Karthik Ramanna

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Leading Expert on Corporate-Government Relations, Sustainable Capitalism, and Corporate Reporting; Professor of Business & Public Policy, University of Oxford; Inaugural Director, Oxford’s Master in Public Policy Program

Biography

Trust in business and government today, particularly in the West and among the young, is about the lowest it has been since the Great Depression. Karthik Ramanna studies how organizations build trust with stakeholders and the role of innovative businesses in designing sensible and responsible “rules of the game.” He has authored dozens of research articles and case studies on non-market strategies in Africa, China, the EU, India and the U.S., and he has consulted with several leading professional service organizations worldwide. His scholarship has won numerous awards, including the Journal of Accounting & Economics Best Paper Prize and the Case Centre’s Outstanding Case-Writer prize, dubbed by the Financial Times as “the business school Oscars.”

Ramanna is a professor of Business & Public Policy at the University of Oxford. An expert on business-government relations, sustainable capitalism and corporate reporting, he is also the inaugural director of Oxford’s Master in Public Policy program, a flagship one-year degree for current and prospective leaders in government. He is also faculty chair of the Transformational Leadership Fellowship, a bespoke, by-invitation, part-time program for senior corporate executives considering a second career that can bring their strengths to address broader societal challenges.

Professor Ramanna’s previous book, “Political Standards” (University of Chicago Press, October 2017), explored the role of industry experts in setting standards and norms for market behaviour. The project uncovered both the bright and dark sides of governance by experts – how experts can create value for society-at-large and how they enable crony capitalism. His current book project explores how the institutions of free-market societies must adapt to survive both declining public trust and transformational technologies like artificial intelligence.

Prior to his roles at Oxford, Professor Ramanna taught leadership, corporate governance and accounting at the Harvard Business School in both the MBA and senior executive education programs. He is a faculty associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and has a doctorate from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, including as co-editor of the interdisciplinary journal Accounting, Economics & Law.

He lives in Oxford with his husband, Jonathan, a consultant, and they enjoy classical art, haute cuisine and the wines of Burgundy and Napa Valley.

Karthik Ramanna is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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Ramanna, Karthik

Biography

Trust in business and government today, particularly in the West and among the young, is about the lowest it has been since the Great Depression. Karthik Ramanna studies how organizations build trust with stakeholders and the role of innovative businesses in designing sensible and responsible “rules of the game.” He has authored dozens of research articles and case studies on non-market strategies in Africa, China, the EU, India and the U.S., and he has consulted with several leading professional service organizations worldwide. His scholarship has won numerous awards, including the Journal of Accounting & Economics Best Paper Prize and the Case Centre’s Outstanding Case-Writer prize, dubbed by the Financial Times as “the business school Oscars.”

Ramanna is a professor of Business & Public Policy at the University of Oxford. An expert on business-government relations, sustainable capitalism and corporate reporting, he is also the inaugural director of Oxford’s Master in Public Policy program, a flagship one-year degree for current and prospective leaders in government. He is also faculty chair of the Transformational Leadership Fellowship, a bespoke, by-invitation, part-time program for senior corporate executives considering a second career that can bring their strengths to address broader societal challenges.

Professor Ramanna’s previous book, “Political Standards” (University of Chicago Press, October 2017), explored the role of industry experts in setting standards and norms for market behaviour. The project uncovered both the bright and dark sides of governance by experts – how experts can create value for society-at-large and how they enable crony capitalism. His current book project explores how the institutions of free-market societies must adapt to survive both declining public trust and transformational technologies like artificial intelligence.

Prior to his roles at Oxford, Professor Ramanna taught leadership, corporate governance and accounting at the Harvard Business School in both the MBA and senior executive education programs. He is a faculty associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and has a doctorate from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, including as co-editor of the interdisciplinary journal Accounting, Economics & Law.

He lives in Oxford with his husband, Jonathan, a consultant, and they enjoy classical art, haute cuisine and the wines of Burgundy and Napa Valley.

Karthik Ramanna is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Renewing Organizational Trust: Winning Over Skeptics Within and Outside the Enterprise

Even as we enter an age where leaders in business and government are trusted less than building contractors, more is expected of those endowed with privileges. For leaders to make long-term decisions that require near-term sacrifices from stakeholders, they must earn the trust of skeptics both inside and outside their organizations. Drawing on lessons from a wide range of field studies – including entities as diverse as IKEA, Nestle, the U.S. Justice Department and the Vatican Bank, in geographies as varied as China, India and Saudi Arabia – Professor Ramanna discusses the actions leaders take, and the mistakes they sometimes make, as they navigate the trust divide. His remarks can address questions such as:

  • How do you build a mandate for organizational reform when external stakeholders demand radical change but internal powerbrokers are tradition bound?
  • How can global firms navigate conflicting expectations of them in different jurisdictions, for instance, the empowerment of LGBT employees in countries where this contravenes local customs and laws?
  • How can multinational businesses legitimately engage in policymaking outside their home jurisdiction? His speeches can elaborate on powerful analytical tools such as bridging capability asymmetries, managing perception gaps and setting and delivering on legitimate expectations.

The Future Of Free Markets: Capitalism In An Age Of Populism

Why is free-market capitalism, seemingly the winning formula for the success of nations since at least the end of World War II, losing popular support worldwide? America is a case in point. Where once the U.S. was synonymous with free markets, today we see the spectres of economic nationalism and even socialism. How did we get here? Wages for jobs in the lower third of population skills have stagnated or declined over nearly forty years. This deterioration is conspicuous in occupations affected by automation and global competition – policies encouraged by market liberalization. Moreover, as America advanced open season on its markets, it was slow to upskill those most vulnerable. In the face of further disruption from artificial intelligence and rising authoritarianism, how should multinational businesses respond? As public institutions have failed to act, more is being expected of corporations. But how much of the solution is within the corporate mandate and capabilities? And how can corporations do so without losing focus on profitability, particularly in the face of intense international competition? Professor Ramanna’s remarks present a framework for business leaders looking to engage in an increasingly hostile and populist world, where long-held rules for global engagement are coming undone.

The End Of Leadership? How To Restore Moral Education In Meritocratic Societies

Leadership is mobilizing human and financial resources to improve the condition of others. Beyond managerial capabilities, leadership requires subduing self-interest in the service of others. Leadership education is inherently a normative exercise – helping individuals determine what constitutes “good” outcomes in the service of others. But at least since the 1970s, elite universities in the West have increasingly shied away from normative education. This trend has coincided with their embrace of meritocracy. A merit-based admissions policy results in a more diverse student body, with varying normative preferences, which in turn has made it tricky for universities to take explicit moral positions on the nature of leadership. Rather, through their embrace of merit, universities today implicitly celebrate one value: the service of self. Professor Ramanna’s remarks explore how this erosion of leadership education in our elite universities has likely contributed to an erosion of critical institutions that support free-market societies. He proposes a new vision for moral learning in the institutions that will develop the next generation of leaders, which beyond universities will likely include innovative pro-social corporations.

Reimagining Corporate Reporting: The Role Of Boards, Auditors, And Senior Management

Listed corporations are locked in a dysfunctional game with Wall Street intermediaries, where hundreds of billions of dollars are lost to financial reporting shenanigans such as meeting artificial EPS benchmarks. Meanwhile, corporate auditors are in the public dock for their seeming willingness to accept aggressive accounting practices. Overall, this scenario has helped deplete public faith in capital markets, contributing to the populist backlash on finance. How can boards, senior management and auditors in listed corporations break out of this flawed equilibrium? Professor Ramanna’s remarks discuss which accounting and non-financial reporting practices mitigate gaming in capital markets and build trust with investors and other stakeholders. He explores the role of prudent, verifiable and timely reporting principles as bedrocks of modern capitalism, and he offers a framework for designing reporting standards that promote transparency and stability in global capital markets.

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Recommendations

“The response has been very positive. Partners rated the seminar a 6.8/7 for being thought-provoking, 6.8/7 for being highly-engaging, and 100% plan to discuss the concepts with colleagues or clients. Quite an all-around success!”

-McKinsey’s Partner University

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