Once called the "last honest analyst" by Fortune Magazine more than a decade ago, Sallie Krawcheck has hardly lost her penchant for truth-telling.
The financial expert and former top Wall Street executive visited her hometown Friday to deliver the keynote speech at the Trident United Way Women's Leadership Council annual awards ceremony, where three local women were recognized for their community efforts.
Krawcheck, a Charleston native, seized the opportunity to speak candidly about her experiences with big banks on Wall Street, how her struggles shaped her character as a businesswoman, and her views on women in the workplace.
"One of my real pet peeves is the fact that so much of what we talk about when we talk about women in business is trying to make us into men. ... When in fact, the whole benefit of diversity, is diversity," she said. "As I've thought about what can break the cycle of group think on Wall Street, what can drive economic growth, the topic I kept coming back to with my research background was diversity."
Krawcheck, who was at one time considered the most successful woman on Wall Street, held top positions at CitiGroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.
Today, she's the face of 85 Broads, a global networking organization for businesswomen that she bought last year from former Goldman Sachs executive Janet Hanson. Krawcheck confirmed Friday that the networking firm would soon launch a Charleston chapter.
"We're in the early days of forming it, but the women of Charleston have the need to network and learn about business just as we do in other cities around the world," Krawcheck said. "Networking is the number one unwritten rule of success in business."
Charleston's 85 Broads chapter has already established a board of directors, with Catherine Chase, a commercial litigation attorney with Young Clement Rivers, as its president. Chase said they hope to officially launch the organization in September.
"I think it's important to have something like this here because I don't know of any other group that is specifically targeted towards professional women and allowing them access to a network with other professional women across the country and across the globe," Chase said. "Sallie Krawcheck's stamp of approval holds something to people in Charleston. I know it does for me. So I said, 'Let's start a chapter.' "
While Krawcheck has no shortage of successes in her career, she spoke at length Friday about her struggles and how she and other businesswomen can learn from their failures.
She talked about how she lost her job with CitiGroup after the board of directors took her advice to reimburse clients that had lost big on what the company said were low-risk investments. She said she was later "invited to leave" her post with Bank of America after she had fulfilled her mission to put Merrill Lynch back in a profitable position after the recession.
"The truth is, they have all been lessons," Krawcheck said. "And after that I thought, I think I've had about enough of these big banks."
Krawcheck has led 85 Broads for about a year, and she said she intends to rename and rebrand the organization in the coming months.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail