These women have leaped barriers to enter the upper echelons of finance and influence millions of investors — likely including you.
In 1966, James Brown declared it was a man’s world (or a man’s man’s man’s world, to be precise). Some 50 years later, it still feels an awful lot like a man’s world on Wall Street.
Tune into the financial news media and you’re likely to see men talking about the markets, even though studies show women are better investors. While women actually make up slightly more of the entry-level jobs in finance (51% versus 49% for men), they’re not as well-represented at the managerial level (just 20% of senior vice presidents are women), according to a 2017 study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org.
The numbers are disappointing, to be sure, but several prominent women have leadership roles at some of the world’s largest investment services companies. And the work they do every day directly affects you, whether you’re learning how to invest or are a seasoned market veteran.
We asked these women what they've learned along the way:
Liz Ann Sonders,
senior vice president and chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab. You've seen her on Twitter, with 51,000-plus followers; providing market commentary to Schwab clients; talking about the markets on TV or in print publications; speaking at conferences; winning awards (for instance being named among the most powerful women in finance).
chief market strategist at Prudential. You've seen her in her past roles as a U.S. diplomat and as assistant secretary of Commerce; talking about the markets and the global economy on TV or in print publications; providing a weekly market outlook called “Connecting the Dots”; speaking at conferences.
CEO of TIAA’s Retail Financial Services business. You've seen her helping to lead Bank of America through several acquisitions, including Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust; overseeing the agreement for TIAA’s acquisition of EverBank; winning awards (for instance being named among the most powerful women in finance).
Like many young people, Liz Ann Sonders didn’t know what she wanted to do after graduating from college. So she says she “pounded the pavement” until she landed a job with Martin Zweig, a Wall Street icon of sorts who predicted the 1987 stock market crash.
This role allowed me to do what my passion had always been.Liz Ann Sonders, SVP and chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab
While her very first role wasn’t glamorous (“I basically did whatever needed to be done”), Sonders began attending business school at night. She earned an MBA, with a focus in finance, and was eventually promoted to a senior portfolio manager. She also took the opportunity to learn from her mentor — and found her calling, even if it wouldn’t come calling for several years.
Sonders realized she was more intrigued by top-down analysis (an investing style prioritizing big-picture elements like the economy), but early in her career she focused on bottom-up analysis (picking individual stocks based on their fundamentals). After 12 years, she was recruited to join U.S. Trust, which was acquired by Charles Schwab shortly thereafter. The then-CEO approached Sonders about the chief investment strategist role in 2000.
“It was a no-brainer for me,” Sonders says, adding that she’s long been fascinated by behavioral finance and how it relates to market behavior rather than diving into income statements, balance sheets or studying accounting. “This role allowed me to do what my passion had always been.”
Evolution of Wall Street
Quincy Krosby brings a different perspective to Wall Street, partly because she began her career working far from it. Her career path includes stints as a teacher, numerous positions with the U.S. Department of State and as a U.S. diplomat. Within financial services, Krosby has had jobs ranging from research and sales to her current role as Prudential’s chief market strategist.
I see more and more women in very high-level roles now — everything from investing to trading to marketing to communications.Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential
In her nearly 20 years on Wall Street, Krosby says, the industry has changed dramatically, responding both to the economic climate and shift in financial products. As importantly, the industry has become more inclusive for women.
“I see more and more women in very high-level roles now — everything from investing to trading to marketing to communications,” Krosby says. “Granted, it’s not 50/50, but it’s moving in that direction.”
Krosby says she learned early on that a lot of people don’t survive. “You either love this industry or you hate it; I was very lucky I loved it,” she says. And it’s become increasingly competitive with fewer companies (thanks to takeovers) and lower-priced products.
“There’s so much pressure in the industry and competition, an employer is not going to bring someone onboard just because he’s a good old boy,” Krosby says. “It all comes down to who can deliver the results.”
As a child, Kathie Andrade loved spending time with her father and understanding the inner workings of his family business. The interest sparked at a young age eventually led to her switching degrees in college, from political science to accounting. “This was a decision that served me well,” she says, partly because she could speak the technical language of the business, she says. “That skill meant that I couldn’t be dismissed by male colleagues out of hand, which was something that was pretty common for young women in the financial industry.”
I was charting new territory and it forced me to imagine what could be possible and assume it’s achievable.Kathie Andrade, CEO of TIAA’s Retail Financial Services business
Andrade spent nearly two decades in her early career rising through the ranks at FleetBoston, which was eventually acquired by Bank of America. But beyond any career ambitions, Andrade says her biggest dream was to be a mother. When she was pregnant with her first child and working on a major project, she went to her then-boss and asked to work part-time.
“She looked at me and said, ‘Well, we don’t do that. You’re in a professional role and that is not an option,’” Andrade recalls. Because she was so passionate about this idea — and not ready to take no for an answer — she sought out her boss’s boss, and the two eventually agreed on a plan.
As a result, Andrade had the first job share at the company and began working flex time, while also telecommuting long before it was hip. “I tried every new technology there was,” she says. “They called me the poster child for working moms.”
Striking a balance between her family and career ambitions also became one of Andrade’s motivators. While it set her on a nontraditional career path, she says her decision drove her success, rather than hindering it. “I was charting new territory and it forced me to imagine what could be possible and assume it’s achievable.”
Women on Wall Street — and you
The day-to-day work that Sonders, Krosby and Andrade do has impacted your life, even if you don’t realize it. Whether it’s your understanding of what’s going on in the markets, the investing advice you receive from your financial advisor or the tools you use to manage your finance, these women have played a role.
Andrade’s job is very closely tied to TIAA’s customers. The business unit she oversees has a broad scope, offering customized financial advice, an array of savings and investing tools, and educational resources.
But the reality is many Americans still struggle to balance their needs while saving for retirement many decades down the road — and such perspective is important in this industry. “Every day, we come to work with a focus on how we can support our customers and help them achieve their goals and dreams,” Andrade says.
Krosby uses one word repeatedly to describe the many facets of her job: Watch. And there’s a lot on her watch, including changes in the market (which determine asset allocation or affect specific sectors); the economy and changes in the business cycle; the direction of interest rates; financial conditions; corporate earnings; inflation; and currencies.
Based on these inputs, she’ll write think pieces, speak at conferences and represent Prudential at industry events — all in an effort to share the company’s view on the market. In turn, the view from Krosby and her colleagues helps to inform advisors who sell Prudential products, as well as their clients and potential clients, she says.
Over at Schwab, Sonders is doing much of the same analysis. And given her employer’s brokerage business and advisor services platform, a large focus of her job is educational, she says.
“Mostly what I do, and collectively with my colleagues, is to interpret what’s going on in the world and economy and markets, and educate investors about what it means to them,” Sonders says. “I try to communicate in a manner that everybody can understand.”
Sonders also is a member of Schwab’s asset allocation council, and that group’s decisions provide guidance to advisors working with clients who want a more tactical approach to their asset allocation (how money will be divvied up among various assets). Lately, she spends time addressing audiences of women, with topics ranging from how women invest to careers in the financial industry.
In all aspects of her job, Sonders feels a responsibility to represent the qualities she admires about her employer. “I try to be very fact-based and data-driven,” she says. “I try to be a calm voice of reason.”