Meet the 1st Black Woman to Head a Publicly Traded Financial Institution

Heading two Wall Street organizations, this CEO continues to drive the top and bottom lines

suzanne shankLess than four months after becoming perhaps the first African American woman to head a publicly traded financial services institution, Suzanne Shank continues to prove why she’s a Woman of Power.

As acting CEO of Siebert Financial Corporation (a broker/dealer institutional investment bank founded by Wall Street legend Muriel Seibert) and  CEO of Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. LLC (No. 2 in tax-exempt securities with $7.09 billion in lead issues on the BE Investment Banks list), Shank splits her time between the two businesses.

“I took over [Siebert Financial] in mid- to late September and most of my time has been focused on basic cost containment measures,” says Shank, who will be featured in BLACK ENTERPRISE Magazine’s Women of Power issue in February. “We really took a hard look at the operations inside out and really instituted a number of savings, consolidating some offices and some very technical things.”

In addition, Shank is looking to grow Siebert Financial. “We are working on some strategic initiatives going forward and my focus this year will be trying to expand the business,” she says. “We have about 40,000 retail accounts and they’re constantly looking for products. Those customers have about $7.2 billion in their accounts at the firm. They have money and they’re always looking to participate in the capital markets.”

For the black-owned Siebert Brandford Shank, the firm continues to face its challenges due to the municipal bond market with volume down some 17%, according to Shank. “We remain the top minority and woman-owned firm in the business and we also remain No. 2 for largest average deal size. But we have faced an environment of increased regulatory requirements and declining spreads and that has had the biggest impact,” she says. “But we’re really struggling with declining spreads, so you have to do more business to reach the same revenues and be very aggressive. It’s a very interesting time in the business. “

But Shank believes her determination and the team efforts will see both businesses through these challenges. Shank’s motto has always been one of persistence – something she likes to impart to those looking to follow her illustrious footsteps. “While education and talent are extremely important to attaining success, nothing can replace persistence and determination,” she asserts. “Through the ups and downs of business cycles and financial crisis, persistence is what has been most critical to ongoing success.”

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