Over the years, Frank Savage has reached the upper echelons of the world of finance. With a storied career in international banking, corporate finance and global investment management, he serves as chairman emeritus of Alliance Capital Management International, part of a $700 billion asset management subsidiary of AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co. A graduate of Howard University with an MA from The Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Savage is currently CEO of Savage Holdings, a global financial services company.
As part of York College’s celebration of Black History Month, Savage is currently preparing to join Bill Cosby at the university’s Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center Feb. 6 to discuss his career path and provide advice for the next generation of leaders.
Check out four tips for leadership success Savage, author of The Savage Way: Successfully Navigating the Waves of Business and Life, plans to share with the attendees:
The most important principle is self-esteem and self-confidence. “Without self-esteem and self-confidence, you can’t accomplish anything. My mother taught me that you can’t get people to believe you if you don’t believe in yourself,” says Savage. “When I walked into the international division [as the first African-American to join the international division of a major global bank], nobody in that room was more better prepared than I was. Why should I be concerned about how people felt about me? The main thing I focused on was how I felt about myself. I felt like I belonged there.”
Your reputation is the most important asset that you have. “If you have a good reputation, a lot of things will happen for you. People will want to work with you,” asserts Savage, who says he learned that lesson while on the board of directors for Enron Corporation. “Although I had nothing to do with the scam, I was on the board. I had to take a lot of heat and a lot of damage to myself as a result of it, but at the end of the day, I established an almost 40-year track record of being successful in business never having any problems or anybody question my integrity.” Savage says that due to his solid reputation, people stood by him.
Always put the customer first. According to Savage, this is another lesson learned from his mother, who was a beautician who treated her employees and customers with respect. “We saw the abuses that took place in the financial sector with mortgages being sold to people when the mortgages didn’t have value, with people being run out of their homes, with people taking loans that they couldn’t pay back,” says Savage. “All of that happened from my industry. It’s cruel. They hurt a lot of people and caused a lot of people all around the world to lose confidence in the New York-based financial system. You always have to put the customer first. We’ve got so much involved in making money.”
Put in the hard work. “I know that I have not always been the smartest person in the room when I ran my own business, but there are very few people who work harder than I do,” Savage attests. “Again, I got this from my mother because my mother would sometimes go to work at 8 a.m. and come home at 11 p.m., but she had a good business. I learned about hard work and that it’s absolutely indispensable to success. Those are the kinds of principles that I kind of had instilled in me and instinctively.”