The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE:BX) CEO Steve Schwarzman spoke with Bloomberg TV anchor Stephanie Ruhle about the firm’s commitment to hiring 50,000 veterans by 2018 and the government’s push to get the business community for involved in the employment of veterans.
Steve Schwarzman said, “I was at a meeting where Mrs. Obama was addressing a business roundtable. And she laid out the case as to why the business community should help. And I bought what she was selling because I had been in the military in the reserves. I have a feel for what the military people go through. And the White House has actually been really useful, and flexible and welcomed suggestions.”
On whether he thinks Michelle Obama should tell her husband to stop calling Wall Street fat cats, Schwarzman said, “Well that’s a completely separate issue. And I don’t really know how their dinner table works. But in the military issue they both have a major commitment to it… it’s not something where we’re looking for recognition per se. We’re just trying to do the right thing, the right thing for these people, the right things for our company, and the right things for society.”
Steve Schwarzman: Michelle Obama Sold Me on Hiring Veterans
STEPHANIE RUHLE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Blackstone, private equity giant, has made a big commitment to hire 50,000 veterans over the course of the next five years. They have already hired 18,000 across their dozens of portfolio companies.
So with Veterans Day coming up on us tomorrow I had a chance to sit down with Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman and find out just how it’s done.
STEVE SCHWARZMAN, CEO, BLACKSTONE: It’s important. It’s a moral thing to do. It’s a good business thing to do. These are people who disrupt their lives, sacrifice sometimes their physical being. They have enormous difficulties as a group compared to regular society. And I think we owe them. And fortunately they’re well-trained and disciplined people. When we hire them we do very well with veterans.
And so it’s not really done on a long-term basis simply from compassion. There’s self-interest in it as well for both them and us. Let’s not forget they have about the highest suicide rate of any group in society. Somewhere between 20 and 25 veterans a day take their own lives. When I think about things like this it makes us at Blackstone want to do something positive to help them with their lives.
RUHLE: Is the government not doing enough?
STEVE SCHWARZMAN: Well I think society needs to do more. I think the business community is very helpful, but could do more. This isn’t the hardest execution. You just need the commitment. You need the belief and you need companies that can use people with this kind of training.
RUHLE: Is there a clear business case, because one would say if there was a clear case the government should get involved. And clearly the government hasn’t done enough. That’s why you stepped in.
STEVE SCHWARZMAN: Well the government actually initiated this. And it was done by Michelle Obama. And she and Mrs. Biden are chairing this activity out of the White House. And they feel quite passionate about it. And I was at a meeting where Mrs. Obama was addressing a business roundtable. And she laid out the case as to why the business community should help.
And I bought what she was selling because I had been in the military in the reserves. I have a feel for what the military people go through. And the White House has actually been really useful, and flexible and welcomed suggestions. And it’s a real team effort with the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor. So I’d actually give them quite high marks.
RUHLE: Then do you think at the dinner table she should reach across and say to her husband, President Obama, let’s stop calling them Wall Street fat cats?
STEVE SCHWARZMAN: Well that’s a completely separate issue. And I don’t really know how their dinner table works. But in the military issue they both have a major commitment to it.
RUHLE: Do you feel like you get enough acknowledge, recognition for all the great work you’re doing with veterans?
STEVE SCHWARZMAN: Well it’s not something where we’re looking for recognition per se. We’re just trying to do the right thing, the right thing for these people, the right things for our company, and the right things for society.
RUHLE: Then do you think you’ll start similar programs, or need to start similar programs for other groups or represented, underrepresented in finance like women or minorities?
STEVE SCHWARZMAN: Well we can only handle a certain number of things besides our basic business mission. We’re an equal opportunity employer. And we’re looking for talent. And we’re growing quite rapidly at Blackstone. So we’re open to all comers.
RUHLE: So this summit, this summit you have set up that’s how you find this talent? Do you feel like you need to do more? Are you doing enough? Are there enough jobs for all the demand?
STEVE SCHWARZMAN: Well there are never enough jobs for the full demand in society if you have a two and a half to three percent growth rate and you have a big unabsorbed group of people, but I think we’re making major inroads with the military group. And we have our own feeder. We’re operating directly with the defense department trying to get them. And they’re very open to this to give us access to people who are going to be demobilized, so you can start matching them with job.
Once they’re out in society it’s a lot harder. So I was talking with General Dempsey today, who’s the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and they’re extremely open and want to be helpful to create career paths, assuming people will leave the military and not just if they stay in it. So once you have access to these people the ability to place them is infinitely better than it would just trying to find them in society at large.