Stacey Cunningham, President, NYSE Waterless Chrome Tanning Technology Spiritual Corner: Science of Karma
For the first time in its 226-year history, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is being led by a woman. Stacey Cunningham, who started her career as a floor clerk on the NYSE trading floor, took charge as the 67th president of the Big Board in May this year.
With Ms Cunningham's appointment to the top job at NYSE, two of the world's most well-known exchanges are being led by women. Adena Friedman became CEO of Nasdaq in early 2017. Ms Cunningham, who was until this appointment the chief operating officer (COO) of the NYSE Group, has replaced Thomas Farley, who quit the exchange to head a special purpose vehicle.
"It just took one day. One day to change my career path. The moment I walked into that building (NYSE) and onto the floor, I just knew it was the place that I belonged at that time," recalls Ms Cunningham. The 43-yearold NYSE chief first worked at the NYSE as an intern in the summer of 1994 while she was studying industrial engineering at Lehigh University. Two years later, she started working on the NYSE floor, becoming one of only a couple of dozen women working among more than a thousand men.
But as the world increasingly embraced technology, Ms Cunningham became frustrated with the slow pace of change on the NYSE floor. So, in 2005, she left, taking a culinary leave and enrolling in a nine-month cooking programme that required her to spend six weeks working in a professional kitchen. Her time on the trading floor seemed to have prepared her well for the high-pressure environment of the kitchen.
After time off, Ms Cunningham came back to the trading floor in 2007, this time joining NYSE rival Nasdaq. She rejoined the NYSE at the end of 2012, and within a year, she was promoted to head of sales and relationship management. Within three years, she became the COO of NYSE.
The NYSE new chief is no stranger to the gender issues that used to define the industry. She recalls that when she interned at the NYSE, the women's bathroom was in a converted phone booth, while the men
had a "palatial" room with couches, amenities and a full-time attendant. However, hurdles notwithstanding, Ms Cunningham made herself comfortable in all the male-dominated environments, be it the engineering school, the trading floor or the professional kitchen.
As in life, in career too, Ms Cunningham displayed a similar talent of overcoming challenges with ease. As the COO of NYSE, she successfully managed equities, equities derivatives and ETF businesses, distinguishing herself as a customer-focused leader in the industry.
Multitasking appears to come naturally to Ms Cunningham. "I can listen to three conversations, not be following them, but it is almost like my mind records them and plays them back," adds the NYSE president. This multitasking skill of Ms Cunningham will come in handy as she prepares NYSE to battle it out in the highly-competitive world of stock exchanges.