Monthly Archives: December 2014

Sallie Krawcheck thought she hated banking until she asked herself a question that led to her to become ‘the most powerful woman on Wall Street’

Sallie Krawcheck spent her 20s looking for the right fit.

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Sallie Krawcheck spent her 20s looking for the right fit.
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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • Sallie Krawcheck spent years as a Wall Street exec, commonly called “the most powerful woman on Wall Street.”
  • But when she got her first investment banking job in her early 20s, she hated it, and even went back to business school to transition into her dream jobs in media.
  • It wasn’t until she asked herself what she loved about media that she could find in banking that she found a place in equity research, which launched her into a series of executive roles on Wall Street.

Sallie Krawcheck spent years being called “the most powerful woman on Wall Street.”

But the former banking exec and current CEO of investing platform Ellevest never meant to rule Wall Street. In fact, when she got her first job in investment banking in her 20s, she hated it.

In an interview with Business Insider’s Richard Feloni for our podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Krawcheck told us, “I immediately wanted to get out. Really, my 20s were just directionless. I knew I didn’t like investment banking. I didn’t get it. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t love the work.”

She loved parts of it, she said, but her dream job was in media. She got her MBA from Columbia University specifically to make the industry leap, and landed a summer internship at Time magazine, “the job of my dreams,” she remembered. She didn’t end up with a job offer from Time, which was “devastating,” she said, but she did get one from Disney, which she was even more excited about. However, she was married at the time and the job was in California, where her then-husband refused to go – so she didn’t take it.

Krawcheck ended up back on Wall Street after business school, “throwing up between orientation sessions because my marriage had fallen apart and I was in a job I didn’t want, and I made the move to business school to switch.”

After a stint as a stay-at-home mom, which she also found wasn’t for her, she did some serious thinking.

Here’s Krawcheck:

“I just didn’t get the two top media jobs I wanted, I don’t like banking, but what did I like about banking, what was I looking for in media? I learned about myself. I love building earnings models. It’s like, I love it. I really like writing, even though it’s hard. I like dealing with smart people. I didn’t like the team ‘Eat what you kill’ dynamic of investment banking.

“So where else can you have those things with a lot of personal responsibility? And equity research is where I went. The timing was spectacular because it was right before that period, which I don’t think we’ll ever see again, when equity-research analysts were sort of the kings of Wall Street.”

She continued: “My 20s were not about becoming senior. My 20s were actually about finding a fit, which I finally did in equity research.”

It turned out that Krawcheck didn’t hate working on Wall Street – she just hadn’t found the right job.

“When that insight came to me that that’s what I wanted to do, it was the scales fell away, and I knew that was a job that I was going to love and I hoped to be successful at,” she said.

The path to career success used to be at big-name firms — but that might no longer be the case

Ellevest cofounder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016.

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Ellevest cofounder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016.
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Noam Galai/Getty Images

  • Sallie Krawcheck is a former Wall Street exec.
  • Now, she is the CEO of the startup she founded, women’s investing platform Ellevest.
  • When asked for her definition of success, she said that it’s “impact” – and that there’s just as much opportunity, if not more, to have an impact at a startup as at a huge company.

After years as “the most powerful woman on Wall Street” holding executive positions at multiple major banks, you could say Sallie Krawcheck knows a lot about success.

And when Business Insider’s Richard Feloni asked her how she personally defines success during an interview for our podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Krawcheck didn’t mention the corner office.

“Success is impact,” she said.

Krawcheck is now the founder and CEO of women’s investing platform Ellevest, worlds away from her roles running huge firms.

“I thought about this a lot,” she said. “After I left Bank of America, I spent the better part of a year trying to decide what was important to me. Success is impact.”

She continued: “I could have gone back to a big company. I could have had a much bigger office. I could’ve been more comfortable on a day-to-day basis.”

But she thinks that the business world has changed in recent years, and there are just as many opportunities for success at a small company or startup as there are at a huge corporation – perhaps even more.

“The great thing about what’s going on in business today is you can have an impact, maybe even a greater impact at a small company, whereas historically it had to be at a big company,” she said. She continued:

“If you have a great idea, you can get it out there for free. For free. You head on to Twitter, head over to Facebook. It doesn’t necessarily have to go viral. By being out there with that idea consistently, and if it’s a good one, people will listen to it, gravitate toward it, and there are many more press outlets as well so that you can find places that are interested in something that may not have been as interesting for a broad audience.

“Combine that with at a startup you can move so much more quickly, so much more quickly than a big company, all of a sudden I can make the argument you can have a greater impact on people’s behavior from a startup than you can from one of the big guys.”