Wall Street dealmakers have always been the superstars, the elite of American business. The world of trading, mergers, acquisitions, and global markets — where the score is measured in billions of dollars — is ultracompetitive. It has never been for the fainthearted. Add to that an uncertain economy rocked by unpredictable geopolitical forces and lightning-quick technological change, and you begin to get an idea of just how tough it is to thrive in the industry.
That’s just part of the reason that the executives on our listing of the 75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street are so impressive. That the professionals on this list have achieved success in this high-stakes environment is a testament to their preparation, talent, work ethic, and professionalism. They are truly among the best in their industry, regardless of race. It’s worth noting that the 75 investment bankers, asset managers, securities traders, and private equity specialists on our latest list represent an increase from the 50 identified on our last list, published four years ago, and the 25 we identified on our first two lists, published in 1992 and 1996.
Despite the increase of African Americans in the upper echelons of the financial services industry, no one will mistake Wall Street for a bastion of diversity. Only five financial services firms represented on the list, including Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, are among the 2006 BLACK ENTERPRISE 40 Best Companies for Diversity.
That’s why BE continues to recognize African Americans who have excelled on The Street, showing how they achieved success at the epicenter of the global economy. The careers of these individuals are examples of true excellence — that is, consistently high performance delivered over time. In fact, 11 of the professionals on our current list, including Svoboda, Collins L.L.C. Co-Founder Michelle Collins and Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O’Neal, also appeared on our first list of top blacks on Wall Street nearly 15 years ago. A twelth person from that original list, Adebayo Ogunlesi of Credit Suisse First Boston, is showcased in this issue as one of four Wall Street “Market Movers.”
These top dealmakers, including our cover subjects, Lazard Freres’ William M. Lewis Jr. and Citigroup’s Raymond J. McGuire, deserve much of the credit for the progress made by African Americans on Wall Street and for the inclusion of many of the new stars who’ve joined this elite group since our inaugural list. Their achievements blazed paths for many of their peers in the financial services industry to follow. In fact, many of these Wall Street veterans, including Lewis, McGuire, and William Hayden of Bear, Stearns & Co., have made bringing more blacks into the pipeline part of their personal missions.
This is a mission that we can all serve. One way is by exposing African American youth to career options on Wall Street as early as possible. In the words of Bill Lewis, “If the first time you’ve really heard about investment banking is when you are a junior or senior in college, the game is sort of over.”