When it comes to the life experiences that shaped her, Sallie Krawcheck remembers her middle school years in South Carolina. She was a quirky kid, she said, with braces, corrective shoes and a “bad Dorothy Hamill haircut.”
“Nothing is tougher than a clique of middle school girls, but I had no choice [but] to keep going back to school every day,” she said. “I simply refused to give up.” She replayed that determination time and again during her years on male-dominated Wall Street, first as a research analyst and later as CEO of investment titans Sanford C. Bernstein (now Alliance Bernstein), Citi Wealth Management and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and US Trust.
When she left Merrill Lynch in 2011, Krawcheck had offers to turn around broken firms. Instead, she decided to do something different: put more money in the hands of women, bucking a Wall Street mindset that had mostly ignored them. More money in women’s hands, she believes, not only benefits them but also their family, their community and the economy as a whole.
To that end, in 2014 she founded mutual fund Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund to invest in companies that have a strong commitment to women. In 2015 she co-founded Ellevest, a financial platform exclusively for women.
“Ellevest was a passion project,” she said. “Once I recognized how women were losing out so much by not investing as men did … I couldn’t unsee it.”
Today Ellevest has $1.5 billion under management and a social following of 3 million-plus. Some 650,000 women use the platform, according to Krawcheck, for investing, coaching or education. All of the company’s financial planners and advisers are women, offering not only investment services but financial coaching and workshops. The company has raised $153 million, including a $53 million series B round in April that was two-thirds funded by women and other underrepresented groups.
Named the seventh-most-powerful woman in the world by Forbes during her days at Citigroup, Krawcheck now gets accolades for her entrepreneurial accomplishments, including from CNBC as a top disrupter, from Fast Company as one of the 100 most innovative founders and from Inc. as a top female founder.
TITLE: CEO and co-founder, Ellevest
SHINING A LIGHT: Krawcheck regularly mentors young women either already in a career in finance or pursuing one. These days, it’s more one-on-one. “I do a ton of mentoring,” she said. “I think of myself as a den mother.”
WORDS OF WISDOM: Hard work, Krawcheck says, is the ticket to success. “You have to be intelligent and savvy enough, but hard work and success are still pretty correlated. Also, being a contrarian, looking to see things others don’t see, is even more highly correlated with success.”
WHAT’S NEXT: “Next time we talk, I hope it’s right after I’ve rung the bell at the New York Stock Exchange when Ellevest goes public,” she said.
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