Wall Street CEO Shares The Concept That's Put Him In Executive Seats Again And Again

As CEO of the bond insurer Build America Mutual, Séan McCarthy has spent his career employing some of the most competitive people in American business — it comes with the Wall Street territory.

In an interview with OneWire CEO Skiddy von Stade, McCarthy explained how he had ended up in executive seats through his career and how he managed the competitive people working under him once he was in them.

Early in his career, McCarthy was at E.F. Hutton and Paine Webber working in corporate and public finance. He ultimately went back to E.F. Hutton and became president of the company’s financial security assurance division. He’s been in different executive positions since then.

This is the concept that has helped him get there:

“The first thing, especially on Wall Street, that you have to embrace, is the concept of distinguishing between liking to win and hating to lose,” McCarthy said. “Now what I’ve learned over a long period of time is people who hate to lose are much more effective. Everybody likes to win. But if you hate to lose, you do everything in your power to make sure that experience doesn’t happen too often.”

Of course, you can’t stay in the executive seat unless you know how to manage people. McCarthy has a trick for that.

“As a manager, the trick is to just make sure that you try to get people into the job that they’re naturally good at,” he said. “And surprisingly over a long period of time you find that people gravitate towards something that they’re not naturally good at because it [becomes] too easy for them. So you’ll look at somebody who’s very technical and they will want to be on the sales side … just because what they’re naturally good at comes too easily for them.”

Wall Street is full of people who want to challenge themselves; you want to make sure they’re growing but still doing what most productive for the company. McCarthy calls this building “all-rounders” — you recognise what people are good at but still build on their weaknesses. 

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