tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg September 20, 2020 10:00am-10:31am EDT
in the morning and know that 30 million americans want to know the state of your health that day? [laughter] david: ruth porat started as an investment banker at morgan stanley then was recruited away to be this cfo of google, now the cfo of alphabet. she has enormous influence at that company and has done a tremendous job at making sure their balance sheet -- she will be a power at alphabet for quite some time unless the next president of the united states says he wants her to be the secretary of the treasury. google has done quite well. your stock is up i more than 20% and i should say from the time that you became cfo, the stock is up over 200%. it has done quite well under your leadership, but i am
curious, are more people doing searches now than ever before or are people not spending as much time? ruth: people are spending a lot of time searching. we have trillions of searches every year pre-covid, post covid. it is the nature of searching. crisis, people shifted to searching for information about the disease, what they needed to know. you then saw people shifting to how am i going to live my life in the covid world? more how to searches. how do i cook? now you're seeing people move more back into -- back more into commercial activities. one of the biggest surges -- searches we saw is how can i help in my community? it is inspiring to see through search how people are feeling
about the world. david: most of your employees are moving remote still, correct? ruth: as countries are opening back up, we are moving people back in. in taiwan, we are 70%. fundamentally we moved everyone to work from home. david: did you ever worry it will be a problem? you have all these people, but you are technically savvy. ruth: it did seem daunting. i am responsible for our crisis response. nc daily.n sy that worked well. we were worried about what would be the impact on productivity and wellness. our chief medical officer said more people would be impacted by mental health issues than the disease itself. that was important. google is about our people into
the ability to deliver for users computing ark -- our capacity. we did not have to worry about the surge in online activity because of all the investments and all the testing for what could happen in a crisis scenario. i think it is an important point because you cannot solve the risk management issue in the matter -- the middle of a crisis. david: many companies are saying that now that i know my people can work from home, i don't need all these people or i don't need them all in the office. ruth: we believe when people are key part ofat is a innovation. collaboration and serendipity. we look forward to having people back in the office. what we are looking at is the productivity left people get if
people have the ability to work from home some days. if you can save people commute time, you have better access to talent because you are solving what people want in their personal life. what that means for real estate, we are still figuring out. david: early on google was known for a few things -- free food. do you get free food showing up by delivery somehow? that.we are not doing a lot of people focus on food when really what we are trying to create is this a fun, quirky, magical campus. it is about more than free food. when we moved everybody home, we moved a lot of these connecting the community to virtual delivery. for food as an example, you can
do a one-on-one session with a chef. we took our virtual fitness classes and goofy google style ones -- ruth: what have you -- david: what have you learned about yourself during this time? has obviously been an extraordinarily stressful time. we feel this responsibility because so many are counting on us for the ability to stay connected. what i saw was people step up in a inspiring way. what i learned about myself is one of the positive elements of this has been sheltering in place and having my kids who have graduated from college, they are now back with us for at least a limited period of time. my husband and i have thoroughly enjoyed that. david: some say the googles of
the world, facebook, microsoft, amazon, are too powerful. they have so much power in our economy, it is not healthy. what is your response to the view that technology companies are becoming so dominant it is not healthy? ruth: we are mindful that with the scale of this company, comes scrutiny. it is incumbent on us to engage with regulators and help them understand how we are providing better services at lower costs, which is indicative of the competitive nature of the world in which we operate. we have intense competition in the u.s. and outside of the u.s.. this covid experience, many individuals would not have been able to operate the way they did without the support and benefit from technology. it is a fair question and we are
engaged constructively here and around the globe with regulators. than $100 have more billion in cash on your balance sheet. will you use it for investments? had $120t quarter we billion, but who is counting? when i got to google, there was a long-standing view that it was helpful to have cash because of the optionality provided. the question i proposed was how much is too much and how little is too little and can we dimension that analytically and put together the data that lead to a conversation about beginning a share repurchase program. it started small but we have increased it five times. the last one we did was $28 billion authorization.
it has been a journey and we have been increasing the return in capital. i spent a big chunk of my career covering firms like carlisle private equity firms, so i do appreciate what a in efficient structure -- and efficient structure -- an efficient structure looks like. david: was it harder breaking in as a woman? tech, it can -- in be pretty rough. ♪
where did you grow up? england,as born in grew up in silicon valley. a holocausts refugee. he had no high school education, no college education. he escaped to palestine and soon as he could he and listed in the british army. to view was the only way find a peaceful place was to have a skill that people needed. he decided to teach himself physics while in the army. he used to tell less as kids that his fellow soldiers would tease him and say " you would die -- you will die before you get to use physics." place at thea
university of manchester. he got a phd. he was given a position at harvard. the only two places he ever worked was harvard and stanford. ruth: you -- david: you went to stanford underground yucca -- you went to stanford undergrad? ruth: yes. david: you got an mba from wharton then you went to wall street? ruth: i went from stanford to the london school of economics then to warden. i'd was can -- i was convinced i wanted to understand companies their problems and how to fix them. it went from completely --vinced to doing i was david: was it 50% women?
ruth: far from it. 1987. it was the stone age for any sense of what was the role of women in banking. i think that general attitude was that those of us there would married, have kids and leave. we did not have the stamina. morgan stanley was the best of the best, but that was that you thee on wall street -- ethos on wall street. i was pregnant with our first child and the partner turned to the client and said "ruth may come back after the first child, but there is no way she will come back after the second." the partner told him he was an idiot, but that made an
impression on me. there were so many extraordinary men who really bet on me and helped open doors. i did not know at the time those were sponsors, but that is what they were. david: you became cfo. the u.s. government calls up and says "why don't you come work at the treasury department?" did you consider that? ruth: one of the most significant parts of my career was when secretary paulson asked me to lead a team to help him with the housing crisis. period the entire working on fannie mae and freddie mac and that evolved into working on aig. tohought it was incredible use my skills for something so important. that remains one of the most meaningful times.
also wentgan stanley through a crisis during that period of time. morgan stanley was close to not being able to survive. a japanese investor said they would put in some money. that money was at three times the stock price you are trading at and no one was sure mitsubishi would show up. ruth: that was a terrifying period of time. the series of events was the lehman brothers famous weekend followed by a call i got from the federal reserve saying we collectively had work on the wrong thing, we needed to focus on aig and asked me to get back down to the federal reserve that sunday evening. they said aig would be out of money by wednesday. it was tuesday when they were out of money. that was the point at which
morgan stanley was running into its own very severe liquidity crisis. david: morgan stanley prospered and survived and you did quite well. one day somebody called you up -- was it a headhunter? someone from google? were you surprised at that offer because you are a wall street person? you were not a technology person? ruth: i was on the stanford board and had the opportunity to spend some time with bill was an iconic coach to so many people, eric .chmidt, steve jobs i left to the board meeting and sat down with him to talk about life and relay. he started probing what next, -- about life. he started probing, what next? one thing i knew for sure was i
would not leave morgan stanley as cfo to be a cfo out somewhere else. he kept coming back to that strong assertion and at the end of two hours he said "you wouldn't leave to be a cfo anywhere else?" " correct." " you should be the cfo at google." laughter.rst into i left his home not thinking it was real or that it would happen. within a couple hours he called and said " go over to larry page's house. let's see if this works." i had different interactions due to stanford board. we spent two hours. it was a broad conversation. i left not actually believing it would happen and quickly everything came together. david: you took the position but
now you will be breaking into another world where women are not that prominent. was it harder breaking into the technology world as a woman or was it harder breaking into the financial world? ruth: when i broke into the financial world i was a dune you're into that is harder than coming -- a junior and that is harder than coming in as someone who is credentialed. both have evolved significantly from the days of the boys club on wall street. there is a greater awareness that it is not just the right thing to do to have diversity in the senior ranks, but it leads to better outcomes. they are similar. it is a more collaborative environment in tech. wall street can be rough. david: the more testosterone filled place is wall street or
silicon valley? ruth: there is enough to go around. david: you are a fairly button-down cfo at morgan stanley. google is probably a less precise place when you get there. they are making so much money they do not have to worry about every little dollar. did you say you have to change things? myh: throughout my career view has been if you actually anchor your points in data, it becomes very easy to engage people in what is the issue and what is the proper path forward. one of the extraordinary things at google is we have smart and very inquisitive people. as i laid out ever issue we had data, -- ired it in did not find it to be discordant. i was impressed with the view "
let's understand what and why." david: what is the secret to it all? ruth: it is important to find a mix in life that works for you. ♪ >> it is my son's old bedroom rather than my current bedroom. we are locked down in covid and working out of the home. david: how have you found that to be? people would presume you are good at adapting. was it easier than you thought? has beenrdest thing producing our films and a series because that is very much onset in a physical realm. i would say it is a hallmark of the culture to be very adaptive.
no one waits for me to tell them what to do. when you build a culture, everyone pitches in. an example would be our animation grip. group. our animation they moved hundreds of stations over the weekend and have been a ball to continue to produce great animated -- able to continue to produce great animated films and shows from home. david: many people i speak to say off camera they will not be hiring back all the people they once had. will that be true in your case? ruth: the virus has been -- tragic.irus has been so hotels and other businesses are down. fortunately as an internet
business, we continued to higher all the way through this crisis all the way through this crisis. we are incredibly fortunate. ♪ alphabet is the parent company. you are also the cfo of google. will is a search engine and do that is still massively profitable. it is profitable, right? what about cloud computing? you are third in that business, but you are catching up. ruth: that is important. in earlyizable market innings. the opportunity for businesses to migrate to the cloud provides them with extraordinary added capabilities. they are looking to us whether it is for ad, data -- ai, data
analytics. that is where we are working with customers. we are investing significantly in the cloud. ofid: one of your areas focus are -- is health care. why is that size -- such an isortant focus ruth: -- why that such an important focus? ai, for particular with me personally i am a breast-cancer survivor. i have had breast cancer twice, i have gone through chemo, more surgery than anyone can imagine and i consider myself one of the lucky ones. i was in new york city when i was first diagnosed. i had the best care and here i am healthy as i have ever been. no one gets that break -- not everyone gets that break.
a year or two ago i remember when our ai engineers had a breakthrough in early detection of metastatic breast cancer with ai, which struck me as precisely the kind of thing that is transformative. there was so much debate in the world over whether ai was good or not. i called my oncologist to see if i was reading this the right way . his answer was "you cannot democratize health care without ai." we look at this as an opportunity to democratize health care, to identify diseases earlier, to do things like telehealth that enables everybody to get the kind of care i was able to have. david: someone is watching this shesays "she is a leader, must have some qualities i would like to know about more."
what qualities are important to be a leader? ruth: it is important to make clear can do it -- clear decisions anchored in data. it is the way you know where to double down on great opportunities for the long-term, where you should be pulling back . it starts with data analytics. the other is integrity building a culture that ensures you quality workst from your people. the other is making it they that you want diverse teams and you but expect diverse views and debate. how do i think about rising stars? my answer is i want someone who is in my face and it challenges me. creating an environment where
there is open discussion is really important. david: some people say it is difficult for women to have it all, but you seem to have it all. is it harder than people would think or is it easier then people would think? been askede often about worklife balance. i think that is a horrible term. getting balance, the physics of it is hard. a mix in life that works for you -- for me, it has been an incredible career. i got a lot of joy out of what i am doing. then i have a great family. i have been to -- married to an extraordinary man for forever. for some people, it may not be kids, but it has to be something other than work. other times you may be more heavily focused on work, other times you may be more heavily
focused on family, and that mix changes over -- throughout life. i get concerned when i hear that women have a plan, a plan when you will sequence each step along the way. when i had cancer and did not actually know what was going to come, i was able to look back on my life and to say "i have no regrets." ♪
guo: i believe a vaccine is the ultimate weapon against coronavirus. we optimistically estimate that vaccines can reach markets in october, november, or by the end of the year. by that time, i believe our businesses will rebound rapidly. tom: hello, i am tom mackenzie in shanghai. fosun has been one of china's most acquisitive conglomerates, buying up businesses in finance, health care, travel, even an english football club.