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GE Capital: Which way after Wendt?

The chiefs at GE Capital Services attribute their success to not behaving like bankers. Their approach ­ moving from financial services into related businesses ­ has amassed assets of $255 billion and contributes 40% of parent GE's income. But driving force Gary Wendt has just retired and along with him goes ­ or so it seems ­ his strategy of growth by acquisitions. Where next for his creation?

You can't miss Dan Porter's cufflinks. The large, glistening orbs weigh down his wrists. They're definitely not understated; some might call them ostentatious. Set into the pale face of each is a dollar sign and the number three that sparkle when they catch the light. Yes, they're diamonds, confirms Porter, head of business development at GE Capital Europe.

The cufflinks were presented to each of the General Electric Capital Services (GE Capital) business heads just before Christmas last year by chairman and chief executive Gary Wendt. They mark the fact that in 1997, GE Capital's net income broke the $3 billion barrier for the first time. Porter also has a set of $2 billion cufflinks at home, which, he assures us, are much less tasteful than these. Good taste is not what GE Capital is about.

This, after all, is the company that calls its 28 business areas "bubbles" without a hint of irony (at GE Capital bubbles never burst). Ask employees about the company's culture and you get a range of saccharine soundbites. From "We are all very focused on growth as a way of life" to "There's nothing that you do during your day where GE hasn't in some way touched your life".

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