Sheila Bair takes on the bullies

On September 19, 2013, Sheila Bair addressed the University of Baltimore Merrick School of Business.

My having supplied a link to the biography page on her own website, and the fact that the video begins with an introduction from Frank Navratil, the Dean of the School, should provide all the background you need. Nevertheless, if you come from my side of the pond and you still may need persuasion to watch the video at all, it’s worth just mentioning here that Ms Bair occupied the Chair of the US Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation from 2006 to 2011, her incumbency spanning turbulent times for the economy of the USA and indeed the planet. The FDIC insures depositors in US banks, so we are about to hear from one who saw the entire drama from centre stage.

We kick off with Navratil’s introduction which is nearly five minutes long and crammed with information. He delivers it all with suitable competence, though it is difficult to get much sex appeal out of a catalogue of achievements and awards. Having done a little research on Ms Bair I find myself astounded that she can have achieved so much, and still published several children’s books. Also my mischievous instincts are amused when told that Forbes Magazine, in 2008/9, named her the world’s second most powerful woman after someone whose name Navratil then has to look up – and mispronounce. I’d sometimes like to forget that other name also.

The story Ms Bair proceeds to narrate, being the inside track on the financial crisis that we all remember more clearly than we might want, is riveting. It therefore seems impertinent for one such as I to be critiquing her delivery of it. Nevertheless there is something  interesting here that I’d like to mention.

Her eyes are as often as not on the lectern, yet she is not reading. Those words she speaks are not read words: they are spontaneously spoken words – I’d stake much on that assertion. So why is she looking down for so much of the time?

Sheila Bair is shy. It is not unusual for brilliant people to be shy: I have worked with very many such. What is unusual is for them to be comfortable enough with it not to struggle to hide it. That hint of vulnerability, in one so very smart, makes her human. Yet another reason to hear what she has to say.

So now I invite you to settle down to listen to her account of that interesting time. She hands over to Q&A at 46:35. Perhaps, like me, you will then want to read her book.

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