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TRIUM connects podcast
with Matt Mulford

The podcast which dissects the big issues shaping global business

Your Host Matt Mulford

Latest episode

Episode 23 Synthetic Biology: We Need to Talk…

8 August 2022

We are at the start of a time when humans will be able to program cells and organisms in analogous ways to which we now program computers. Our technology and understanding of the basic structures of life, augmented by computer simulations driven by AI, are driving breakthrough innovations at an ever-increasing rate.

What will this mean for us all? It could mean the end of most diseases and the actual process of aging. I could mean that the current existential risks of climate change and bio-diversity collapse could be removed. It could also mean that our exposure to the existential risks of bioterrorism grows exponentially. I could mean a radical new social class structure based on different access to, and use of human ability enhancements will generate political upheaval and violence. What is inarguably true, is that advances in our understanding and ability to manipulate biological systems will disrupt business, governance, culture and geopolitics in fundamental ways. This may not happen this year, or next, but make no mistake, the challenges are coming.

Amy Webb, my guest for this episode, believes we desperately need to start these conversations now, while we still have some time to shape what the future will hold. Amy’s, and her co-author Andrew Hessel’s book, The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Ague of Synthetic Biology, is a wonderful, guided tour of synthetic biology’s past, present, and likely future. It is also a catalyst to the discussion about how we balance the risks and amazing promise of these innovations. As Amy says, the best way to understand this technology is that it gives us options which we have never had – how we choose amongst those options is what we need to think about now.

Amy is a quantitative futurist and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the New York University Stern School of Business. Her research focuses on strategic foresight and using data to model probable, plausible and possible scenarios for the future. She was named to the Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and won the prestigious 2017 Thinkers50 RADAR Award for her research and work in strategic foresight. She is also the CEO and founder of the Future Today Institute, a leading strategic foresight and future forecasting firm that researches emerging technology on behalf of Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, government agencies and financial institutions around the world. In addition to being a best-selling author of multiple books, Amy’s future forecasting work has been featured in the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review and more.

It was an absolute pleasure to discuss with Amy the issues raised in her book. It is unsurprising that so many people and organisations turn to her when they want a view of what our possible futures may be! Her knowledge is deep and her ability to communicate is exceptional – I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Episode 22 It’s All About the People

2 June 2022

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Episode 22 It’s All About the People

2 June 2022

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What does being a fabulously successful, early stage VC investor have in common with being a world class CEO? The answer, according to Jihoon Rim, my guest for this episode, is the ability to select the right people and then, largely get out of their way and let them do their jobs.

Jihoon, after a stint at Softbank, founded his own VC firm – Kcube Ventures – in 2012 with an initial fund of USD 10M. In 2021, when the fund was liquidated, it returned more than USD 1B. In 2015, Jihoon was appointed the CEO of Kakao. In the 2.5 years of his leadership, Kakao’s revenues and operating profits more than doubled (from USD 932M to USD 1.972B and USD 88M to USD 165M, respectively). Such successes led to Jihoon being recognised in 2017 Korea’s number 1 CEO (by Insight Korea), and in 2018 as one of Korea’s Top Ten Heroes (by Maeil Broadcasting Network).

He joined NYU’s Stern School of Business as an Adjunct Professor in 2019 where he teaches some of the most highly regarded elective courses in the entire School. Between 2018 and 2022, he completed his Doctorate degree. This was all completed before he turned 43 years old.

In this episode we discuss what Jihoon looked for when investing in founders and how he took the lessons from that world and applied them in his role as CEO of Kakao. We also discuss how people routinely misunderstand the nature and scope of tech companies’ powers – which he believes is too great, and how transparency will play a crucial role if we ever want to do something about this problem. Finally, we explore why Korean content has been so successful on the international entertainment stage.

Jihoon is smart, articulate, highly accomplished and wonderfully humble. His candour and honesty in our discussion was refreshing. He is proof that wisdom does not need to rely on age. This episode is, in my mind, an exemplar of how a good leader sees the world and their role in it.

Episode 21 Adding a 'P' to ESG

29 April 2022

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Episode 21 Adding a 'P' to ESG

29 April 2022

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Over the last 10-20 years we have seen the rise and rise of populist and nationalist movements in democracies across the world. This, in part, reflects a growing dissatisfaction with the state of our democratic institutions. Many people just don’t believe that democracy delivers for them.

My guest for this episode is Professor Alberto Alemanno. To combat the ever-increasing attraction of illiberal political movements, Alberto believes we need to work towards creating a more even playing field between companies and citizens in our civil society. If we could do that, so the argument goes, we would have a healthier polity and more effective democratic institutions.

A specific step toward these goals would be to expect private firms to make public all of their political activity – adding a ‘P’ for politics – to their existing ESG reporting requirements. As part of this, firms would need to report their support and membership of trade associations and the policies those associations work for and against. Like holding firms responsible for the ESG of companies in their supply chains, this type of political reporting would hold firms responsible for the interventions in the political system made on their behalf by others. Alberto argues that this would stop companies from playing a double game of supporting one policy publicly while simultaneously working to stop that policy through their support of other organisations and associations. The idea is a fascinating one, and Alberto's knowledge and passion of the issues it raises shine through in our conversation.

Episode 20 War in Ukraine: The Limits and Strengths of an Interdependent World

11 March 2022

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Episode 20 War in Ukraine: The Limits and Strengths of an Interdependent World

11 March 2022

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I am joined in this episode by Professor Mick Cox of the LSE to discuss the unfolding tragic war in Ukraine. How do we possibly make sense of what is happening? What kind of end can we imagine when losing is not an option for anyone? What does winning or losing even mean in this situation?

Is this the end the age of international order, growing prosperity, and relative peace created by a rules-based international system? If so, what will take its place? Will China play the role of the peacemaker in the interests of maintaining global stability, or will its alliance with Russia start a new age of ‘big power’ spheres of influence and a cold war…or even a ‘hot’ war? Mick and I address these questions and more. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to all who are suffering in this epic tragedy.

Episode 19 Social Media and Social Pathology: Why and How to Hold Platforms Responsible for Harm

1 March 2022

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Episode 19 Social Media and Social Pathology: Why and How to Hold Platforms Responsible for Harm

1 March 2022

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I am joined in this episode by Professor Vasant Dhar where we talk about why social media platforms should be regulated and how we would go about doing so. Vasant argues that we have failed to install any rules of the game when it comes to holding platforms responsible for their demonstratable contribution to social ills. This, according to Vasant, leads to some truly egregious gaps in our ability to avoid negative outcomes and hold those responsible liable for their actions. For example, in our current settings, a social platform could be shown to be responsible for tens of thousands cases of depression, leading to hundreds of suicides but still to have not violated any rule or law and be completely free of liability. Vasant brings more than 30 years of study and research in this area to the table.

Vasant is a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and the Center for Data Science. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of the journal Big Data and the founder of SCT Capital, one of the first machine-learning-based hedge funds in New York City in the 90s. His research focuses on building scalable decision making systems from large sources of data using techniques and principles from the disciplines of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Episode 18 Stewards of the Future: can and should we count on boards to do the right thing?

25 January 2022

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Episode 18 Stewards of the Future: can and should we count on boards to do the right thing?

25 January 2022

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Increasingly, company boards are expected to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues into their strategic choices and performance criteria. How, exactly, should they do this? One approach is to integrate the entire costs/benefits of the firm’s activities, including those which are currently unpaid-for externalities, into its balance sheet. But is that really possible? Or, even desirable?

In this episode I discuss this issue – and others! – with my guest, Helle Bank Jorgensen. Helle is an internationally recognised expert on sustainable business practices, with a 30-year record of turning environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks into innovative and profitable business opportunities. She is the founder and chief executive of Competent Boards, which offers online climate and ESG programs that draw on the experience of over 150 renowned board members, executives, and investors.

Helle is also the author of the newly published book, Stewards of The Future: A Guide for Competent Boards. This book shows boards must have the insight and foresight to ask the right questions of management on complex issues such as climate change, ESG, corruption, cybersecurity, human trafficking and supply-chain resilience to realise long-term profits and sustainability.

Episode 17 Supply Chain Management in Transition: What has COVID taught us about the weaknesses of how we manage supply chains?

18 December 2021

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Episode 17 Supply Chain Management in Transition: What has COVID taught us about the weaknesses of how we manage supply chains?

18 December 2021

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How should we view the current crisis in our supply chains? Did the external shock of COVID create severe, but relatively temporary problems? If so, then we should, slowly but surely, see a return to how things were before, with ‘just in time’ principles driving supply chain design and execution. Or, has the crisis revealed fundamental structural weaknesses in our pre-COVID practices? If so, we should expect significant changes in supply chain designs in a post-COVID world. Which do you predict?

Professor Michel Fender of HEC Paris, one of the world’s experts on supply chain management, joins me in this episode to talk about this question and a number of other related issues. The general theme of the discussion is on how supply chain management, once seen through a logistics lens as merely a support function, has evolved into one of the most important strategic factors determining success in competition and, ultimately, value creation for all stakeholders.

I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Episode 16 Democratic Dilemmas – When should democratically derived choices in the past bind our current and future democratic choices?

27 November 2021

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Episode 16 Democratic Dilemmas – When should democratically derived choices in the past bind our current and future democratic choices?

27 November 2021

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How and when should we decide today what areas of future public policy we are not prepared to trust our future selves to make wisely? In other words, when should we voluntarily constrain our future democratic choices by privileging our current democratic choices?

This is the theme of my discussion in this episode with Professor Andrés Velasco, the Dean of the School of Public Policy at the London School of Economics and the former Finance Minister of Chile.

While somewhat common in monetary economic policy (think independent central banks immune to short term democratic pressures), Andrés and I explore how/whether this self-restraint framework can/should be applied to areas like quantitative easing, fiscal and environmental policy.

Andrés not only has the intellectual firepower, matched by world class academic credentials, to address these questions. As the former Finance Minister of Chile, he was responsible for the creation of two special sovereign funds which attempted to stabilize Chilean governmental spending at a long-term sustainable level. His mixture of practical political experience and academic skill make him the ideal guest to discuss these issues. I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Episode 15 Making Sense of the Space Economy: Myths, Sideshows and Promise

27 October 2021

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Episode 15 Making Sense of the Space Economy: Myths, Sideshows and Promise

27 October 2021

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Are we at the start of a new and glorious age of space tourism led by private investment? Is this the first step to a potentially massive space-based economy to support humans in earth’s orbit with colonies on the Moon and Mars? Will all of this be built and financed through private, mega-companies?

My guest for this episode is Dr Andrew Aldrin (TRIUM Class of 2005). Andy is currently the Director of the Aldrin Family Foundation and has literally an entire lifetime’s experience working at the interface between private and public involvement in the creation of a space economy. In our conversation here, Andy helps to demystify and debunk many of the more grandiose claims and hype created by various billionaires’ recent vanity projects. The picture of the future of space-based activity which Andy sketches is both more interesting and more realistic. Enjoy the show!

Episode 14 World Class Entrepreneurship in Africa: Turning Challenges into Opportunities

19 August 2021

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Episode 14 World Class Entrepreneurship in Africa: Turning Challenges into Opportunities

19 August 2021

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My guest this episode is Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede (TRIUM Class of 2016). Aig is a world class finance and social entrepreneur. In 2002 he acquired (with his friend and colleague Herbert Wigwe) a struggling Nigerian bank for around US$10 million. After 11 years of his leadership as the CEO, the bank had a market capitalisation of around US$1.3 billion and had become one of the most important banks, not only in Nigeria, but across Africa.

He tells the story of the acquisition, turnaround and rapid scaling of Access Bank in his new book, Leaving the Tarmac: Buying a Bank in Africa. In this episode we discuss this fascinating story of success. It is one of the best examples of the power of process innovation, values, and vision, as drivers of business success, that I have ever come across. Aig’s true genius is his ability to engineer opportunity from what others would see as almost unsurmountable obstacles to success.

In addition to business lessons to be learned from his experience, Aig is one of the most thoughtful and careful commentators on African development challenges and opportunities you will find. From discussions on the consequences of corruption, to the proper role of civic institutions and regulatory bodies, to the role and responsibility of the private sector for economic development, Aig’s insights and knowledge are unmatched.

This is one of my favourite episodes yet – don’t miss it!

Episode 13 Is Marketing Really a Black Hole? How to bridge the gap between finance and marketing

19 July 2021

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Episode 13 Is Marketing Really a Black Hole? How to bridge the gap between finance and marketing

19 July 2021

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My guest this episode is Chris Burggraeve. Chris is a practitioner scholar of the art and science of marketing. His corporate marketing career culminated as the Chief Marketing Officer for AB Inbev from 2007-2012. In 2013 he founded Vicomte, a marketing advisory and micro-ventures firm. He is also a former Capstone Project Director for the TRIUM Global EMBA.

In this episode, we discuss his latest book, Marketing is not a Blackhole. For Chris, if you have a business model based on a branded product or service, then marketing is at the heart of everything you do as a company – or at least should be. Great marketing gives a firm the ability to consistently raise prices without losing market share (pricing power). Pricing power, in turn, is a key to long-term profitability and growth. If you could effectively rank the marketing excellence of the firm, then you could use this as a predictive tool of the future profitability of the firm. Chris has created just such a marketing excellence rating – αM 2.0. He hopes/dreams that this rating will be as useful and used as other, more established ratings (think Moody’s, Fitch, FICO scores, Altman’s Z score, ESG ratings, …etc.) when analysts are valuing a firm. Join us to find out more!

Episode 12 Private Equity: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?

28 May 2021

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Episode 12 Private Equity: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?

28 May 2021

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My guest for this episode is Oliver Gottschalg. Oliver is the Academic Dean of the TRIUM Global EMBA program and an Associate Professor of Strategy and Business Policy at HEC-Paris. Oliver is a world renowned expert in the strategic logic and the performance determinants of private equity investments. He straddles both the academic and practitioner worlds of these topics as both a scholar and the founder of firm which provides information on private equity funds’ manager performance to both limited and general partners.

Perhaps no other asset class invokes as many strong opinions as private equity and yet too many only have a rather vague idea of how the industry works. Oliver describes himself as either a friendly critic or a critical friend of the private equity industry and in this episode he guides us through the complex dynamics of the industry. Your opinion about this particular form of capitalism may not change after listening to this episode, but I hope that – at the least – you will be a little better informed about the issues and debates which swirl around this key part of the business world.

Episode 11 An Anti-Populist Manifesto: A New Social Contract for the 21st Century

28 April 2021

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Episode 11 An Anti-Populist Manifesto: A New Social Contract for the 21st Century

28 April 2021

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My guest for this episode is Baroness Minouche Shafik. Minouche is the Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science and one of the most important thought leaders in the world. She has a glittering career in academics and as a global civil servant. Before becoming the leader of the LSE, Minouche was a Vice-President at the World Bank, a Permanent Secretary for the UK’s Department for International Development, a Deputy Managing Director at the IMF, and a Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.

In this episode Minouche and I discuss her new and hugely influential book, What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract. In this work, she sets out to do no less than to provide a framework for a new relationship between the state and individual based on the idea of what we owe to each other as fellow citizens. The book has been praised by a multitude of Nobel Prize winners, Heads of State, renowned economists and philosophers, and…well, just about everyone who has read the book! I hope you find our conversation as inspiring and interesting as I did.

As I hope you can tell, this is a very special guest for a very special episode. In September of this year, we will mark the 20th anniversary of the launch of the TRIUM Global EMBA. This episode starts the celebration! I can think of no better guest or theme to reflect the belief on which TRIUM was formed: to succeed as a global business leader, you must be able to situate yourself and your organisation into the web of interdependencies which constitute life in a global age.

Episode 10 Video Games: How innovation in technology, strategy, process and artistic production has created a mega-industry

30 March 2021

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Episode 10 Video Games: How innovation in technology, strategy, process and artistic production has created a mega-industry

30 March 2021

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My guest for this episode is Joost Van Dreunen. Joost is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University. In this podcast we discuss the dynamics of the video games industry and his new book, One Up: Creativity, Competition, and the Global Business of Video Games. 

In 2020, across the segments of PC, console-based, and mobile games, the industry had revenues of somewhere between $160-170 billion and an annual overall growth rate of around 25%. In addition to its sheer size and speed of growth, the intersection between technological, process and creative innovation makes the industry a fascinating case study for anyone interested in the future of business in a digital world. I can think of no better guide to this world than Joost Van Dreunen. I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Episode 9 Moderna, COVID-19 and the Promise of mRNA

25 February 2021

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Episode 9 Moderna, COVID-19 and the Promise of mRNA

25 February 2021

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My guest for this episode is Marcello Damiani (TRIUM Class of 2015). Marcello is the Chief Digital and Operational Excellence Officer at Moderna. In this episode we discuss what it was like to be part of the historic success of developing and delivering a vaccine, in the face of a global pandemic, in record time at an efficacy rate that we hardly dared dreamed possible. We discuss what Moderna’s story tells us about the modern bio-tech industry and how its success might be repeated. 

We discuss how the success of the ‘mRNA platform’ approach to the COVID-19 vaccine may be just the beginning of what the technology promises. Marcello offers an insider’s view to one of the most exciting science stories of all time. Because there has been plenty to be depressed about in recent times, it is great to highlight a reason to be optimistic about the future. Enjoy the conversation!

Episode 8 Want to value a firm? Better know and value its story

15 January 2021

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Episode 8 Want to value a firm? Better know and value its story

15 January 2021

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My guest for this episode is Aswath Damodaran. Aswath is a Professor of Finance at the Stern School of Business at New York University (Kerschner Family Chair in Finance Education). 

Calling Aswath a Professor is a bit like calling the Sistine Chapel a church. He is a star in his field and one of the most influential business professors in the world. He has taught on the TRIUM program from its start and is consistently rated as one of its top professors. 

In this episode we discuss his most recent book, Narrative and Numbers: The Value of Stories in Business.  Aswath argues that, “Stories without numbers are just fairy tales and numbers without stories to back them up are exercises in financial modelling.” To value a business accurately, Aswath argues, you must understand and value a business’s narrative and tie that story to the relevant underlying value drivers. Do this, and you can start to judge whether firm’s value and equity price are realistic or just fairy tales. 

Episode 7 What role for justice in the creation and implementation of international climate agreements

11 December 2020

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Episode 7 What role for justice in the creation and implementation of international climate agreements

11 December 2020

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My guest for this episode is Robert Falkner. Robert is a TRIUM Academic Director, an Associate Professor of International Relations and the Director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. Before his time at the LSE, Robert held academic positions at the Universities of Oxford, Kent and Essex, as well as a visiting scholar position at Harvard. 

In this episode we discuss how moral reasoning and more narrowly defined state self-interest have both impacted the design and implementation of international agreements on climate. We also speculate on what a re-engaged USA, and a newly engaged China may mean for the future of such agreements. Using the same normative/self-interest framework, we explore the likely future role of private enterprise in implementing and driving sustainability. We eventually agree that normative and self-interested rationales will likely have to be – and hopeful will be – aligned for consequential change to occur. Whether this occurs in time to avoid disaster, is the critical question.

Episode 6 Wealth is changing politics, but not how you think

2 November 2020

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Episode 6 Wealth is changing politics, but not how you think

2 November 2020

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My guest for this episode is Andrew Walter. Andrew and I were the first TRIUM co-Academic Directors for the London School of Economics and he has taught political economy for TRIUM every year since its start. He is super smart, very wise and a great friend of TRIUM and myself. 

He is currently Professor of International Relations in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Melbourne. He was formally a Reader in International Relations at the LSE and a Fellow and University lecturer at Oxford University. Prior to joining academia, he worked for JP Morgan’s investment banking division. 

In this episode we discuss his award winning newest book (co-authored with Jefferey Chwieroth) entitled, The Wealth Effect. The book documents the massive rise in both the wealth of the middle classes, how that wealth has become highly leveraged and explores the political implications of this new cleavage in society – those with wealth and those without. Specifically we discuss what happens in democracies when the middle class has highly leveraged housing assets and pensions tied to stock market performance, while at the same time there is greater and greater demand to privately fund health care, education and elder care? A quick spoiler – the consequences are not pretty. 

Episode 5 Leadership in a disrupted world

1 October 2020

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Episode 5 Leadership in a disrupted world

1 October 2020

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My guest for this episode is Randy White. Randy is the co-Chair of the leadership stream for the EMBA at HEC (Qatar) and a long-time professor of leadership for TRIUM. He is an international thought leader in leadership training and executive coaching with more than 30 years’ experience from all over the world. His is also a member of the Board of the American Psychological Association. 

A new edition of his (co-written with Philip Hodgson) excellent book, Relax its Only Uncertainty will be released later this month. In this episode, Randy and I discuss the leadership challenges in a world where the nature of the uncertainty we face is changing. How does a leader effectively and confidently lead other people when s/he cannot be sure what is the best path forward? Randy’s wisdom and decency shine through in our talk – enjoy!

Episode 4 The rise and fall of competitive markets: the US in trouble

27 August 2020

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Episode 4 The rise and fall of competitive markets: the US in trouble

27 August 2020

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My guest for this episode is Thomas Phillippon, the Max L. Heine Professor of Finance at New York University, Stern School of Business. In this podcast we discuss his influential and provocative new book, The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets. In the book, Thomas shows how over the last 20 years, US markets have become less competitive. This has led to poorer service quality, higher consumer prices, lower investment, and higher inequality. At the same time, the reverse has been happening within the EU. How and why this has happened are the subjects of our conversation. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Episode 3 Embedded sustainability as competitive advantage

6 August 2020

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Episode 3 Embedded sustainability as competitive advantage

6 August 2020

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My guest for this episode is Tensie Whelan, Clinical Professor for Business and Society and the Director of NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business. We start with an examination of the importance of monetizing the benefits of sustainability efforts to successfully embed the practices into the heart of the firms’ strategy and measure of economic performance. We then have a lively discussion on the promises and perils of relying on consumer demand to encourage firms to act in responsible ways. We wrap up with a discussion of the role of the state versus the firm in setting the rules of competitive markets. I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Episode 2 Keynes, Cox and the current crisis

9 July 2020

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Episode 2 Keynes, Cox and the current crisis

9 July 2020

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My guest for this episode is Michael Cox, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the LSE. We start with a discussion of John Maynard Keynes’ book entitled “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” (1919) which has a surprising resonance with current events.

We also get Mick’s take on today’s political and governance crisis in the US, what he sees as the future of globalisation and whether the current conflict between the US and China is likely to get better or worse. I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Episode 1 Making smart (and not so smart) decisions

17 June 2020

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Episode 1 Making smart (and not so smart) decisions

17 June 2020

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My first guest is Olivier Sibony. Olivier is one of the world’s top scholars in the field of behavioural strategy and strategic decision making. What better topics for a time where we are all making choices while trying to work our way through radical uncertainty. I hope you enjoy the conversation!