In case you haven’t noticed, two of the most powerful women on Wall Street working on two different sides of the Atlantic could soon be out of a job.
The two women are JP Morgan’s Blythe Masters, the New York City-based head of JP Morgan’s commodities unit, and Geraldine Sundstrom the emerging markets chief at European hedge fund behemoth Brevan Howard.
Masters, an economist, is widely credited with creating the credit default swap, and was the youngest woman to become a managing director at the bank at age 28. She could leave the bank entirely when her unit is sold due to regulatory concerns surrounding the banks’ ownership of physical commodities.
That ownership is a development that only transpired in the five years since the financial crisis, when banks were in a regulatory limbo that allowed JP Morgan to pick up commodities businesses from failing banks at fire sale prices. Now that the dust is settling, the Fed is requiring banks that have retail businesses to sell these assets, and JP Morgan is complying.
JP Morgan is currently in discussions to sell the business to Mercuria Energy Group Limited.
A JP Morgan spokesman declined to comment on what that would mean for Masters, though Bloomberg reports that she likely won’t join Mercuria.
What seems clear is that Masters’ future is uncertain. Over the last week she joined and then quit a Commodities Futures Trading Commission advisory group, if that’s any indication.
In Europe, Geraldine Sundstrom is leaving Brevan Howard as the hedge fund shuts down its emerging markets fund after a dismal year of losses. This summer, when the fund was down 11%, Bloomberg reported that Brevan Howard had no plans to close the unit. With Sundstrom at the helm, it had made money in 2008 when everything else was bleak.
But Bloomberg also reported that Brevan Howard’s master fund, with nearly $US28 billion in assets, has never recorded an annual loss since starting in 2003. So Sundstrom’s 15% loss on her $US2 billion fund this year is simply not in Brevan Howard’s DNA.
Wall Street should worry about all this. Aside from having two brilliant bankers on the loose (try competing with Blythe Masters for a job, I dare you), taking women out of the boardroom can turn it into an echo chamber.
Companies do not innovate having the same kinds of people spew out the same kinds of ideas from the same perspective. Diversity is a challenge, and the best ideas are ones that can take a test and pass — that are challenged and proven.
Former Bank of America executive Sallie Krawcheck said as much in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Stephanie Ruhle today. She says that women in corporate America haven’t gone sideways, they’ve gone backwards.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Krawcheck. “What I’ve seen a lot of is, ‘I gotta have this person in this job because it’s so important.’ And what we find and the research shows when we’re under periods of stress, that person who you feel like, I see how that person can do the job, is typically someone who looks like you.”
We’ll be watching very closely to see where these ladies land.
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