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How should Gerald Smarten balance the needs of Kaspa and the community?

The CEO Can’t Afford to Panic by Eric J. McNulty

Reprint R1003X
Purchased by robert duboff ( on January 12, 2012

In an unthinkable crisis, a bank’s chief executive has to make a fast decision.


The CEO Can’t Afford to Panic by Eric J. McNulty


Gerald Smarten, CEO of Kaspa Financial Services, was presiding over the regular Tuesday morning executive committee meeting in the glass-walled conference room that looked east over Massachusetts Bay. The management team was wrestling with
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A Timothy McVeigh type in a speedboat could incinerate downtown, he had warned. Now, images Smarten had seen of bombings in Madrid and London flooded his mind. He tried to push them out. “A fire or an accident. I’m sure you’re right, Ben.”

HBR’s cases, which are fictional, present common managerial dilemmas.

harvard business review • march 2010 Purchased by robert duboff ( on January 12, 2012

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The CEO Can’t Afford to Panic •• •HBR C ASE S TUDY

Eric J. McNulty writes on leadership, social enterprise, and sustainability. He can be reached at eric@ericmcnulty .com.

Behind him, Sal Persano, the senior VP of marketing, was fumbling with the remote control to the boardroom television. He pushed buttons seemingly at random, managing only to initiate a video conference with the firm’s London office. Hicks, meanwhile, had stepped back from the window and was tapping furiously on her laptop. “CNN is just reporting ‘an incident’ so far,” she said. “No details yet.” She continued to focus on the screen, surfing from site to site in search of concrete information. A cacophony of ringtones in the conference room competed with the sirens of emergency vehicles outside. The head of HR, Joan Kaczmarek, moved close to Smarten at the window. “It’s rush hour,” she said. “Our people are probably down there. I’ll initiate a headcount in all departments. What else do you want to do?” Smarten turned without answering her, as Persano
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