Sallie Krawcheck has built a career that has reached the top levels of success across a range of functions: as a senior corporate executive, as a research analyst and now as an entrepreneur. Recently named number 9 on Fast Company’s list of the “100 Most Creative People 2014,” she has also been referred to as one of the most successful and influential executives in financial services. From turning around and growing troubled wealth management businesses to eliminating Wall Street conflicts of interest and advocating a true client-centered business model, Fortune Magazine called her “The Last Honest Analyst” during her tenure at Sanford Bernstein. She spent years as the guardian of such brands as Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch and US Trust.
What do you think is keeping more women from moving into positions like yours?
I’ve thought about this a lot and if the answer were a soundbite, we would have solved it. Senior jobs by their nature are few and far between and continue to demand enormous time commitments. I found when my children were younger I made career and personal life tradeoffs that some of my friends were not willing to make. As for workplace hiring/promotion policies, the current policies are well meaning, but many are outdated.
What advantages do you think women bring to finance?
I have read and experienced that diversity yields better financial results such as higher returns on capital, lower earnings volatility, greater client focus, greater innovation, greater long term focus, lower gender pay gap, and lower risk. I worked directly for seven financial services CEOS and served on senior management teams in these industries, and I learned that diverse teams were the most effective because we had greater diversity of thought.
If you came to recruit at Barnard, what advice would you give to someone looking to work in finance?
You are all smart enough; the point of differentiation is how hard you work. There is a positive correlation, not a perfect correlation but a positive correlation between hard work and success. For those people who want to get through: everyday is not going to be great; just keep showing up. There will be years and months that are good and others that are less so. You just can’t fall if this is what you want to do.
Is there anything that you have picked up on about decoding the workplace?
I spent my 20’s as investment banker. That did not work well for me because with investment banking if the team wants to meet on a Saturday, you do it. If a client wants to work on a Sunday afternoon, you do it. On the other hand, I have done equity research, where you have many clients, so no one client “owns” you. That was very output oriented, not input oriented. I wanted to be judged on output, not input, or when I did work . This is an insight that I had to realize later. My main advice to young women interested in this field is that there are different subsets of finance, and pick the one that makes the most sense for how you like to work.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
When I was 30 years old I published my first research report, which predicted that a certain stock was going to go down. However, in 1994, analysts typically did not issue negative reports. It was an important first step in my success because I learned to take risks.