Leaning in seems to come naturally to Sallie Krawcheck, who led the wealth management units of Citi Smith Barney and Bank of America-Merrill Lynch before starting a group of female professionals, Ellevate Network, and its associated firm, Ellevate Asset Management – both of which she now chairs.
When she was new to her job as a research analyst at Sanford Bernstein (back in the 1990s), Krawcheck was told “that Wall Street was the only industry in the world in which one could become wealthy by simply being mediocre and essentially hiding in the pack,” she explained recently in a blog.
Krawcheck had just drafted a critical, bearish report on AIG. What to do?
“I can’t really articulate why, but I published that negative research without changing a single word. It wasn’t really that I was so sure the research was right; after all, I was brand new to the industry. But I do remember reminding myself that American General wasn’t my client,” she wrote. “Instead my clients were the masses of faceless investors out there, most of whom I would never meet. And my job was to give them the best advice I could […], even if it was advice they might not want to hear.”
Her research was spot on, and Krawcheck’s Wall Street career took off. “With this insight, as I moved into a leadership position, our strategy at Bernstein evolved to one that fully focused on the investing client, and that eradicated conflicts of interest,” she stated.
The experience taught the budding executive that “staying in the pack might have been the safe play, but it wasn’t the right play,” Krawcheck added.
These days, the Wall Street veteran is adamant about the importance of women in management and for the long-term health of the financial industry. “What if I told you there’s a potential client base that holds a majority of wealth in this country, represents 45% of U.S. millionaires and will inherit 70% of the $41 trillion that enters generational wealth transfer over the next 40 years?” she told an audience of investment management consultants earlier this year
“Women are […] underserved,” Krawcheck said. The industry is “going to have to think differently if we want to attract and approach and engage with this enormous market.” (According to Ellevate Network and Pax Ellevate, women control about $20 trillion in investment dollars and represent some 9% of the world’s billionaires.)
Krawcheck doesn’t shy away from reminding executive across a variety of industries that they need to focus on this untapped market and this untapped source of talent – and they need to do it with respect.