80 years of global growth.

Author:Cheney, Glenn A.

When historians of the future look back on the 20th century, they may well give it the moniker of "Century of the Economy." At no previous time in history had the world experienced such growth in overall wealth and such dedication to its creation.

At the same time, it was a period of economic upheavals and quick shifts as the world dodged communism and adopted new technologies. And the first decade of the 21st century gives no indication that the pace of economic change is slowing.

It is no coincidence that the birth and perpetuation of the organization now known as Financial Executives International accompanied this historic economic phenomenon. Eighty years ago, as the lights were going out on Wall Street, a handful of controllers got together, and realizing that they were living in a new and uncertain world, decided they had to do something to help fix and maintain it.

It's been a new world ever since. Just as the 1930s showed how integral the national economy had become to daily life, the war of the 1940s showed how fighting a modern war depended fundamentally on the economics of production. Just as the economics of an economic depression are completely different from those of a country at war, the boom of the 1950s represented another economic experience.

And so it went, through the guns-and-butter economy of the '60s, the staggering 70s, the deregulation of the '80s, the dotcoms and tech-bubble of the '90s and the ever-more digitized technologies of the new century. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, again in an uncertain economic climate, the nation is poised, as ever, for change.

Through all these changes, financial executives have been at the financial helm, steering their companies through waters that have never for an instant been calm. But the movement has always been forward, and along the way, everything around the businesses has grown--wealth, technology, foreign trade, accountancy, regulation and potential for more growth.

In the 80 years since FEI's predecessor The Controllers Institute of America was formed, wealth has grown beyond measure. A middle-class family enjoys conveniences and luxuries unimaginable to the millionaires of the ''Roaring Twenties." When the Institute was founded in 1931, the gross domestic product of the United States was $76.5 billion (in current dollars). In 2010, despite a recession, it stood at nearly $14.7 trillion.

From the end of World War II, the U.S. economy grew at an average of 3.8 percent until 1973, a year of oil shortages and market turbulence, after which GDP dropped to 2.7 percent and actual...

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