New York Stock Exchange to Have First Female Leader in 226-Year History
Stacey Cunningham, the NYSE’s chief operating officer, is set to become the Big Board’s 67th president
NYSE Group Chief Operating Officer Stacey Cunningham will become the exchange’s president. PHOTO: PETER FOLEY/BLOOMBERG NEWS
Written By Bradley Hope and Alexander Osipovich for WSJ.com
The New York Stock Exchange is set to get its first female leader in its 226-year history.
Stacey Cunningham, the NYSE’s chief operating officer, will become the Big Board’s 67th president, the exchange’s parent Intercontinental Exchange Inc. told The Wall Street Journal.
She will start her new role Friday, succeeding Thomas Farley, an ICE veteran who is leaving the Atlanta-based company.
Mr. Farley will become head of a new special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, backed by Daniel Loeb’s hedge-fund firm Third Point LLC, which will seek to raise $400 million and buy financial-technology companies, people familiar with the situation said. It will be called Far Point, the people said.
A SPAC, also called a blank-check company, goes public with no assets and uses the funds raised to make acquisitions.
Mr. Farley confirmed he would be leading a SPAC and added that it would be listed on the NYSE, but declined to provide details.
The NYSE’s announcement means two of the world’s best-known stock-exchange operators, NYSE Group and Nasdaq Inc., will be run by women. Adena Friedman became chief executive of Nasdaq in January 2017.
Catherine Kinney was a co-president of the NYSE in the 2000s but a series of male chief executive officers led the exchange at the time. John Tuttle, NYSE’s global head of listings, is replacing Ms. Cunningham as operating chief.
Ms. Cunningham’s appointment comes as Wall Street firms are grappling with the #MeToo movement and trying to show they have moved beyond the male-heavy culture of years past. Last month, New York City authorities announced that the “Fearless Girl” statue would be moving to a spot outside the NYSE’s historic building in lower Manhattan.
Ms. Cunningham first came to the NYSE in 1994 as a summer intern. “I loved the place right out of the gate and now I’m excited to be running it,” she said in an interview.
When she first joined, the women’s restroom on the seventh floor was inside an old phone booth. The men had “palatial” quarters next door, she recalled, with couches, amenities and a full-time bathroom attendant. Today the men’s and women’s rooms are on par with each other.
Despite its prominent brand name, the NYSE is much diminished from when Ms. Cunningham’s career began.
In the 1990s, the U.S. stock market was effectively a NYSE-Nasdaq duopoly, and the Big Board’s floor bustled with thousands of brokers, clerks and traders.
But new regulations in the mid-2000s and the rise of electronic trading smashed that duopoly. With an influx of new rivals, the NYSE’s share of U.S. stock-trading volume fell from nearly 40% a decade ago to 22% in April, according to research firm Tabb Group LLC. The population of the NYSE’s floor is now in the hundreds on a typical day. In 2013, the NYSE’s parent company sold itself to ICE.
Mr. Farley has been one of the most trusted lieutenants of ICE Chairman and Chief Executive Jeffrey Sprecher. He came to the NYSE in November 2013 with orders to dramatically cut costs, reduce staff and improve profits, he recalled in an interview.
ICE doesn’t break out the profitability of its NYSE unit, but Mr. Farley estimated that the unit’s profit margins more than doubled during his five-year tenure.
Mr. Farley also has played a highly visible role in the Big Board’s efforts to attract listings likeSpotify AB and Snap Inc.
Ms. Cunningham will inherit a number of big challenges: The NYSE is in the third year of a troubled, repeatedly delayed technology rollout aimed at overhauling its aging systems. Last month, after elements of the “Pillar” platform were added to the NYSE’s flagship exchange, a glitch forced trading of shares of Amazon.com and Google parent Alphabet Inc. to be temporarily halted.
Ms. Cunningham, 43 years old, has spent her entire career in the world of stock trading. Two years after her 1994 internship, she joined the brash and loud NYSE floor as one of about three dozen women working alongside 1,300 or more men. She started as a floor clerk, taking down orders and running back and forth from her booth, before becoming a market maker, or “specialist” in the NYSE’s lingo.
That meant she was in charge of quoting buying and selling prices for a small number of stocks, including Hershey Foods Corp. and Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. From 2007 to 2012, Ms. Cunningham worked at Nasdaq, joining NYSE just 10 days before ICE announced its acquisition.
In less than a year, she was promoted to head of sales and relationship management and then COO in 2015.
In a speech earlier this year, she cited the late Muriel Siebert—the first woman to join the ranks of the NYSE floor in 1967—as an inspiration. It was for Ms. Siebert that the NYSE originally converted the phone booth into a ladies’ room.
—Cara Lombardo contributed to this article.
Appeared in the May 22, 2018, print edition as 'NYSE Gets First Female Leader.'