Office Hours: I’m Sallie Krawcheck, the CEO & co-founder of Ellevest. I’m the former CEO of Merrill Lynch & Smith Barney, CFO of Citi, and a research analyst. I’ve been called “the most powerful woman on Wall Street”. AMA!Featured

Hello Elphas!

I’m Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, a tech-first financial company, built by women for women.

We help women earn more money, save more money, and invest to grow their money — by providing the products and coaching to do so — from their first dollar through to Private Wealth services. Ellevest is one of the fastest-growing digital investment platforms and has been named a #24 on CNBC’s top 50 "Disruptor" list, #14 on LinkedIn’s 50 “Most Sought-After Startups” (#2 in New York), and one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 100 Brilliant Ideas.

I’ve found great success as an executive in large complex companies and as a startup CEO, widely recognized as one of the most influential women in business.

I’ve been recognized by Inc. as a “Top Female Founder”, called "The Last Honest Analyst" by Fortune magazine, named the seventh most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. I was also #9 on Fast Company's list of the "100 Most Creative People in Business” and considered one of the "Most Influential People in ESG Investing" by Barron's. I’ve been called one of the top 10 up-and-coming entrepreneurs to watch by Entrepreneur Magazine and landed on Vanity Fair’s “The 2018 New Establishment List".

Before launching Ellevest, I built a successful career on Wall Street: I was the CEO of Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, US Trust, the Citi Private Bank, and Sanford C. Bernstein. I was also Chief Financial Officer for Citigroup. Prior to that, I was a top-ranked research analyst covering the securities industry.

I’m also the best-selling author of “Own It: The Power of Women at Work”.

I received a BA summa cum laude from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MBA with honors from Columbia Business School, and have two children and two cats.

Ask me anything about wealth management, being an effective leader in finance, career advice, financial inclusion, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @salliekrawcheck!Elphas – please ask @salliekrawcheck your questions before Friday, January 7th. @salliekrawcheck may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Sallie!Congratulations on reaching so many extraordinary achievements in life.Also for the rockstar mission of financial empowerment for women, which resonates with me a lot!I have two questions :)1. Looking back.. what were your most game-changing decisions and investments in yourself, that - from a long-term perspective - turned out to take you the farthest in life? (whether in career or personal life)2. I've observed that most of the very successful people have some daily / weekly routines, that seem not connected to their core business at all, but are actually the routines that keep them within their inner strength, unconditional confidence. Do you have such things? Can you share your thoughts around this topic?Thank you in advance!
Hi, Monica. Thank you for your questions! I've been thinking about #1 a bit lately. I used to say my success was driven by hard work/ some luck etc. I would now add to that two things: focus and sense of humor / gratitude. I've always preferred being "the person who knows the most about xyz" than going broader. Earlier in my career, as a research analyst, it was knowing the most about my subject (banks). Later it was being an expert in financial service turn-arounds. And now it's all about women's financial wellness. And we've built Ellevest around this. So it's picking something important (like women's financial wellness) and diving way into it. And the sense of humor is key. The old if "you're not laughing, you're crying" when you hit roadblocks, as well as not taking yourself too seriously. Plus I love to laugh. On weekly routines, I walk a lot. And I connect a lot with my family (again, to laugh). I have two cats (proven to reduce stress). I wouldn't say I have "unconditional confidence" but I just power through the setbacks (of which there have been many, believe me), because I believe so much in what we are doing at Ellevest.
Thank you, that's even more than I expected from these questions! I appreciate your time to share this and I took my notes :D
Hi @salliekrawcheck !! Ellevest looks absolutely fantastic, it's a pity we can't join from Europe. I love how when you started Ellevest some people dared to be skeptical, and now you've totally proven them wrong. I find it crazy how investors still give a puppy eye to women pitching "that's cute but.." and you just wanna say "wait and see, gonna prove you wrong". Guess now I'll take your example! Thanks for the inspiration, definitely gonna help us in our next fundraising round. Cheers, pat
Do you have any practical advice for emotionally moving forward from a scenario that I imagine is similar to when you lost your job. I helped create something from scratch in a male industry, did great work, personally invested $ to keep us growing, and as the org became larger men I’d known for years literally stopped talking to me and disappeared into their own club. Followed by a big restructure. I’m really struggling with this. Not so much the what - change happens - but how this all occurred, the way I was treated and the feeling of broken trust and of being erased after a decade.
I hear you. What I told myself when I got tossed out a big job that I had loved: This is for the best. This is the best day of my life, even if it feels like the worst. Because they don't want me to be around; and because I will use this as a springboard for my next chapter. (which turned to be Ellevest!) Rinse, wash, repeat. Years later, I I can still feel the sting, but I am in a much better place
Thanks Sallie. It helps to explore it in a safe space and out loud.
Which career advice would you give to a young starting?
Do you have any recommendations for a path to better understanding how a business is doing financially. For example, I need a better understanding of how to analyze the company financial records that are disclosed for public companies or to be able to create or assess the internal methods methods of tracking the health of revenue (ARR, net revenue retention, etc).
Hi Sallie,I follow Ellevest on social media and I considered your product when I went on my own journey towards advancing my financial growth and knowledge. Ultimately I was not convinced. In fact, I found that asking the advice of Elphas, friends, family, and other internet sources was an effective way to get to where I wanted to be. I found Ellevest still too much of a gatekeeper, inaccessible to those without a certain level of privilege.I think that Ellevest provides a certain resource for a particular subset of women, but it is NOT, imo, the resource more women need. This is all a condensed version of my thoughts. I would love to hear your thoughts on if or how Ellevest will branch out into making financial literacy and knowledge more equitable.
Thanks for your thoughts. Ellevest is definitely not for people like you who prefer to do it on their own. We do try to be inclusive, however, for those for whom we make sense: there is no investing minimum (which are very exclusionary), our subscription starts for as little as $1 a month. And all of users get the benefit of our investment team's expertise (decades of experience, PhD, built the only investing algorithm that takes into account gender).
Hi, Sallie! So great to have you here!I'm curious about how much you kept up with the knowledge you had built up as a financial analyst as you rose to CEO and eventually founder.Did you start focusing more in teams and general leadership? How important is it to keep up technical skills of your earlier days as you move up the ladder?
I'd say this can be a personal choice, and can depend on your job. My job is no longer investing, but it is a big offering of Ellevest's, I enjoy it, and our clients / community love to talk about it. So I stay pretty up-to-date, but recognize that it's just a part of my job.
Thank you so much for being here, Sallie! Like many others on this thread, I am a longtime admirer of Ellevest. My question is, in a space as broad as fintech, how do you align on a clear roadmap for where Ellevest should focus, and also where it shouldn't? Similarly, how do you make sure to prioritize inclusivity in a space that has historically been reserved for those with privilege? I love that the world is moving in the direction of mission-driven businesses but financial services still lags behind in so many areas. I'm grateful for the impact Ellevest has had - and "Just buy the f**king latte" is my sister, mom, and I's motto 🙂
Ellie, thank you so much. We are very, very clear on our mission at Ellevest: to "get more money in the hands of women." Everything we consider doing goes through that lens. The next lens is what we are hearing from our community, both informally and through structured research. And finally we assess the level of effort, the potential upside and our level of confidence around an offering. This is all worked through very openly on our leadership team and among our managers.
Sallie, Happy New Year! I am SO excited you joined us this week for our Office Hours (the rest of the Elpha team can testify).I really admire you and what you've built with Ellevest and in your prior roles. You're certainly one of the women in business I look up to! I'm from Cameroon and Madagascar and I have often been the only African woman in certain rooms! I'm currently getting my MBA at Wharton (just got done with my first sem). I also work as an early-stage investor at Moxxie Ventures (I live and breathe startups as to why I have closely followed Ellevest hehe). I am working on developing a fintech investment thesis but fintech is SO broad that I was curious 1) if you had any thoughts on where to even begin in my research? 2) in your opinion, what will be the biggest innovation in the financial industry in the next 3-5 years? Very random: what are your favorite podcasts (could be anything finance, work, personal growth etc) and any nonfiction book that had a positive impact on you/your life? Thank you for everything you do to support women get financial access and to normalise women leading the way!
Congratulations! I'll have to check Moxxie out!I would start with yourself: what problems are you having in the finance / fintech world? Where do you see inefficiencies or barriers? That's how Ellevest came to be, by looking at where things that weren't working and that the traditional industry was overlooking. ("Gee, women aren't investing as much as men because they're risk averse".....we decided to challenge that conventional wisdom at Ellevest.)
Hi @salliekrawcheck, thanks for being here and for all that you have done to champion women. I know you have been outspoken about the fact that our wealth management systems today are largely built off male data, disadvantaging womens outcomes based on potential career pauses, different peak earnings, and potential lower lifetime earnings.I’m wondering if you think that accruing wealth EARLY (through saving and investing) should be a BIGGER consideration for women based on those considerations above than it needs to be for men. In other words, should women be more focused on building a sort of wealth nest-egg as a type of insurance against potential earnings pauses, caretaking, that may leave them less financially independent in the future?
One of the great builders of wealth is the power of compounding. It's that you earn returns on an investment, then returns on the returns, then returns on the returns on the returns. This is true for investing in the stock market historically and also for investing in real estate. The negative impact of compounding can been seen in high-interest rate debt, like credit cards, where we've all heard about (or been) the person who bought a dress for $100, paid the minimum on the credit card and ended up paying a total of $150 for that $100 dress.So, starting to invest as early as you can....even if it's a small you the opportunity to earn the returns from compounding. (And the power of compounding is one reason that the gender and racial wealth gaps have actually been getting worse over time, even before the pandemic)
Hi Sallie! It’s great to have you here. Thanks for joining us! For those of us who are considering building more inclusive products, what was your process in deciding how to go about building Ellevest and what product to build and offer first?
We decided to build Ellevest from the ground up for women. That meant two years of research, research, research, test-and-learn, test-and-learn, test-and-learn. And really respect her.One example: there's pretty broad research out there in which women say one of the top things they want their financial company to help them with is to earn more money at work. They are pretty universally ignored by existing players, because "that's not what we do." Ellevest instead built a career coaching function to address this head on.
First of all @salliekrawcheck, thank you for the way you've handled the challenges you've encountered so far to get where you are. It's inspiring to see you top lists that don't have the word "women" in them because I know you've worked extra hard to get there.I have been asked at by my managing director "do you know why nobody takes you seriously?" She told me it was because I spoke my opinion too often.So, I want to know: How would you handle navigating your career in organization that doesn't receive feedback openly? Do you have any tactical tips on how to communicate insights with impact when you're faced with low buy-in?
Janna, if you can, start looking for a new job and get the hell out of there. Your boss telling you that you talk too much -- rather than coaching you on how to more effectively communicate, or when to communicate -- is a bad bossery. And if the organization doesn't receive feedback, or isn't open to it, why not find one that does? Now I do get that not everyone can switch jobs, so sometimes you have to just keep your head low and do your job. But, today, so many companies are hiring -- and there are so many new businesses that are starting -- finding yourself a boss who really wants to coach you and help you grow is a reasonable goal
Hi @salliekrawcheck - thanks for taking some time to talk with us! I'm a big fan of Ellevest and use it :) My question is in regards to being a disruptor: how do you build confidence in being one of oftentimes few women in the room? I know I am knowledgeable and capable, but find clients and colleagues defer to men.
Yes we've all been socialized that boss = white male. So, for me, it was about building real expertise in an important subject matter (when I was a research analyst, it was knowing more about the big banks that I covered than anyone else did), so clients felt like they had to talk to me, over time. And also finding a great mentor / sponsor who would ask my POV in meetings / talk my work up etc.
@salliekrawcheck thank you for taking the time to read these posts! I’m a huge fan, especially after your podcast interview on Masters of Scale. My question is about building your company with an emphasis on diversity. I’m an early stage founder of a health tech company and my core values are around diversity & inclusion. As I grow my network I mostly keep meeting white men in the industry. When I start to recruit talent I worry it will be more of the same. How intentional were you about growing your team with a diversity lens? If your network has a bias against diversity what did you do to overcome it?Thank you!!
VERY intentional. To the point where I would block hires in the early days if they didn't add diversity to the team. The response would be "but we're a start up; we need to move fast; I can't find anyone who brings any diversity." And I would hold my ground, and it worked. Sometimes it was just pushing a search person more, and a lot of times it was spending time on LinkedIn and reaching out cold. There is research that indicates that a startup's diversity is set with the first 12 or so people they hire. That's because those people then reach into their own networks for the next hires. So these first hires really matter. Good luck!!
Thanks so much for fielding questions! And many congrats on the ongoing success of Ellevest!My question is about preparing for our financial futures.With this ongoing sense of radical uncertainty (pandemic, climate, political instability, child-care/elder-care provisions etc), how do we work to balance the challenges posed by day-to-day finances with the need to prepare for 'retirement'? How do we trust in the ongoing promise of stock markets, when so many other aspects of life have turned out to be far less stable than we ever thought?Am working as a software engineer in the pensions space, and really interested in how to encourage myself and other women to take more control of our financial futures, all while trying to bolster up some hope that such a thing is still achievable! Is investment in stocks and shares still the way forward, are you seeing more folk seeking 'safety' in savings, or are alternative forms of investment on the rise (real estate/crypto/commodities...)? Thank you!
Hi Sallie, hope that you had a wonderful New Year and thanks for doing this! I hadn't heard of Ellevest before, but I love companies that focus on financial literacy and empowering especially women with finance. My question is: how do you feel about companies taking into consideration cost of living in an increasingly distributed workforce when it comes to salary, especially in times of COVID-19 and where people might be relocating from extremely HCOL areas such as SF and NYC to a lower cost of living after? I ask this because I understand that it's a common practice, but I have had personal experience where I found out that a colleague who had less experience than me was making significantly more due to living in a HCOL area and I wasn't sure how to feel. On one hand, I get it, but on the other, it can still be frustrating since we're doing the same work. Thanks for your time!
Hi Sallie! I'm a huge fan of what you've built with Ellevest over the years. Do you have any tips for female founders who are raising money for the first time?I'm finding it difficult to find the right mentors and community to help me successfully start my company and raise. (Note: I'm a female fintech founder)
What advice do you have for those of us with a lot of stock in our current (or former) company that’s been performing well enough that we don’t necessarily want to sell but that we are so heavily invested in that we don’t really have a weighted portfolio (because it’s mostly in this one asset).
Great question; and the answer should really be customized to your particular financial circumstances. But take it from me, who had most of $s in Citi stock when I worked there -- it was great when it went up, and it was horrible when it went down...and down....and down...and down. (From $53 to <$1. Oof). And I know you don't think it will happen to your company...neither did I....but sh*t happens, sometimes outside of a company's control. So I know paying taxes can be hard, but diversifying out of a concentrated position can be a way to keep the wealth you've built. It doesn't have to be all at once; just make a habit of selling some amount over some set period of time.
Hi Sallie! So excited to read all of your replies on your AMA. You speak about getting $$ in the hands of more women and how it benefits everyone. What would you advise a young woman do with $50k of liquid cash today in order to set her up for more long term wealth down the road? Let’s assume all of her short term debt is paid and her 401k and IRA are maxed out.
Sallie, Happy new year! What skill sets helped you move up the corporate ladder and how did you work on developing them ? Is MBA worth the hype?How do you maintain work life balance while managing a business?
Hi @salliekrawcheck,Thank you for being here, I'm so inspired by your story!I'm curious to know: How do you balance a successful career with being a parent? Do you find you have to prioritize one over the other?
Hi! I'm curious what percentage of your customers are cisgender men?Increasingly I know men taking sabbaticals for personal reasons or multi-year breaks to raise children, or who fit some of the other "use cases" your site describes in terms of why women should think about financial planning differently than men. So I could see how your value propositions could appeal to men in addition to women.
Hi! It's still a pretty small % (less than 10%). I think that's in part because our society doesn't really yet "make it ok" for men to use products "built for women," when the other way-around is pretty well accepted.
Hi Sallie! I've been following you for years and you're a big inspiration. I use Ellevest and I like the direction you've taken it in the last year and the new product improvements!I wanted to hear more about your vision for Ellevest and if you are going to offer more 'intense' investing ability. My partner (a man) recently criticized Ellevest because it's just Vanguard products, and no other ability to make more aggressive or hands on investments. I'd rather keep my money with you than with an etrade or robinhood!Also, your coaches are great and a great service. I so appreciate what you've done for me personally and my kids college account ❤️Sorry that this is mostly a fangirl post 😅
This one cracks me up. Thank you for sharing. At Ellevest, we're all for investing being boring, rather than "intense." And that's because, historically, investing in low-cost ETFs, setting an asset allocation, having a recurring deposit into your investments, and letting compounding do its work -- that has been a winning strategy . "Active" investing has not, believe it or not, done as well historically, with just 0.1% of active investors consistently outperforming the market. It can work well in a bull market (like now), but hasn't over the course of a cycle. I would further note that the ETFs are what make up our investments, but the real secret sauce is in our investing algorithm, which takes into account factors like that women's salaries peak sooner and we live longer. Pretty important ones when your goal is a rich retirement, for example.
I just want to say that you are a HUGE inspiration! I heard you speak at a Columbia Business School women's event and really loved hearing about your career, the challenges you faced, and why it's important for women to be financially literate. What financial planning advice can you give us millennials who feel like we're "behind" in life? My partner and I together make a decent salary, but I feel like everything is expensive, we're still renting and finding it hard to think about saving for a home or even preparing to have children in the next few years b/c we don't have enough of a nest egg.
Hi Sallie,It's very inspiring to see you how far you've taken Ellevest. I signed up for the service back in 2016/2017. I'm curious to learn how you operate as a leader!As a mission-driven company, what do you look for when hiring for lead roles across the company? Any insight here in terms of experience, schooling, etc. would be great. How involved are you / the executive team in hiring?Meryam
What are the best investments one can key into this 2022 to get out of poverty.
Hi Sallie! Any tips for Canadians looking to invest?
What trends are you currently keeping your eye on that you think will have major impact on the future? Anything from technology to geopolitical to culture trends.