Revenge of the Wall Street nerds

There are still plenty of trader CEOs left in finance, even if Wall Street has been overrun by risk managers.

By TheStreet Staff Oct 19, 2012 9:46AM LOGOComstock Images age fotostockBy Antoine Gara


Now that Vikram Pandit is out at Citigroup (C), Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs (GS) and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) are the only pre-crisis CEOs left on a Wall Street that is now dominated by "risk management" types.


Among the nation's five largest investment banks, which also include Morgan Stanley (MS) and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC), Blankfein and Dimon are also the only two big bank heads left who are seen as having cut their teeth in the trenches of Wall Street.


Pandit's suspected ouster now puts Blankfein and Dimon in the position of being the deserved ranking statesmen for risk taking on Wall Street, as chief executives like Brian Moynihan of Bank of America and James Gorman of Morgan Stanley pare back some trading and private equity businesses in favor of more staid operations such as brokerage.


The collapse of Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns in 2008 -- in addition to management transition -- cut loose a generation of CEOs who rose from trading floors to C suites on Wall Street. Replacements now are likely to have a pedigree in legal affairs, with Bank of America's Moynihan as the best example of a legal-eagle CEO. Or they are prone to have experience in less risky banking units, such as Morgan Stanley's Gorman (wealth management) and Pandit's replacement at Citigroup Michael Corbat (commercial banking).


But that's not the whole story.


In fact, there are plenty of trader and banker CEOs left in finance -- it's just that they run firms a step removed from Wall Street and away from the big five banks.


For instance, Larry Fink, the architect of the world's largest asset manager BlackRock (BLK), cut his teeth running the bond department at First Boston as junk debt came en vogue in the 1980's. He was also a pioneer in mortgage trading and bundling up real estate backed debt.


Fink went on to co-found BlackRock in the late 1980s after rising interest rates blew up parts of First Boston's mortgage business and he's since grown the firm into a monolith that holds roughly $3 trillion in client assets and is a key player in most stock and bond markets. Recently, BlackRock bought Barclays Global Investors from British lender Barclays (BCS), in what stands as one of the biggest post-crisis bank deals as some were selling assets to raise capital.


If there's anyone who may be poised to translate time as an executive on Wall Street into success building a more Main Street-focused financial firm, it would be Sean Healey of asset manager Affiliated Managers (AMG).


After cutting his teeth working alongside J.C. Flowers at Goldman Sachs as an adviser helping banks out of the savings & loan crisis, Healey moved on to AMG in 1994. Under Healy's leadership the asset manager's taken minority stakes in secretive hedge funds like AQR Capital Management and BlueMountain Capita and it's recently purchased mutual fund giant Yacktman Asset Management.


The heads of private equity giants KKR (KKR), Apollo Global Management (APO) and The Blackstone Group (BX) all earned their stripes and built buyout skills working in the investment banking units of Wall Street mainstays before breaking out to master the art of the buyout. Now, those firms are snapping up hedge-fund like investment funds, in a push into some businesses now prohibited at Wall Street banks in the wake of the post-crisis regulations.


Meanwhile some CEO's who were at the helm of Wall Street titans at the height of the crisis have moved onto other corners of finance. John Thain, the former Goldman Sachs executive, who led Merrill Lynch's sale to Bank of America in 2008 now runs commercial and middle market lender CIT Group (CIT). Recently, CIT's been speculated as a potential takeover candidate for Wells Fargo (WFC) and it’s also been mentioned as a buyer of parts of Ally Financial.


While Pandit's sudden resignation from Citigroup on Tuesday certainly is a another sign of the changing shape of Wall Street in the wake of the crisis, there are still plenty of financial firms for investors to look at if they want management with a Wall Street pedigree.


For more on investment banking from, see why Goldman Sachs could fall off of the fiscal cliff. Also see why the bank may grow by shrinking. And why Bank of America's CEO should follow Pandit for more on Wall Street management change.


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Oct 19, 2012 9:54AM
it still seems to me that "traders" and "risk managers" are two sides of the same coin.
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