Visit the trading floor of any buyside or sellside firm, any exchange or dark pool provider, and you will still see a sea of men. Despite the layoffs and downsizing that plagued the capital markets following the crash of 2008, the number of women in investment and financial services firms has grown slowly but not by enough to see true parity on the trading floor. But while the numbers tell one story, the talent of the women in financial markets tells another. Welcome to Traders’ fourth annual Wall Street Women: A Celebration of Excellence. This issue features the most impressive women in the field of trading, investment and portfolio management in the U.S. capital markets. This may have been a challenging year for firms on Wall Street, but it was a good year for women.
U.S. capital market firms have intelligent women calling the shots, executing trades, brokering deals and overseeing funds as well as leading the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The number of positions occupied by talented women has grown so much that Traders added new categories to our fourth annual Wall Street Women celebration. This year, we added the categories for Woman-Owned Brokerages and Buyside and Sellside Equities Traders. We also revived the Diversity Achievement Award to honor a firm that is doing more for women in financial services in general and on the trading floor in particular.
Although trading and investment remains a male-dominated industry, Traders received a record number of nominations of capable and impressive woman candidates. Our editorial team examined and debated more than 100 nomination essays – nearly double from last year – for our 11 categories. The nominees hailed from a diverse range of investment firms, buyside and sellside broker-dealers, exchanges and dark pools, large Wall Street firms, and smaller boutique investment firms in California and Florida, among other locales. One element that was shared among nearly all of the Wall Street Women nominees was the sheer talent of the candidates. Speaking on behalf of our six judges, this made our job a heady but truly inspirational challenge.
This year, the fourth annual Wall Street Women event was held at the New York Hilton Midtown hotel in Manhattan on the evening of Nov. 5. Our keynote speaker is slated to be Trish Regan, anchor and editor-at-large for Bloomberg TV, who knows plenty about capital markets and the role women play each day. Award recipients and a guest are invited to attend our event to receive their awards, network with past winners and award sponsors, and be interviewed by our editors for a video that will appear on Traders’ website.
This year’s Wall Street Women winners range from industry veterans with more than 40 years in investment firms to relatively junior traders who have made an impact with just a few years on the floor. One winner is a former state treasurer, and another is a former floor runner of a long-gone stock exchange who stayed in the business. More than a few remember the days when computers were housed in the back office and a trader’s desk was littered with paper. Vivian Bakonyi of hedge fund giant BlackRock, winner of this year’s inaugural Equities Trader award, remembers crunching numbers on Lotus 1-2-3 before Microsoft Excel came along; Eleanor Ogden of Morgan Stanley, winner of our Crystal Ladder award, recalls watching the traders and asking for a chance to trade back in the days of paper order slips.
More than a few Wall Street Women winners came into this industry almost by accident. ConvergEx COO and Trailblazer award winner Bea Ordonez left her native England after attending university to live in Bermuda and find jobs that led her to Wall Street. “Working on Wall Street was never part of my plan,” she told Traders. “I didn’t think when I was growing up that I would someday be in New York in the financial services industry.” Mentor of the Year winner Christine Sperry of Citigroup Global Markets credits a family friend whose children she babysat for when she was younger. He was a floor broker and that sparked her interest, she told Traders.
Another shared theme among our Wall Street Women winners is a sheer love for their job. Nearly all of our honorees cited the newness and unpredictable nature of each trading day, the colleagues with whom they share a close camaraderie, and the challenge of an exciting and untamable market. Our winners also advised any young woman thinking about entering the financial markets not to be intimidated or feel outnumbered on the trading floor or in the corner office. As we researched and wrote our profiles for this issue, more than one winner told us that women should not be discouraged or give in to self-doubt.
The 19 winners in our 11 categories were nominated by members of the industry and selected by an independent advisory committee comprised of women in the financial community with decades of experience. Traders is honored to introduce the 2014 winners of the Wall Street Women: A Celebration of Excellence. To our winners, congratulations.
Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
It’s not every investment manager who beats Harvard and Yale, but Alice Handy did just that. This year’s recipient of the Traders Wall Street Women Lifetime Achievement award runs Investure, an investment firm that manages funds for colleges such as Smith, Barnard and Middlebury and assorted private foundations. In 2007, her performance as manager beat that of Harvard’s endowment, and in 2011 she beat both Harvard and Yale by betting against U.S. stocks.
A 40-year veteran, Handy takes it in stride. As founder, CEO and president of Investure, she oversees $12 billion for her Charlottesville, Va., firm’s 14 clients. “That was a one-year headline,” she said.
For someone with Handy’s track record ? she started as a bond trader and portfolio manager at Travelers in 1970 and managed the then-$50 million endowment for the University of Virginia from 1974 to 2004 which was $2 billion when she left, with a brief stint as state treasurer for the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1998 – she likes the size of her business just fine. “We want to be the best, not the biggest. There are constraints on the number of clients we have and the size we can be and still invest nimbly,” she told Traders.
Working for colleges and foundations requires a high touch that includes three meetings a year with the financial committee and one meeting a year with the board of directors. Handy also communicates directly with the CFO on a regular basis. And the colleges and foundations have a long view of investments, so latency and high-frequency trading are not priorities.
“Colleges are a bit more complex because their boards are more passionate and engaged. People have a lot of loyalty to their alma mater, and foundations are passionate about their mission,” she said.
As the granddaughter of a cranberry farmer, Handy knows the value of hard work. Although she never sold Investure as a woman-owned shop, she concedes that it may have helped her to land Smith College as her first client. As for being a woman in a male-dominated world, the mother of three shrugged off any obstacles that came her way.
“When I started out, the barriers were more artificial,” she explained. “There weren’t any women, and so clubs were not open to you and party venues were more male-dominated. There were women who would be told that they would leave and go have a family. I was told that many times, but I just sort of laughed it off and kept going. I don’t think I intended to stay as long as I did, but I did.”
Diversity Achievement Award
ITG’s Chair of the Board Maureen O’Hara put it very succinctly when talking about ITG’s role in promoting diversity.
“We want our women to take over the financial world,” she told Traders, with her tongue held firmly in cheek. “Or at least take over ITG.”
That’s a tall order these days, O’Hara conceded, noting the recent public image problem Wall Street and trading has faced over the last few years. She told Traders that when she teaches her graduate students at Cornell University the women flatly reject a career path in finance.
That’s something ITG’s looks to reverse.
ITG began in earnest to make bold moves towards a more diverse workforce about seven years ago, when O’Hara joined the board and saw previous attempts failed to change the face of ITG. Looking at the firm and with Board approval, she made it her mission to more actively engage women and have a more diverse workforce. She personally takes out the firm’s senior female executives to lunch to brainstorm and how to make ITG a better place for the women who work here.
“We’re not a big company and probably will never grow to the size of some of our competitors, and consequently never have as many women,” O’Hara conceded. “But ITG would like to have more women onboard and have each of them feel that this is the best place to work.”
To that end, ITG is looking not just at general workforce or Wall Street community for talent but to the halls of academia. One of the centerpieces of ITG’s focus on diversity is its Women’s Leadership Conferences, an event started three years ago and takes place once or twice per year. The one day event explores career development both within ITG and externally, promotes exposure to the world of Wall Street equities trading and networking with the industry’s leading female talent. Participants are culled at the junior level in college and must have a minimum GPA of 3.2 and have demonstrated an interest in financial services and leadership.
ITG encourages attendees to shadow its female executives for a day, to get the best view of life on Wall Street and trading, participate and view meetings among the staff and solicit interns for its summer analyst program.
“We’re trying to get women in their junior year of college who might never have thought about a career on Wall Street to see the opportunities we offer at ITG,” O’Hara said.
Aside from the leadership conference, ITG hosts a guest speaker series where female employees can meet upper echelon professional women and discuss topics such as confidence building, networking and mentoring relationships.
The firm also has a summer internship program, culling both males and females to experience working at a Wall Street technology firm. While the program gets as many as 4000 applicants, only 60 or so people make the cut. Last year 50 percent of those applicants were women.
“What we’ve been trying to do, at every level, is give women an opportunity,” O’Hara said. “There are not enough women in our industry and this holds especially true on the technology side. “We want to work to solve that problem.”
For Cristina Dolan, computer science has opened up a wide variety of career opportunities. As co-founder of the Internet service provider OneMain in the early dot-com days, she led her startup to a successful IPO before eventually selling it to EarthLink. In her current job as head of content, marketing and communications products at TradingScreen, she has successfully developed TradeChat for communicating with other users of TradingScreen’s TradeSmart platform.
So when Dolan was approached about developing an event to promote computer science and the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math), she set out to create something that would showcase the spectrum of opportunities computer science can make available.
“I first thought that there are a lot of wonderful hack-athons out there, but at hack-athons no one can really see the work that goes on,” Dolan said. “I wanted an event where people could be motivated by the outcomes, and where people could look onstage and see people standing there with their creations.”
Encouraged by the CEO of TradingScreen Philippe Buhannic and by her alma mater, MIT, Dolan created a code-athon contest called “Dream it. Code it. Win it.” Open to college and high school students, the contest required entrants to do two things: create an application that solved a problem, and create a video telling their project’s story.
“When you solve an interesting problem, it’s engaging because you are talking to people who actually have the problem. It’s creative, and it’s fun, and afterward you feel good about what you’ve done,” Dolan said, adding, “If you solve a problem that people want solved and are willing to pay for, then you have a business.”
The concept must have struck a chord because four of the teams that showcased their applications at the contest ended up starting their own companies.
In total, the contest attracted more than 100 submissions. Through leveraging her contacts from the MIT alumni association as well as from her professional network, Dolan raised funding to award $70,000 in prizes and attracted executives from companies like Google, Yahoo and Forbes to attend the event to hand out prizes. The second annual code-athon is already being planned for April 2015.
In addition to attracting corporate support, Dolan also sought to attract students to computer science who might not have thought of getting a computer science degree. Less than 2 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, she told Traders, and the percentage of women is even lower.
“Computer science isn’t about sitting in corner and coding; it’s a creative discipline,” Dolan said. “The idea is to get a more diverse group of people to look at this in the same way that a painter looks at a palate of colors.”
Sophia Lee’s journey started at the Massachusetts Institution of Technology and the study of mechanical engineering. With a love of numbers and science, her future seemed set as a designer of machines, tools, airplanes, automobiles or capital equipment at the prestigious school. But as she entered her junior year, Lee took law classes as electives and became entranced with the intricacies of the courtroom.
Out of school, Lee did a brief two-year stint as a technology associate at Morgan Stanley. But realizing her passion for engineering was matched by a fascination with the law, she enrolled in New York University’s School of Law to earn a degree. The dual concentration of engineering and law helped launch her career trajectory into the niche world of electronic trading on Wall Street.
“I think what makes me successful is my ability to work well in a team and the creativity I bring to the problem-solving process,” Lee told Traders.
And that ability to solve complex corporate and legal issues started when she joined the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP as an associate. She worked with Judith Thoyer, counsel at the corporate department and former co-head of the mergers and acquisitions group. Lee studied the legal system from the inside out and learned the inner workings of the corporate governance machine. In her three-and-a-half-year stint there, she was recognized by her colleagues as extremely competent and detail-oriented.
Then in June 2000, Lee left Paul, Weiss to join Wall Street at ITG as its associate general counsel. While at the independent agency broker, she learned firsthand about the equities market ? from market structure to electronic trading to the regulatory framework. As ITG and the equity market blossomed, she demonstrated an amazing ability to prioritize and complete a large quantity of legal work in client contracts. In an industry that moved in milliseconds, Lee learned to work in a similar fashion, not just during review processes but also in follow-ups on outstanding matters with colleagues and prospective clients’ legal teams.
From ITG, Lee moved to Liquidnet, this time moving up the ladder as deputy general counsel, where she would stay for 10 years. Being a regular at the market structure debates with securities commissioners globally, where she ensured that the interests of institutional investors were protected, led her to appreciate the responsibilities of being an asset manager and to become a CFA charterholder.
“I decided to pursue the CFA charter because having worked with so many asset managers on issues such as their investment objectives and best execution obligations, I wanted to learn more about securities analysis and to add greater value in my role as legal counsel,” she told Traders.
Now, Lee calls buyside-owned IEX her new home. As its general counsel, she eyes her future right alongside the trading venue.
“As IEX expands and seeks approval to become an exchange,” she said, “I hope to continue to accept new challenges, expand my responsibilities and contribute to IEX’s growth.”
Firm: MORGAN STANLEY INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT
Eleanor Ogden of Morgan Stanley isn’t a grizzled veteran of Wall Street, but she does remember the days when the majority of computers were located in the back offices rather than on trading desks. The vice president of Morgan Stanley Investment Management entered the world of finance right at the start of the electronic revolution that transformed Wall Street and the capital markets. “When we started, we had buy/sell tickets, and today we have electronic trading platforms and dark pools. It’s been interesting to see this progress in the past 15-plus years and the changes that have taken place,” she told Traders.
With an early interest in mathematics and finance, Ogden started work on the bottom rung of the crystal ladder: She was an assistant in the asset management division of Paine Webber, where there was only one other woman working the floor. Ogden served as an assistant to the portfolio managers and calls herself “a pain in the bum” for her persistent questions. “We were always going to the floor, sitting on the trading desks and asking if we could watch what they were doing. Every time a position opened up, I would say, ‘Me, me, can you hire me?”’ she remembered. “After a few years, I got a tap on the shoulder from the head of trading asking, ‘Would you like the job?'”
This was 1996, when the markets were exploding. Computers were entering the trading floor, and firms had installed TVs to broadcast CNBC, where a word from Maria Bartiromo could move the market. Unlike the sleepy markets of 2014, the late 1990s were “quite volatile,” she recalled. “We had over-the-counter stocks that were traded over a basis spread of 25 to 75 cents, not like today where it’s like a penny,” she said. “Things moved fast.”
Ogden moved right along with the time, learning and advancing her career. She recalled serving at a hedge fund where she started her trading day at 2:30 in the morning and ended at 11 pm to follow the global markets. In 2006, she left New York for London and began trading for Morgan Stanley. Her responsibilities include trading European equities for Morgan’s $30 billion fund, where she trades convertible bonds, futures, ETFs and other potential derivative trades on behalf of several portfolio managers in the U.K and U.S. If that were not enough, she is leading project managers on the development and build-out of a new in-house order management system.
What advice would Ogden give young women who are considering the trading career? Follow your passion. “If your passion is finance, there are multiple opportunities in this business,” she said. “Has it changed? Yes, but believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to take risk and embrace opportunities.”
Anything else? “And don’t quit,” said the Long Island native. “A lot of people quit when things get too difficult.”
Entrepreneur of the Year
Helen A. Dietz
Firm: STANFORD INVESTMENT GROUP
Running an investment firm outside of Wall Street or the leafy groves of Connecticut’s hedge fund corridor may not be the norm, but don’t tell that to Helen A. Dietz. This year’s Entrepreneur of the Year for the Traders Wall Street Women awards wouldn’t have it any other way. Working in a 32-year-old boutique investment firm in the heart of Silicon Valley offers her more opportunities than if she worked on the East Coast.
“People give you the benefit of the doubt of trying something new and experimenting with it. And if they trust you, they will allow you to trailblaze the industry,” she told Traders from her Mountain View, Calif., offices, where she leads 15 employees including two traders. “It’s a lot easier to come up with a new idea, and if you have a history of making good decisions,” all the better.
“I don’t think I could have done this in New York,” she said.
Dietz prides herself on her firm’s close relationship with her investors and feels that this is a critical element to her investment approach. “It’s the people, the relationships, and building a better culture for the client and employees,” she said. “Being responsible and respected, and when we have a client we’re invested in them as much as they are invested in us.”
It’s helped her as a wealth manager: “I think the unique thing about Stanford Investment Group is these clients have been with us for so long that they are as much a part of our firm as our employees.”
Dietz joined Stanford Investment Group in 1987, and was named president and CEO in 2005.
According to her nomination essay, which was submitted by a colleague outside of her firm, Dietz is a valued member of her community. “She is a member of the American Funds Advisory Council, has served on Schwab’s Regional Advisory Council and is a member of the Financial Women’s Association. Ms. Dietz has served on the Notre Dame High School Finance and Investment Committee and currently serves on the board of Notre Dame High School in San Jose, Calif.,” her colleague wrote to Traders.
Despite her evident success, Dietz said she has learned more from her occasional setbacks. “I have learned a lot about myself through failure,” she pointed out. “When you’re in a situation that looks like a failure, you have to go with your moral compass and do what’s right and make those hard decisions.
Always follow your moral compass; it will get you through anything. Make the decisions that you can sleep well with at night.”
Entrepreneur of the Year
Firm: BANK OF AMERICA MERRILL LYNCH
As a director in equity derivative sales at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Kim Stolz manages the responsibilities of a demanding job with a certain amount of entrepreneurism.
“Being able to balance your clients’ needs, the firm’s needs and your own needs is obviously a big part of the job, so I think everyone feels that even though it’s a big organization, you are running your own little business within that organization,” she told Traders.
Stolz has quite the drive for someone with multiple goals. After graduating from Wesleyan University, she worked as a model, wrote a memoir about Millennials and their digital lives, served as a correspondent for MTV News, and has been a contributor to CBS News and CNN. Until this summer, she also served as vice president of equity derivatives sales for Citi before joining BAML. As one financial colleague outside of BAML put it, “Kim is a fantastic options salesperson and she covers us as well as anyone. She’s smart in her space and is great at connecting us with the right people at her firm.”
But her entrepreneurial bent doesn’t end there. Two years ago, together with two partners, Stolz opened a bar and restaurant in downtown Manhattan. She also spent the past four years writing a book, an anecdotal memoir of sorts, about her generation’s reliance on smartphones. She undertook both of these pursuits while balancing the demands of her Wall Street career. The experiences, Stolz said, introduced her to new and different types of work-related challenges.
“When you work on Wall Street, you are part of a well-working machine. Learning how to run my own small business was an incredibly difficult, humbling but also rewarding experience,” Stolz said. “I think some of the lessons I learned were certainly helpful and inform everything I do.”
The bar and restaurant, which opened in 2012, was undertaken with a close-knit group of friends and colleagues. In fact, Stolz’ wife, who is a food concierge director and wedding planner, ran the restaurant as its general manager. Day-to-day challenges ranged from predictable issues, like staffing, arranging employee health insurance and number crunching, to preparing for the unexpected, like health inspector visits or a fire in the kitchen.
“These are all things that you constantly have on your plate. You can’t call anyone to help you. It is completely on you to run this, and anything that goes wrong really comes out of your pocket,” Stolz said. “But when you walk into your place and people are enjoying it, and having a good time and enjoying what came out of your creativity for the menu and the atmosphere, it’s very rewarding.”
The restaurant was sold earlier this year, and Stolz’ book, titled “Unfriending My Ex,” was published in June by Scribner. While she still has some readings and press events related to her book, for the moment the former “America’s Next Top Model” contestant’s plate is a little bit more clear and there is certainly relief in that.
“At some point, I am sure I will want to invest or partake in an experience that I can work on while still focusing on my job at Merrill,” Stolz said, “but for the foreseeable future, I want to fully concentrate on my growth and career here at the firm.”
Buyside Equities Trader
When interviewed by Traders last month, Vivian Bakonyi was on maternity leave following the birth of her daughter, Brooke. One would think that a 20-year veteran who has worked for two decades at hedge fund giant BlackRock in its various forms would want a change of scenery. Think again.
Bakonyi serves as a program trader; she trades equities and international and U.S. derivatives for Paul Whitehead’s team. Even after 20 years, she still loves to trade. “I love coming in every day and dealing with the markets and having something different to deal with,” she said. And the people I work with. These are the two factors that make my job a dream job.”
Bakonyi graduated with an economics degree from the University of California at Davis, and she joined the investment wing of Wells Fargo at the moment when electronic trading and the Internet were exploding. Not only does she remember the days before using an order management system, she can recall when Lotus 1-2-3, not Microsoft Excel, was the de facto spreadsheet. “I started out as taking baskets in an archaic format on lists that were printed out,” she said. “Every single name of the S&P 500 would be in the basket and would get that coded into the system, and that’s how we would translate the programs to our brokers.”
The technology has changed since her start at Wells Fargo, which she called a pioneer in program trading, but she still sees some similarities at BlackRock. “We still do things in basket format, but the complexity and the strategies we can employ now are just so much more sophisticated because the technology has evolved so much,” she pointed out.
Bakonyi works as one of 12 traders ? 14 if you count the managers who trade ? for several portfolio managers. She is not tied to one fund but works across different portfolios inside the firm’s San Francisco offices. “I come in every day and pull the trigger,” she said.
Despite believing that women are under-represented in financial services, Bakonyi still thinks they have plenty to offer their investment firms. “We bring a lot to the table, and there are many things that are inherent in a woman’s personality that helps her be a trader,” she said, citing “the ability to multitask, being able to keep calm and have a large view of what is going on in the markets.”
For a young woman thinking about entering the trading world, Bakonyi said she should do a gut check and dive in. “If you have confidence in yourself and not be intimidated that there aren’t as many women in the industry,” she said, “you should go ahead and forge your own path.”
Sellside Equities Trader
Firm: WALLACHBETH CAPITAL
Some come to Wall Street with high-end degrees. Others come to work with drive, persistence and a can-do attitude; that description fits Mary Clark, senior vice president for WallachBeth Capital. The sellside equities trader may work on Wall Street now, but she started her career with a summer job after graduating high school as a runner on the floor of the American Stock Exchange. She thought that the job her sister had arranged for her would be temporary, but soon she was hooked.
“I was running tickets ? taking tickets from the traders and running them up to the booth. That was pretty exciting, a whole new world,” she recalled of her 1998 job. “I went there for more or less a summer position and I stuck with it. I loved it; it was exciting and a lot was going on.”
Clark then served as a wire clerk at the Amex for more than six years and became a member of the stock exchange, where she dealt with clients, took orders and processed trades. Working as a broker at Pegasus Partners soon followed, where she was one of the few women to work on the floor of the exchange. As a WallachBeth colleague wrote when nominating Clark for the Traders Wall Street Women award for Equities Trading, “A strong believer in our model of sourcing liquidity for institutional clients through a competitive bidding process, Mary has passionately embraced every challenge and opportunity she has been given. Her in-depth understanding of the way securities trade allows her to be a trusted advisor to our clients, delivering significant price improvement and best execution for our clients.”
Clark loves her job, and pity any obstacle that stands in her way. “People say, ‘You’re a woman ? how do you deal with it?’ It’s a piece of cake,” she told Traders. “My guys treat me no different than they treat each other.”
The mother of two, who recently moved from her childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn to a home with a backyard in New Jersey, wants to stay at WallachBeth Capital, where she sees even more opportunity. Where will she be in five years? “Here, definitely here,” she told Traders.
And her children are impressed. “I stare at six screens each day. I have a 13-year-old, and when he comes into the office he says, ‘Oh my God, Mom, it looks like you work for the FBI here,” she said. “My 7-year-old daughter says she doesn’t know what’s going on, but that it’s great.”
Excellence in Leadership
To be successful in life, you must follow your passions and make them pay the bills. That’s the philosophy of Laurie Ben-Amo, senior executive vice president and COO at Abel/Noser Corp.
And Ben-Amo has let her passion for accounting lead her along that journey ? all the way from the classrooms at Hofstra University, to several Big 8 accounting firms, and now to Wall Street.
“You have to follow your strengths and let them guide you to a career and not a job,” she told Traders. “I knew I wanted to be an accountant at an early age.”
Her journey began back in 1983 when she worked for Touche Ross in its audit group, part of the financial services division in downtown New York. It was her first real exposure to all things Wall Street and its move toward cutting-edge technology – from wipeboards to mainframe computers and PCs.
“I looked around and said, ‘This is where I want to be.'”
After three years at the Big 8 firm, Ben-Amo moved to the brokerage world with E.F. Hutton. In its commodities accounting group, she learned all she could about automation and the world of finance and trading.
“Something new happened there that helped propel my career,” she remembered. It was there that she acquired a staff, and the fire for the financial services world was really set ablaze.
After a brief four-year hiatus between 1988 and 1992 to raise her family, Ben-Amo returned to the workforce doing some consulting work. She then returned to her first love, accounting, at Bernard Katz & Co., the accountants for her current employer, Abel/Noser. After working with her as an outsider contractor, Abel/Noser lured her away in 1998.
“I was already familiar with Abel/Noser, contributing to their automation and working with their financial group,” she said. “The transition to from outside accountant to controller was a natural fit.”
Once there, she was mentored by Paul Rosenthal, who taught her that hard work and a passion for what one does are the keys to success. It’s a lesson she shares today with her own children.
“If you work hard, you can be recognized,” she remembered Rosenthal telling her. “When you love what you’re doing, it can positively impact everyone around you.”
And that impact has been felt by Ben-Amo herself, who has been able to rise within Abel/Noser’s ranks with hard work and that same passion she first had while attending college.
“It’s something I learned at my first class,” she said, “that accounting is the language of business and it gave me the ability to know business, understand it and love it.”
Excellence in Leadership
Firm: REDI GLOBAL TECHNOLOGIES
It’s literally a tale of rags to riches for Jennifer Nayar, who at the age of 16 left school, entered the workforce and helped her single-parent family make ends meet.
And Nayar never looked back, doing whatever was required of her with the singular focus and tenacity for which she would come to be known. As she told Traders, her ability to meet challenges was forged at an early age.
“Money was a bit tight growing up,” Nayar said. “I had to go to work straight out of high school and wound up at a construction company, running their office.”
And that’s where her journey began ? managing paper workflow and personalities. But thanks to a bit of good timing and her abilities, she landed a job in London at the city’s stock exchange. Back then in the late 1980s, Nayar recalled how even as trading was entering the electronic era, it in many ways remained a man’s world, consequently relegating her to the human resources unit.
“As a female, I couldn’t wear trousers and wasn’t even allowed to walk on the trading floor during business hours ? it was very restrictive,” Nayar said.
So Nayar let her work ethic and tenacity do the talking. She didn’t dwell on whether a particular job was “man’s work” or “women’s work” ? she simply identified areas where she thought she could add value and did it.
“I just tried to do whatever it took to get the job done, which is a philosophy I very much continue to follow. I did not allow myself to get sidetracked by anyone’s prejudices.”
That includes never attending university.
Nayar then moved to client services, utilizing her people skills and learning all she could about the then-new electronic trading systems. After training the very traders who originally shunned her, Nayar moved to product management and then the technology side of the business.
After leaving the London Stock Exchange, Nayar moved to NYFIX, another high-pressure job where she attempted to help wherever she could, obstacles be damned. At NYFIX at the time, business processes and procedures were sorely lacking, with the overall organization suffering as a result. So seeing an opportunity to lead, Nayar worked to help shape the team from the ground up.
“NYFIX was in quite a bit of distress at that time, but there was no point in getting caught up in the drama,” she said. “So instead we focused on finding good, smart people and methodically addressing the tasks at hand, which ultimately helped us right the ship.”
Leading by example and embracing whatever task she is charged with, Nayar just does it. And as REDI Global Technologies’ chief of staff, Nayar remains committed to facing the challenges the newly independent and growing firm faces. While trading continues to evolve and new challenges arrive daily, her approach stays the same – build a solid group, set measurable goals and focus only on what’s important.
As Nayar put it: “I learned long ago that quality people who’ve been empowered to lead make all the difference in the world.”
Mentor of the Year
At Citi, you’ve got not just a co-worker or another senior executive in Christine Sperry, but an advocate as well.
Sperry, a 19 year veteran of Citi Global Markets, got her start on Wall Street 30 years ago the old fashioned way, learning the trading ropes by working with other brokers, listening to the convertible bond traders at First Boston (now Credit Suisse) and learning all she could through observation. The debt instrument was new to the market, like her, and she began her career doing research and sales for the fledgling product.
“I got my start on The Street thanks to a family friend whom I babysat for,” she recalled. “He was a floor broker, and that sparked my interest in finance.”
After First Boston, Sperry moved to Lehman Brothers and entered its formal training program, adding to her knowledge of the capital markets and equity trading. From Lehman, she moved to Salomon Brothers until it was taken over by Citi in 1998.
“This industry is always changing, and I can always learn something new,” Sperry told Traders. And once she got to Citi, Sperry began to mentor women, and some men, as to how to get on the desk, stay on the desk and excel after time on the desk.
Over her career at Citi, she has been mentor and mentored. Sperry credits former senior Citi execs who always left the door open for her, and who would in turn advocate for both noticed and less visible employees. Sperry, like the execs before her, became an advocate herself for Citi’s unnoticed employees.
She knows it takes more than just hard work to get noticed.
Sperry now spends her time mentoring both formally and informally at Citi by chairing several committees, including those charged with hiring. She coaches new applicants to help them get through the daunting interview process, and is also on the firm’s diversity committee. In addition, she informally mentors those outside Citi – both former employees and others.
“People are your assets,” Sperry said. “No matter who you are, if you can take just 15 to 20 minutes a week and reach out to someone, it really can affect someone in a powerful and important way.”
Mentor of the Year
Firm: OHIO PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM
When Joan Stack was a young girl, her mother told her three things: “You can be anything you want to be, education is the key to all things, and help your little sisters.”
It is the last statement that continues to resonate with Stack, helping her fellow sisters (and brothers, too) excel on Wall Street and in financial services. While Stack’s start as a mentor began with her oversight of her three sisters, it continues to this day as she sits on the trading desk of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS).
“You could say that I got my leadership training taking care of my sisters,” Stack told Traders. “So many people have helped me along my way that I’m compelled to turn around and help others.”
OPERS, where Stack has spent the last 11 years, is the 11th-largest public pension fund in the U.S., with $35 billion in total public equity assets under management As such, roughly one in every 13 people in the Buckeye State relies on her and her desk to make the best trading decisions as possible.
So how did she get her start?
It came from her father, a CPA, who handed her a copy of Barron’s in the seventh grade. After reading an Alan Abelson column, she was fascinated with business; that led her to attend Mount Holyoke College, majoring in economics. While there, she saw firsthand women helping women with the goal of advancing in a man’s world.
Upon graduating, she joined Manufacturers Hanover Trust, where she worked as a portfolio manager’s assistant, learning the business from the ground up. But her big break came in 1978 when she joined Bankers Trust. There, she began trading as an assistant on the municipal bond desk but soon caught the attention of Jack Guilfoyle, who ran the equity desk and was short-staffed.
“Jack asked the head of the bond department if I could come over and join him,” Stack remembered. “I can’t tell you how excited I was. It was a dream come true.”
Stack credits Guilfoyle with teaching her the market firsthand, showing her the business of trading that no book could ever do. She said he was always positive and saw the good in people. If a trade was bad, he’d tell her to forget it and move on. She’d stay with Bankers Trust for 15 years and moved steadily up the ranks.
Now at OPERS, Stack carries on her mother’s and Guilfoyle’s legacy, taking junior staffers (men and women) under her wing and helping them learn about trading in the current market structure. And she has enjoyed it. Immensely.
“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone you know who came from the back office and is now shining as a trader,” Stack said. “It’s a really good feeling.”
Firm: COMMUNITY CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
Michelle Rogers has worked in fixed income for roughly 17 years, but 10 years ago she moved to a fixed income firm with a different kind of approach. Based in Weston, Fla., Community Capital Management is an institutional fixed income manager and registered investment advisor that focuses on impact investing – making investments that are intended to generate social or environmental impact along with financial returns. The new approach suited her.
“It’s more exciting because I’m actually researching things that impact people. Instead of just saying this is a fair price for this bond, I get to say, ‘Can we work with this municipality that was hit by Hurricane Sandy” for example,” she told Traders. “It requires a lot more innovativeness, so for me it is something additional.”
Just as the new responsibilities suited her, Rogers was well suited to them as well. Beginning as a trader in 2003, Rogers was promoted to senior portfolio manager in 2010. She is responsible for client portfolio management and for overseeing and managing trading functions for all the firm’s products. She is also involved in portfolio research and new business development, and sits on the firm’s board of directors as well as the firm’s investment management and trading committee, and valuation committee.
Deciding which projects to invest in can involve a lot of research, and selected projects undergo extensive screening. In addition to credit analysis and yield analysis, projects are weighed against a set of criteria to ensure that they will be impactful. In some cases, the firm will work with the project receiving investment to try to find extra ways to increase the investment’s impact.
With a public housing project, for example, we may do some underlying research or work with the housing authority to get what we call bells and whistles included with the property,” she said. “That could be computer training or job placement services or something like that attached with it to try to help stop the cycle of poverty and get people out of public housing.”
The firm’s marketing department often tracks the progress of projects that have been beneficiaries of impact investing, and in some cases Rogers has had the opportunity to take property tours to witness an investment’s impact first-hand.
Investors benefit as well, according to Rogers. With a lot of impact investing going toward projects that have some form of government subsidy, investment portfolios have a good credit quality while generating market rates of return.
“I think there’s a common misperception that you can’t make responsible investment choices and get market rates of return,” she said, “but you can and we’re here to prove it.”
Firm: ROYAL BANK OF CANADA CAPITAL MARKETS
When Jennifer Hadiaris starts working at RBC nine years ago, she was a business analyst on the cash equity trading desk, working for Bobby Grubert, head of U.S. Equities.
“I started at RBC in 2005, and working with a supportive mentor like Bobby was the best introduction to the business I could have had,” she said. “I was fortunate to work with the cash team as RBC was expanding. Seeing the business strategy adapt and market share grow was exciting, and I learned so much,”
But five years later, when RBC started a market structure team in 2010, it represented a very different type of opportunity, and Hadiaris raised her hand.
“It might not seem like a natural transition to market structure from the strategy side of the business, but RBC’s culture recognizes the value diverse backgrounds add. By sitting on the strategy side, you could see how the equity business was impacted,” she said. “I remember seeing our exchange fees go up year over year. You could really start to see how market structure issues, like maker-taker models, impact the trading business.”
As it turns out, her move has given Hadiaris a front-row seat in examining market structure during a period when not only has market structure been shifting but market structure debate has taken center stage, attracting interest beyond traditional Wall Street circles including the mainstream press. Initially, the market structure team was under electronic trading. Another mentor for Hadiaris was RBC’s then-head of electronic trading, Brad Katsuyama, founder of IEX, who has himself emerged as a prominent figure in market structure debate.
“While market structure is something we and our clients have been focused on for several years, it has been exciting being part of this at a time when people have been proactive about wanting to enact change in the market. I think the public dialog gets the market to a better place,” she said.
Joining the market structure group at its inception in 2010, Hadiaris became head of U.S. market structure in 2013. Having started in an internally focused role in equities research, she enjoys the client-facing aspect of her current role, which has allowed her to meet with clients representing a broad range of companies and responsibilities, including portfolio managers, corporate clients, issuers and analysts.
Moving forward, Hadiaris sees a broadening of the market structure debate into new assets and new markets.
“I know a lot of the conversation has been about U.S. market structure, so we remain focused on the U.S., but we have also worked in the past year to expand the team globally and coordinate our content in other regions,” she said. “A lot of our clients are global and multi-asset in nature, so the same issues they are experiencing in the equities market, they are experiencing in other countries and other asset classes.”
The secret to Bea Ordonez’s success is simple – stay relevant. Do whatever needs to be done, adapt to whatever change occurs around you or get left behind. It’s as simple as that.
And when it comes to adaptation, Ordonez has moved throughout her career to new places and challenges. Literally. She grew up in London, England and wanted to be a lawyer – a far cry from algorithms, accounting and Wall Street. Her journey would take her across the Atlantic with several stops before ending in Manhattan.
“Working on Wall Street was never part of my plan,” she told Traders. “I didn’t think when I was growing up that I would someday be in New York in the financial services industry.”
Upon graduating from the University of Nottingham, Ordonez became a tax accountant at Arthur Andersen and spent almost two years at the prestigious firm. Intrigued by the mergers-and-acquisitions craze that enveloped the financial word during the mid- to late ’90s, she moved to rival PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she also spent nearly two years before the road came calling.
“It was here that my career made a hard right turn,” Ordonez recalled. “I had had enough of London and wanted to go work overseas, spend time there, do something and then return to London.”
She wound up in Bermuda. It was 1998.
Her search ended when she was hired as CFO of G-Trade, then a unit of Credit Lyonnais. The days were long, and learning the business was tough.
“It was extremely hard work building a business,” she said. “But I was part of something completely different and new, and that was what made it exciting.”
G-Trade was sold to The Bank of New York in 2002. Later, she relocated to Orlando, Fla., where she oversaw the firm’s move to consolidate operations globally. With a small group of people, she built an entire global operations headquarters from the ground up – hiring talent, overseeing technology build-outs and training staff. The firm would eventually become ConvergEx in 2006, and later she would be appointed COO based out of the global brokerage’s New York corporate headquarters.
“This was challenging, but a lot of fun,” she reminisced.
Then in 2011, she moved yet again, but back to her big-city roots – New York. As her leadership role expanded from tactical to strategic, Ordonez had to be closer to senior management. Her love of Wall Street and business grew, only to be rivaled by her love of the Big Apple.
So where does she see herself in the next three to five years? Ordonez is uncertain as she told Traders she doesn’t have a master plan, but she is certain she’s moving in the right direction.
“If you’re not growing or driving in new directions, you get left behind,” she said. “Each day presents new challenges, and I try to learn something new every day ? only then will you remain relevant.”
Firm: FEDERATED INVESTORS
Jennifer Setzenfand, a senior equity trader at Federated Investments, is a second-generation trader. Her father, Dennis Green, spent 38 years in the Nasdaq/OTC world, running desks in Cleveland, Chicago and Baltimore.
It was in the blood.
Besides a passion for trading, the father-daughter act also shares one other career similarity: both were chairman of the Security Traders Association. Her father held that distinction in 1990 while she held it in 2012.
An initial interest in photography at college soon gave way to an affinity for economics and business. Setzenfand graduated in 1995 with a degree in finance from Ohio University.
After an internship as a runner on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Setzenfand confided to her father that she was interested in trading and wanted to take the next step. She decided to look for a job in trading after graduation.
Even today, that fascination for trading early on still holds true as continues her journey.
“My ability to be a trailblazer is not totally of my own credit,” She told Traders. “I believe that some women make their way with sheer determination, hard work, and their own will power. Others, like me, rely heavily on the support of amazing mentors, bosses, family and friends.”
Setzenfand’s first job out of college was at Nasdaq market maker Mayer & Schweitzer in Chicago. There, she worked as a desk assistant for veteran trader Tom DeCarlo. She would learn trading from the ground up-most importantly, the meaning of the bid-ask spread. Her mentor Allison Stifel showed her the ropes and soon thereafter, her pad.
“I have a long history of working for amazing women, from Allison Stifel at Mayer and Schweitzer, where I started my career, to Diane Startari, the current Head of Global Equity Trading here at Federated today,” she said.
Setzenfand has heeded her father’s advice throughout her career, and one particular bit of counsel helped bring her to Federated Investors. “My dad told me that I should look to go to the buyside,” she explained, because it would allow her to trade more instruments.
Besides equities, Setzenfand now trades structured notes, convertibles, options and futures. She finds that diversity stimulating.
Adaptability is what makes a good trader, she pointed out, and knowing when to use an electronic tool or human intervention can be crucial.
“It makes the journey much easier to have the support of great women. With that being said I think that my ability to succeed has been based on a willingness to accept help and ask for it when needed. As we all know, relationships are everything in this business.”
Firm: DIVINE CAPITAL MARKETS
The early days of the institutional broker-dealer Divine Capital Markets is a good example of how timing isn’t everything. Founder and CEO Danielle Hughes and a partner launched the firm right around 1999 as the dot-com bubble was bursting. Hughes then bought out her partner on Sept. 9, 2001, two days before the terrorist attacks that had a major impact on the country and the financial markets in particular. Despite these circumstances, the firm continued on.
“I attribute our survival to the wonderful people I work with and also to being in a business that’s extremely volatile to begin with,” Hughes told Traders. You just learn to roll with the punches.”
The firm’s resilience might also have to do with its niche as an independent firm with a horizontal management structure that enables clients to form deep relationships with many members of the team. Divine Capital Markets’ independence, in fact, may have helped it weather some of the mistrust directed toward the financial industry following the financial crisis of 2008.
“We really are independent. We are not beholden to any big firm that we have to sell products to, so I think that independence has given us the ability to see things in a unique way,” Hughes said. “We are also extremely entrepreneurial as a group and individually.”
With a team of 25 divided into four different businesses – trading, investment banking, wealth management and research – the firm employs a horizontal management structure through which team members in each of the firm’s different divisions are equals, and clients have working relationships with the whole team.
“There isn’t one person covering each account. We very much approach our clients as a team – and that’s investment banking clients, institutional clients as well as wealth management clients. Each one of us has a different skill set or way of seeing things that we bring to bear in most relationships,” Hughes explained. “What doesn’t work for me and what doesn’t work for my team is having one person whose skill set is more valued than others. In working as a team, you have to support each other, and having a holistic approach in that sense is extremely valuable.”
Hughes said that the horizontal approach extends to empowering clients as well.
“We are very much taught in financial services that these people know more than you because they are in finance. That is something we are out to change,” Hughes said. “Instead of we know more than you, you can figure it out. You can understand what the financial marketplace is all about without being employed by a big bank.”
Firm: TELSEY ADVISORY GROUP
Dana Telsey knew from the very beginning that she wanted to work on Wall Street – and someday carve her name into the bedrock that forms the very foundation of its firms.
Telsey met Ron Baron, a family friend and chief executive of Baron Capital, when she was 13 and learned that she shared his passion for finance. It was then that a mentor-student relationship began, and thus, Telsey’s journey.
In 1982, Baron took on Telsey as a summer intern, and she learned the value of consumer retail research firsthand. Upon completing college, she joined the firm full-time in 1984. Telsey left Baron in 1991 and joined brokerage C.J. Lawrence, where she applied her knowledge of research and analysis on the sellside. After three years, she joined Bear Stearns, where she could take advantage of the firm’s major investment-bank presence and gravitas.
Over 12 years, she grew the Bear research team from one analyst to 18 people. But noticing the big brokers’ shift toward execution and away from research, she left in 2006 and founded Telsey Advisory Group.
“There is always something more you can do for the client,” Telsey told Traders. “When I left Bear to start my firm, I wanted to be the best and focus on fulfilling all of my clients’ needs and desires. With my team, I can now do this.”
Starting with just four people in 2006, Telsey has grown the firm to 70 people and its research coverage from 38 companies to 145. She expanded the firm with a nine-person trading desk, and it is now a registered broker-dealer that also provides investment-banking services.
“We provide high-touch and high service in the small and mid-cap space, and that is something I am very proud of,” she said. “I’ve always had a passion and love for what I do. It’s exciting to be in control of your own destiny.”
And that she is. Telsey continues to be hyper-engaged in building her team, offering the highest caliber of service and rewarding her staff. For her, continuing to evolve and be the premier research boutique is a never-ending task.
“There is always more to do,” she said.