Stacey Cun­ning­ham, Pres­i­dent, NYSE Wa­ter­less Chrome Tan­ning Tech­nol­ogy Spir­i­tual Cor­ner: Science of Karma

India Business Journal - - CONTENTS - STACEY CUN­NING­HAM

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.

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