Mexican business leader reflects on banking…and what “rich” means.

“If you like what you do, take some risks, and work hard, you can achieve anything.”

According to José Aldrich, managing partner, tax and legal services, Latin America tax leader–South Florida business unit, KPMG, LLP; a member of the Dean’s Council of the College of Administration; and an attendee at the first Wertheim Lecture of 2008, that message was at the core of remarks made by Ricardo Benjamin Salinas Pliego, founder and chairman, Grupo Salinas, and founder and CEO, Grupo Elektra in Mexico.

Aldrich was one of an audience of about 200 faculty, staff, students, alumni, and members of the business community who heard Salinas, included since 2002 in Forbes’ annual list of the “World’s Richest People,” speak about “Selling to the Poor: A 100-Year Success Story.”

In her introduction, Joyce J. Elam, executive dean of the business school, praised him for “his corporate social responsibility, extending the fruits of capitalism and translating his values into action,” while Florida International University President Modesto A. Maidique spoke about his journey “from a windowless office to a global leader, generating wealth and promoting values.”

Though he oversees a conglomerate spanning banks, retailing, television production and broadcast, and telecommunications, Salinas focused on banking, explaining his company’s involvement in serving low income families who have problems obtaining credit. He described his business model for banking, the challenges imposed by regulators and “do-gooders,” and the positive impact of technology on his businesses.

“We bring insurance, pension management, money transfers, savings programs, and loans to this market in ways that are very high tech and cost-efficient,” he said.

Larger message centers on positive qualities.

For all his financial success and savvy, Salinas kept returning to broader questions of character and commitment as he reflected on the importance of business regardless of the sector.

“What is it to be rich?” he asked. “Is it having a lot of money? It’s not like that at all. You have to be, then you have to do, then you will have…in that order. You have to be happy first; you have to do what you love, and you have to surround yourself with people with integrity, intelligence and the ability to execute.”

The lecture took place on March 5, 2008, in the Ocean Bank Auditorium in the college’s new building complex. The Herbert A. Wertheim Lecture Series has brought distinguished speakers and experts in business leadership and entrepreneurship to campus since 1993.

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