News & Events

Rick Waddell '79, spoke with students during a CIM event September 5.

Northern Trust president delivers Kellogg CIM address

Rick Waddell ’79 brings 30 years of experience to incoming Kellogg students during Pre-Term orientation

By Aubrey Henretty

9/6/2007 - With day two of Complete Immersion in Management underway on Sept. 5, the Kellogg School’s Class of 2009 streamed into the Owen L. Coon Forum for a presentation by Rick Waddell ’79, the president and chief operating officer at Northern Trust Corp., a financial services company with offices around the world.


Watch video Rick Waddell's speech

Kellogg Dean Dipak C. Jain, a member of Northern Trust’s board of directors, introduced Waddell. “He is a real icon,” Jain told the students, noting that Waddell has found time throughout his distinguished 30-year career to contribute to various charitable community organizations.

But the Class of 2009 reserved its loudest applause for a particular credential found on the Waddell résumé: “He is also a Kellogg graduate,” Jain told the capacity audience to cheers.

Waddell began his presentation with a story about Jain. “I have been very fortunate, not only as a Kellogg alum, but on the board at Northern Trust, to see Dipak in action,” he said. When the company launched its first service center in India, senior leadership invited Jain to attend the opening ceremony to help “explain what Northern Trust was all about” and to ensure that nothing important was lost in the cultural exchange. Jain offered an unusual suggestion: “Invite their parents to the opening.” Waddell recalled Jain’s observation that, in Indian culture, “If you have the parents, you’ll always have the employees.” The company tried it. The event was a huge success.

“Sometimes I think we forget that element of management and of leadership,” Waddell said. “But in the end, it’s about people.”

Though Waddell has defied the statistics and spent his entire professional career at a single company, he said he has had approximately 13 jobs at different stages of his Northern Trust career. He said that he looks for new recruits who share his spirit of adventure. “I like people who are willing to take a bit of a risk and move around in the company.”

On his company’s commitment to contribute to the communities it serves, Waddell’s outlook was both thoughtful and practical. Helping people is important in itself, he said, but building up the community is good for the company too: “We find that when we’re involved with local nonprofits, we get to know some influential people.”

As his presentation concluded, Waddell reminded the new Kellogg students that they should consider themselves at the service of the people they manage.

“When I have performance reviews, when I set expectations, I always ask people, ‘What can I do better?’”