Interview with Rich Carbone, CFO of Prudential

by , Mar 22, 2012

My posts talk a lot about veterans, MBAs, and finance so I thought it would be a great idea to hear about all of these topics from someone who is a veteran, has an MBA, and is a leader in finance. It isnt every day that a CFO from Fortune 500 company answers your email and Im glad that Richard Carbone has taken the time to answer a few questions for veterans pursuing MBAs and considering a career in finance.

Richard Carbone is the executive vice president and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Prudential Financial, responsible for its treasury, controllership, tax, business line CFO functions and M&A activity. Prudential Financial is a diversified insurance and financial services company that was ranked #64 on the 2011 Fortune 500 list. Richard received an MBA from St. Johns University and is a Certified Public Accountant. He served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps from 1969 to 1972.

ArmyJMO: Is there a difference between what you perceived as the value of obtaining an MBA while you were attending St. Johns versus what you think now?

Richard: Yes. First of all, my MBA was a necessity. My B.S. was in chemistry and I could not get a job. MBAs were scarce in the 70s vs. today as well, so getting one for me had a somewhat outsized benefit. If your undergraduate degree is not in demand and you need to retool, pick a Masters program you like, as you are not going to get many chances. Also, I think CFA and CPA designations are as good as an MBA today.

ArmyJMO: With the Iraq war ended and the Afghan war winding down, many veterans are returning home and transitioning to the private sector. Due to the current situation, what are your thoughts of veterans going directly into a full-time MBA program versus getting a part-time MBA while working?

Richard: If veterans already have B.S. degrees in Business, Accounting, or Economics, enrolling directly in a full-time MBA is preferable. If not, they should work a year and enroll then. They need to really want the work and have some talent in it.

ArmyJMO: There arent many veterans in the financial services industry. Do you think this is due to the lack of interest in this industry or that it is just hard to break into this industry?

Richard: I think location has something to do with this. Financial Services tends to be in large cities. The veteran population comes from a broader cross-section of America. Also, Finance is not something a military background would remotely familiarize one with.

ArmyJMO: Prudential has a longstanding commitment to U.S. Veterans. Beyond the awards and recognitions from entities such as G.I. Jobs, which named Prudential to its 2012 list of "Top Military Friendly Employers," and Military Times EDGE magazine, which ranked Prudential No. 25 on its "50 Best for Vets 2010 Employers" list, Prudential has been hiring veterans for a while now, without much fanfare. Whose decision was it to start hiring veterans at Prudential, and why?

Richard: Our Chairman, John Strangfeld, initiated the push to start our programs Our company is highly aware of the special value that veterans bring to the workplace. Prudential is working with other companies and partners to improve veterans access to education, job training, and job opportunities. This year, we expanded our work-study VETalent program to new cities and universities to continue to prepare veterans for new careers.

ArmyJMO: By any measurement, you have had a very successful career that many veterans and non-veterans alike would like to emulate. Many people may want to have this level of success, but they seem to want instant success or gratification. But this didnt all happen overnight. Could you describe some of the hurdles or challenges you had to overcome to get to today?

Richard: Three Hurdles:

  • Education needed to start all over.
  • Age by the time I had a usable degree, I was 30.
  • Discrimination Marine Officers were not like the people doing the hiring who had a clear bias against the Vietnam War and Officers.

ArmyJMO: I recently read a great article about ambition that could be summed up by this paragraph:

People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careerseven though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness. If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over youll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, youll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.

A lot of young veterans are ambitous, do you have any advice on how to strike the right work-life balance?

Richard: I never strove for power or happiness; my objective was always to have peace of mind.