When Peter Blair Henry came to New York University’s Stern School of Business, a top school famous for its close Wall Street ties, the Street itself was in shambles. It was 2010, not long after the financial crisis, and NYU brought on the then-rising star at Stanford for some fresh perspective. Henry’s goal: pivot the institution’s focus beyond New York banking and toward, well, everything else.
“The world needs finance more than ever, but it needs the 21st century version of finance,” Henry says. Specifically, it could use a more globalized, and tech-enabled version, he says. (Not to mention a version whose margins are resistant to financial regulations.)
The good news for NYU: Henry seems uniquely suited for the job. Born in Jamaica, where he later served as a consultant to the island nation’s central bank, Henry is an established global economist with a focus on emerging markets, which he explored in his book, Turnaround: Third World Lessons for First World Growth. He’s pushed the school to take a broad, forward-thinking focus, tackling more macroeconomic issues like global infrastructure development while also embracing entrepreneurship and the fintech revolution.
Under Henry, Stern has also increasingly come to see diversity in the business world as an imperative of 21st century finance, as companies change their leadership ranks to reflect the growing percentages of minorities in the U.S. population (and the growing purchasing power of other countries), in order to understand their consumers. Over the past year, the school has boosted the number of scholarships it offers, including the number of full rides for undergrads, from zero to 35; many go to first-generation minority students.
It’s not charity. “If we want to have a productive, prosperous economy,” he says, “doing this is not a nice thing to do, it’s something we have to do.”
What you need to know about Peter Blair Henry:
- He was the Stern School’s youngest-ever Dean, accepting the job a few days before his 40th birthday.
- Henry is on the board of Citigroup and General Electric, and he served as an economic advisor to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
- A varsity football player at the University of North Carolina, Henry also played basketball while on a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, which he has called “a bit like being on the surfing team at the University of Kansas.”