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Late last year General Motors Corp. was troubled to learn of financial difficulties facing one of its parts suppliers. Thanks in part to a collapsing stock market, the vendor was staring at an underfunded employee-retirement plan, which ultimately might require a restructuring to cover the costs of making good on its pension liabilities. GM had a problem, which meant Kevan Parekh had a problem, too.

Parekh is a manager in the treasurer’s office for the world’s largest auto maker. Last December, as a member of a team responsible for deciding whether GM should continue to rely on this company for parts, he was being called upon to dissect the supplier’s pension difficulties as well as its overall financial strength. Sure, Parekh had an M.B.A.–he was Class of 1999 from the prestigious University of Chicago business school–but it wouldn’t be only that training he would draw upon to evaluate the dilemma. In fact, GM’s own foresight made it possible for Parekh to analyze more accurately the risk to his employer: Since working for the car maker, Parekh had been part of GM treasury’s job-rotation program and spent 10 months working in GM’s pension-funding and analysis unit. “It helped me understand the complexities of the problem and ask the right questions to come to the right solution,” he says today. A happy one, it turns out. The team concluded that the supplier, which Parekh declines to identify, was strong enough to survive.

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