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Robert Reynolds speaks at the podium

It's a great pleasure to be here today and I’m thrilled to receive this honorary degree.   

Bentley is a highly respected, historic institution. And you are an incredibly impressive group of graduates. Among the 500 graduates here today from the Bentley Graduate School of Business are accomplished individuals from many diverse backgrounds, with different academic, professional and personal experiences. I recognize that many of you graduating have already attained professional success, while some of you are poised to take the business world by storm. So, congratulations to all of you.  

This is your day, and it means a great deal that you have invited me to share it with you. It's particularly great to be here in-person as we make our way back to live events. In fact, I understand that this is the first on-campus commencement ceremony on Bentley University’s campus in three years.  

And by the way, I also understand that Bentley University has become one of the first Massachusetts academic institutions to accept cryptocurrencies as tuition payments. So take heart, those of you who paid traditional cash for your tuition and school expenses these many years — your diploma will be real, on paper and has dependable value in the marketplace.  

This is Bentley’s first commencement under the school’s ninth president, Dr. Chrite. President Chrite is committed to educating a future workforce that is well-positioned to compete in the innovation economy. As he has stated, and I quote: “I believe strongly that business can be a powerful force to solve problems that plague humanity.” Having cited this brilliant insight from President Chrite, I feel like my work here is done.  

But on a serious note, I too believe that the forces of business can positively impact and change the world for the better. So today, I will share some of my guiding principles that have been helpful in navigating my own career. Perhaps these ideas can be useful as you think about your own professional journey. 

Your education is important, your career achievements are important. Luck is important. But YOU are your own best asset.

First of all, I’d like to point out that each of you has everything you need to build a meaningful and purpose-driven career. You are going to contribute to your workplaces, your industries and the world as a whole — often in ways that you cannot imagine today. Business and society, more broadly, are moving at a high velocity of change. This means that for most of your career, there will be no roadmaps — and there will be the occasional speed bump. So have faith in your intelligence, your intuition and your best judgment. It got you all the way here today, and it will carry you well the rest of the way. 

Your education is important, your career achievements are important. Luck is important. But YOU are your own best asset. When you truly commit to trusting yourself, you will send an important message to everyone. Don’t be afraid to throw the occasional long-ball down field. Greatness awaits when you believe in yourself. 

Next, embrace people. Your career will be almost entirely defined by the people you are lucky enough to work with. In my career, I’ve had the good fortune to work with some transformative leaders of the modern financial industry and alongside thousands of colleagues whose expertise I deeply respect. Some key takeaways from my own journey are that:  

  • Trusted relationships with ethical, intelligent and talented associates will guide you through good times and bad. 
  • Accomplishments driven by team collaboration, and creativity will almost always triumph over the results of individuals working on their own.    
  • Diversity brings powerful perspective to the table, so encourage and respect different points of view.  
  • Debating different sides of an issue almost always improves decision-making and outcomes. There's one exception there. Unless it’s about the greatness of Boston’s professional sports teams, for which there is no debate. Go, Celtics!
  • And finally, it is important to seek out mentors that you respect and can learn from. 

On this last point, I personally benefitted from working with two of the most consequential visionaries in contemporary financial services. I was honored to work with Hugh McColl at North Carolina National Bank for a number of years. Hugh spearheaded one of the most transformative banking stories of the 20th century by leading the expansion of NCNB through a series of mergers and acquisitions, first in the state of North Carolina and than across the world, eventually becoming the well-known household name, Bank of America. Hugh taught me to think big — with determination, anything is possible.  

And another invaluable mentor for me was New England’s own Ned Johnson of Fidelity, who sadly passed away in March of this year. Ned was a once-in-a-generation innovator that built what is arguably one of the world’s most influential asset management and retirement savings companies. I had the pleasure to work alongside Ned for many years. In the early 80s, Ned asked me to start a new endeavor within Fidelity and our industry, which became the modern day 401(k) business. Initially, I was a little hesitant, but Ned was confident and saw a business with great potential. And when Ned believed in something, you really should listen closely. Ned’s vision became a reality, and together, we built a business to help millions of Americans save for retirement.  

While you will come to realize that no one person has all the answers, if you maintain an open mind, positive attitude and intellectual curiosity, you are more likely to experience successful outcomes.

Individual and corporate citizenship in a spirit of sustainability and inclusion is a powerful force for the greater good. A dynamic career — YOUR career — is ultimately an opportunity to serve others.

Another principle that has helped to guide me is the importance of “embracing change.” I pursued a career in financial services — an incredible industry that has cycled through constant waves of change and reinvention, including new technologies, globalization, evolving regulatory environment and innovative products and services that only a few years ago seemed unimaginable. Most of the industries that dominate the 21st century economy barely existed a generation ago. 

So, I would encourage you to relentlessly look forward. Look around the corner. Try to place yourself, since we're in a hockey rink, where the hockey puck is going to be. The systemic changes coming in the next generation will make the changes we’ve seen in recent decades look like a warmup. Whatever you do, don’t stand still. Moving forward is an imperative for all of us. Staying static is not a viable option. Unknown possibilities are the foundation upon which our future is built. Change propels organizations and people. And embracing change is an essential precursor of innovation. So, seize opportunity and focus on what’s ahead. Every single day is an opportunity to improve and grow.  

Consistent with these principles around embracing people and embracing change, I encourage you to think broadly about the society in which we all live and work. As President Chrite has pointed out, if we work together, business can help address some of the largest challenges that we face as a society. To this end, I would encourage you to pursue a career with purpose.   

When I began my professional life with only a vague sense of where I would go or what I would do, I thought about going to law school. But instead, I found myself working in the trust department of North Carolina National Bank. This position was a real eye-opener for me because I realized that by managing customers’ savings, I was directly helping hardworking people. These individuals were getting up every morning to go to work, seeking to build financial futures for themselves and their families. Striving to help people reach their financial goals felt like an important, worthwhile quest to me.   

With this in mind, I took up a career-long project in public policy to deepen the pools of worker savings, improve the efficiency of workplace retirement savings plans, and extend the coverage of these plans to include more working people – in an effort to help individuals secure a dignified retirement. This project remains a work in progress, but thousands of colleagues have joined this battle and we have a fantastic global collaboration underway between financial practitioners, academics, non-profit institutions, policymakers and many others.

President Chrite: ‘Create your own magic to stir the souls of others’

In recent years, I have also engaged in and supported the emerging area of Sustainable Investing, which focuses on environmental, social and governance issues. As with retirement savings, we have learned practical lessons around how we can drive economic growth and business expansion in a way that is ethical and transparent, minimize harm on the natural environment and ultimately benefit people. Sustainability is not a slogan — it’s a philosophy for business management that aligns corporate profits with social and environmental benefits to help build a healthier global economy. 

I would leave you with a few final thoughts about seeking the loftier goal of building a career based on purpose. Business today is fast-changing and driven by incredible innovation, which creates limitless career possibilities. Each of us has an opportunity to impact our chosen field and broader society. Individual and corporate citizenship in a spirit of sustainability and inclusion is a powerful force for the greater good. A dynamic career — YOUR career —  is ultimately an opportunity to serve others. As you find your own sense of mission in your professional lives, I hope you find a path that truly inspires you. 

While the world around us sometimes feels like it lacks a sense of cohesion and community, and it can seem divided in many ways, I that that we each have a tremendous opportunity at hand to do our part in seeking common ground to help propel our society in areas that truly matter and benefit all of us. This is where you come in. 

In closing, I would like to wish each of you success, happiness and an exciting, meaningful journey. The road ahead awaits you! 

Congratulations to the Bentley Graduate School of Business Class of 2022!

Valerie Mosley: ‘You are what you believe you can be’

Elizaveta Borisova MSMA ’22: ‘We are driven, resilient and determined’

Erin Buckmeier ’22: ‘Make the small memories matter’