By Patricia Sellers
December 17, 2008

“If you’re going to own something, you’d better be prepared to have it be worth nothing.”

– Travelers

Chairman and CEO Jay Fishman, this afternoon during a visit at Fortune, talking about why his company sidestepped investments in more exotic, less liquid assets. “Discipline matters,” he said, drilling his message about managing conservatively in the downturn — and doing so when the economy is strong as well. Fishman, who previously worked for Sandy Weill at Citigroup

, believes in mark-to-market accounting, a required practice that has pummeled asset values of many companies. “It imposes a level of discipline on what companies do and what they invest in,” he says.

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