ach week we present an influential woman whose career and style has inspired the Silkarmour team to aim higher and dress better. This week’s Silkarmour woman is Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevate Network.
Krawcheck once reported to seven financial-services CEOs – more than anyone else on the planet – but surprisingly, she doesn’t believe that leadership is innate. Rather it’s something that is crafted off the back of “thousands of micro-lessons over long periods of time”. Before her mission to champion gender equality with her women’s network, Ellevate, Krawcheck started her business career as an equity analyst covering the Wall Street firms; rapidly progressing to Director of Research and eventually chairman and CEO of sell-side research firm Sandford C. Bernstein & Co. It was in 2007 however that she was instated as Citigroup’s CEO, having previously held the role of CFO since 2004 and later transitioning to head of Global Wealth & Investment Management for Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, commanding a total profit of $3.1billion in just two years.
But Fortune’s ‘Last Honest Analyst’ isn’t celebrated because of her long track record of impressive titles. Krawcheck was – and still is – a rare friendly face within finance, with a stellar reputation built on her unwavering sense of integrity. When it was an analyst’s job to smooch and pout to banks back in the days that kindled the Financial Crisis, Sanford C, Berstine & Co. had been doing independent stock research for thousands of institutional clients without any ties to investment banking. Krawcheck endured her role as the continuous bearer of bad news by separating her emotions from her work and the opinions of others. She relied on her ability to know what to do and executed her decisions “quickly and unemotionally”, all whilst learning something from the situation, as well as admitting that the public scrutiny of her role was tough, citing that at times, she had “nowhere to hide”.
Building a reputation on honesty and number crunching has paid off as her latest venture brings women into the spotlight. Krawcheck acquired 85 Broads Unlimited in 2013, turning what was once a ‘global membership community’ into Ellevate, a women’s career network. In turn, her plan for Ellevate is to produce Ellevest - a firm that will invest in companies with a significant number of women in high positions. “For most of my career, I tried to avoid the topic of being a woman in business, vaguely concerned that…it would hold me back in some way,” she wrote on her LinkedIn page. “but…the research and business case for the economic advancement of women is so compelling, in a world deeply in need of greater economic prosperity.” Now with 34,000 members and a hinted revenue jump of over 100%, Krawcheck’s decision to purchase 85 Broads with an open mind has paid off.
Ellevest is unlike anything else out there because Krawcheck wants to re-brand the gender gap as an investment gap and reiterates that women need “an investing experience built specifically for them.” She champions women in what can be argued as the ultimate boys-club but only off the back of years of experience in the boxing ring herself. Considering that Ellevest has raised $10m in Series-A funding from a campaign that is less than a year old, there’s little doubt that Krawcheck can’t throw her own punches.
Career golden nuggets
Be adaptable – “Careers can be built along an array of different paths, depending on one's interests and skills”
Know what you want – “Practice the ask and do not apologize for your request”
Network - “Your next business opportunity is much more likely to come from a loose connection than a close connection. It's someone who you see twice a year, you run into them at this work event, or you have this quick drink with him."
Re-define success – “Get past the mourning for the comfortable hierarchy, the big office, the heavy-stock, cream-colored stationery, the sense of understanding the “rules of the game,” and the singular view of what success looks like.”
Pick yourself up and try again – “To successfully navigate a world in flux, you have to embrace a certain intellectual discomfort and a willingness to fail.”