Exclusive: Ruth Porat On Leading Through Crisis And Google’s Latest Moonshot To Rebuild The U.S. Economy—One Small Business At A Time

17 Sep 2020


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.” 

Read full article.