A woman who began her career as a floor clerk on the NYSE trading floor in 1996 will lead the 226-year-old organisation for the first time in its history. Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange Inc, NYSE's parent company, confirmed Stacey Cunningham would replace Thomas Farley as the 67th president of America's biggest and highest-profile US stock exchange from May 25, after The Wall Street Journal first reported her appointment.
Cunningham,43, started working in the NYSE as an intern back in the 1990s. From 1996 to 2005, she worked at the exchange as a floor specialist for Bank of America Securities, becoming one of only a couple dozen women working among more than a thousand men.
“I was a woman trader on the floor and I never thought about it,” she said. “I never thought for a moment whether or not that could happen.”
She later joined Nasdaq, the second-largest exchange in the world by market capitalisation, as an executive only to return to NYSE in 2012 and became NYSE’s chief operating officer in June 2015. During her tenure she managed the company’s cash equities markets, relationship management, product management, and NYSE governance services.
A graduate in B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Lehigh University, Cunningham has been the Head of NYSE Transaction Businesses since March 8, 2017. She served as the Vice President of Relationship Management, Global Sales at NYSE Holdings LLC since December 10, 2012. Also, as the President of NYSE Governance Services at NYSE Holdings LLC. since October 2014.Cunningham also served as Head of Sales & Relationship Management at NYSE, where she managed the sales team for U.S. cash equities and options markets.
Cunningham, who will start her new role on Friday, succeeds Thomas Farley who had run America's best-known stock exchange since 2013. Farley has announced he’s leaving Intercontinental Exchange to lead a new special-purpose acquisition company backed by Dan Loeb’s hedge-fund firm Third Point LLC, the WSJ reported.
In an interview last year with the Financial Times Cunningham said she first "fell in love" with the trading floor during a summer internship while studying engineering at university.
She also celebrated the announcement of her promotion over Twitter. "Since the moment I stepped onto the trading floor, the NYSE has always held a special place in my heart," she wrote on the social media platform. "I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization."
Calling her appointment "a full circle story for me," Cunningham told CNBC she would pursue new types of financial listings and work to reverse the decline of international public offerings. "We absolutely want to see companies continue to access the public markets," she said.
“I’m confident that Stacey, who started as a summer intern on the NYSE floor in 1994, will continue to propel this vital institution forward,” Jeff Sprecher, Chiarman of NYSE Group and the New York Stock Exchange, said in a statement. “Stacey and our team are steadfastly committed to ensuring that the U.S. remains the center of world’s capital markets.”
Cunningham's appointment means two of the world's most prominent stock exchanges NYSE and the technology-focused Nasdaq, will be run by women, as Adena Friedman became chief executive of Nasdaq in January 2017.
The first woman to work on the NYSE floor in 1967 was the late and persistent Muriel Siebert, who in 1967 "was turned down by the first nine men she asked to sponsor her application before a 10th agreed," according to The New York Times.
During a speech earlier this year, Cunningham mentioned inspiration she drew from Siebert. Today, the NYSE Group is still dominated by men. "Of the 21 executives of Intercontinental Exchange Group, NYSE's corporate parent, only four including Cunningham are women” the CNN Money reported.
"We still struggle to get a lot of women into finance, and while we have a lot of senior women in our organization, we still struggle to get the equal ration of women into finance generally," Cunningham said recently on The Street's Alpha Rising.
Last month it was announced that the "Fearless Girl" statue, which has become a global symbol of female business prowess, will be moved from her spot staring down Wall Street's bronze "Charging Bull" to a new home facing the New York Stock Exchange. Coincidence?
Two fearless girls will be staring each other face to face soon.
In the video below you can watch The Street's Tracy Byrnes with the NYSE's top three executives (which at the time included Cunningham) discussing the future of their business. Cunningham discussed her time as a female trader on the NYSE floor.