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Retired Morgan Stanley CEO: Millennials aren't as driven as my generation

Julia La Roche

Former Morgan Stanley CEO and chairman John Mack discussed how millennials in business today differ from past generations.

“To have the iPad or the iPhone and to be able to communicate the way they can and get the data and information they have — they’re much more aware,” Mack said. “They’re much more plugged in with each other. There’s just no doubt about that. So from that — that aspect, they’re different.”

But for Mack, access to technology isn’t the only difference.

“By and large, they’re not as driven as my generation,” he continued. “When I was born, it was World War II. And you came into a world that was rebuilding. It was very different. Thank God, we’ve basically had peace for a number of years, and people can grow and expand what they want to do and go to different places with a sense of safety.”

Young adults clearly had a different experience during John Mack’s day.

He continued: “And not have to worry about, ‘Am I gonna be pulled into some kinda battle?’ Not have to worry about, ‘Do I have to make money because I’ve got these college loans?’ Today, it’s pretty easy to get a scholarship if you have any aptitude in learning. I guarantee you’ll get a scholarship.”

The retired 72-year-old former bank chief now advises some startups led by millennials. Mack was asked for his views on the younger generation by Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief Andy Serwer at a speaker series hosted by the New York Asian Cultural Center and PLC Ltd.

John Mack
John Mack

According to Mack, the speed that comes with technology can lead to millennials making mistakes.

“I grew up in a business that you cross every T and you dot every I,” Mack said. “Kids today don’t cross Ts and dot Is. They’re so fast like this. They want to get the product or the idea out there. They don’t go back and check, ‘Did I make a mistake or does this open us up to some issue that could hurt them personally or hurt their company?’”

He went to use a company led by two “very bright” young men that he advises as an example.

“They built a company in the real estate business. And in their company, they take credit card numbers that people can pay some of the real estate calls through credit cards. So I’m talking to them, and I find out they do not have PCI insurance. So PCI insurance basically protects you if someone breaks into your database and takes all this credit card data and accounts. You’re gonna be held liable for it unless you have insurance. So I asked, ‘Why don’t you have PCI insurance?’ ‘It’s too expensive,’ [they said]. I said, ‘Well, do you understand if someone hacks into your system, you’ll be outta business, and you’ll be sued, and you’re gonna be in, you know, tremendous water. You’ve gotta pay for that now.”

He added that if you took that same situation and went back 30 to 35 years ago, that would not have happened.

“But I think millennials move very quickly. They have a technology that allows them to expand almost exponentially if they want. But they’ve gotta pay attention to details. And that — that’s my big concern with millennials in business.”

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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