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IBM CEO Stands Firm on Proactive Trump Engagement Strategy

Ginni Rometty has told staff she’ll continue to court the president, no matter how controversial his policies.

GettyImages-480178678-compressorFew CEOs have been more willing than Ginni Rometty to embrace the business opportunities posed by the Trump administration. And few CEOs are wearing more criticism from employees upset by some of the president’s more controversial policy moves.

Even so, the IBM CEO is standing her ground, writing in a new letter to staff that she’ll continue to meet with the president and suggest ways in which the computer giant could help his cause. She’s not alone in taking the open engagement approach, with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook arguing that little can be achieved from the sidelines.

To be sure, Rometty and others haven’t suggested they’ll agree with everything the president says or does. Instead, Rometty in particular is advocating means by which IBM could help move things forward, perhaps by bridging competing interests with technology.

“We would not be the company we are today without the benefit of immigration and the flow of talent across all our markets,” Rometty wrote, in a clear reference to Trump’s controversial immigration ban.

“Our points were heard, and we will continue to engage to find solutions that align with our values.

But in a nod to his concerns about terrorism threats, she suggested to Trump at a meeting on Friday how advanced technology could improve national security, while also permitting lawful immigration and travel. “I explained that this is not an either/or choice,” she said. “Our points were heard, and we will continue to engage to find solutions that align with our values.”

How IBM could help improve national security remains to be seen: Rometty’s stance could again be tested should the White House ever seek assistance putting together a controversial registry of Muslim Americans.

IBM was one of few big tech companies that elected not to join a legal action against the travel ban, which was supported by more than 100 CEOs, including Cook and Musk. “IBM does not espouse a partisan or political point of view,” Rometty said, while adding: “But if IBM does not have politics, it does have values.”

According to Rometty, such non-political values involve “helping our clients succeed beyond even their own expectations, in innovation that matters to the world; in building relationships based on trust and personal responsibility.”

IBM, she added, also has led the world of business in diversity, inclusion and tolerance. “Inspired by those values and that legacy, I offer every government leader with whom I engage innovative ideas to address national challenges.”

About Ross Kelly

Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.