Sallie Krawcheck, the former head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch global wealth, spoke at the annual meeting of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Wall Street’s largest trade group, and she did not hold back. Krawcheck, once called the most powerful woman on Wall Street, was wearing “black boots and a long silver necklace that resembled a large bicycle lock, she provided a striking bit of flair that contrasted starkly with the dark suits and receding hairlines that characterized much of her audience,” according to Crain’s. But Sallie, who was ousted from her job in September, was used to often being the only woman in the room and that is one of the main topics she focused on during her interview with Charlie Rose.
Krawcheck said the lack of female advisers was one of the biggest challenges for the wealth management industry. Women make up 16 to 17% of advisers in the industry today, she said. In senior management positions, that number is smaller – about 15% ”Our industry does not do a great job for women,” she said at the conference. “We do have large groups of people – women – who are underserved by our business.” Krawcheck, who has been on Wall Street since the 1980s, said this disappointment in progress hit her very hard the week before when she talking to women at Harvard Business School. “I kept wanting to say, ‘I’m sorry—I feel sort of sad that, when I was your age I really wouldn’t have thought that 25 years on, that we wouldn’t have made more progress than we’ve made.’ ”
Krawcheck’s departure has now made women on Wall Street in leadership positions an even rarer breed. In the U.S., women account for only 2.7% of the chief executives in the financial industry, and 16.8% of the executive officers, according to a study by Catalyst. That number has decreased slightly today with Krawcheck’s exit. Since the financial crisis in 2008, women at the top have been taking a lot of falls: Erin Callan, the chief financial officer at Lehman Brothers, left months before the investment bank filed for bankruptcy. Zoe Cruz, the co-president of Morgan Stanley, was ousted in a management shake-up in late 2007. Terri Dial lasted just a year as chief executive of Citigroup’s consumer business in North America. And Heidi Miller, the head of JPMorgan Chase’s international efforts who was once viewed as a potential successor to the chief executive, Jamie Dimon, is set to depart the company early next year.
Krawcheck went on to say that diversity, not just gender diversity, but bringing in people with different backgrounds into the wealth management industry is key. “Putting in someone who’s diverse, has a diverse background,a different background, feels like always it’s a risk, so better go with people you’re comfortable with and know rather than take a chance,” she explained. “If we’re going to move forward in a very complex economy and industry you’re going to have to make sure you’re getting a broad range—not of gender, I’m not saying that—but a broad range of perspectives in order to navigate through.”
Krawcheck didn’t talk about what her next career move would be during the interview, she is not expected to have a problem. “She has played in the big league at several firms [such as Bank of America, Citibank-Smith Barney and Sanford Bernstein] and shows women that it can be done,” Raymond James COO Chet Helck said during the firm’s recent Women’s Symposium. Female advisors agree. “I heard her speak at a conference after she’d joined BofA from Citi,” said Raymond James advisor Sacha Millstone of Boulder, Colo. “The women at the event from Citi gave her a standing ovation. That showed me that those who work for her are very devoted to her. She is a total star.” Raymond James is making an effort to increase women advisors and executives at all levels.