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225 Years of Tar Heels: Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck has held prominent positions as CEO of Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney and Sanford C. Bernstein, as well as CFO of Citigroup.

Sallie Krawcheck
Photo courtesy Sallie Krawcheck

Editor’s note: In honor of the University’s 225th anniversary, we will be sharing profiles throughout the academic year of some of the many Tar Heels who have left their heelprint on the campus, their communities, the state, the nation and the world.

Long labeled ‘the most powerful woman on Wall Street,’ Sallie Krawcheck has held prominent positions as CEO of Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney and Sanford C. Bernstein, as well as CFO of Citigroup. Her quick rise has been attributed to her accessibility, sharp problem-solving skills and ability to read the needs of investors. Fortune magazine once featured her in “In Search Of The Last Honest Analyst.”

She more plainly puts it in a hockey metaphor. “Like Wayne Gretzky,” she says, “I skate to where the puck is going to be.”

Krawcheck aptly followed that instinct when she left Wall Street to throw her hat in the entrepreneurship ring. Thinking beyond the nation’s persistent issue of a gender wage gap, she saw a gender investment gap and founded Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women.

“It was like a lightning bolt of insight for me — the retirement savings crisis is a woman’s crisis. We live longer and retire with two-thirds of money as men do. Once I had that insight, it quickly cascaded into finding a way to solve this problem,” Krawcheck said.

Women are savvy, and they understand investing, she says, there just wasn’t an investment platform that takes into account the particular challenges women face.

“This isn’t ‘for women,’ ‘pink it and shrink it,’ make it smaller,’” Krawcheck told TechCrunch.

For this work, LinkedIn named her one of the Top 20 Voices of 2018 and Ellevest one of 2018’s 50 Most Sought-After Startups, and Vanity Fair put Krawcheck on their 2018 New Establishment List. She has been honored with both UNC General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Young Alumna Award (2003) and its Distinguished Service Medal (2017).

A South Carolina native, Krawcheck came to Carolina on a Morehead-Cain scholarship and graduated in 1987 with a degree in journalism. As part of her scholarship, she interned at Fortune and realized that, if she was going to write about something, she’d better understand it. That learning process led her to a love of finance and an MBA from Columbia Business School in New York.

Krawcheck says the Morehead wasn’t only a factor in her professional success — it was the factor.

“The fact that they were betting on me not only motivated me, but it’s motivated me every single day since. Because they placed a bet on me, they need to get a return on their investment.”