamentals—recognizing that the crisis had rendered much conventional analysis unworkable. The goal: Stem losses and preserve as much wealth as possible.

But another part of the answer meant Taylor had to reinforce for his team the reasons they came to work every day.

“This was other people’s money. If we walked away, people’s pension funds could disappear,” he said. When he met with pension fund trustees, he asked them to invite some of the retirees themselves, placing them across the table from his own junior and senior staff members.

His team responded positively to the motivation. And in the darkest moment, Taylor said, his fund was down about 10 percent when world markets were down 40 percent. The fund rebounded sharply the next year.

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