Women Gain Clout in Asset-Backed Securities Market

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Though Wall Street isn't known as a place where women rule, there's a fast-growing segment of the securities business where they are gaining more clout than perhaps anywhere else in the industry.

While there are no statistics on the progress of women in the various facets of the securities industry, Wall Street executives and anecdotal evidence suggest that asset-backed bonds is one part of the business where women are making more headway into management ranks than other areas.

The evidence includes Lesley Goldwasser, senior managing director and head of asset-backed trading at Bear, Stearns; Beth Starr, senior vice president and head of asset-backed research at Lehman Brothers; and Susan Aldworth, head of asset-backed trading at UBS Securities. And then there's Lisa Anderson, director of asset-backed research at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell; Tracy van Eck, senior managing director and head of asset-backed research at Bear Stearns; and Lisa James, managing director and head of new issue asset-backed trading at Lehman. "There is a greater representation of women, or greater proportion in leadership positions, in the asset-backed market than in other disciplines," said Gregory Parseghian, who heads investments at Freddie Mac, formerly known as Federal Home Loan Mortgage. When Parseghian worked at CS First Boston, he recruited van Eck in 1990 from another area of the firm to write research on asset-backed bonds. She moved to Bear Stearns last year. Asset-backed securities are bonds backed by payments on such consumer debt as credit cards and car loans. Many of the women now taking charge in this market were part of a wave of women who entered investment banking in the mid-1980s, just as asset-backed bonds were pioneered. Many of these women were assigned to asset-backed bonds when the market was small and insignificant. Now, the market has ballooned to $389 billion, and many of the most experienced people in the field are the women who were assigned to it in the early days. Some people believe that a disproportionate number of women wound up in asset-backed bonds -- and, perhaps, were able to advance in it more rapidly than they might have in other areas -- because of the absence of entrenched managers in the field and many of the men at the firms went to the more lucrative and glamorous parts of the securities business. Asset-backed bonds "didn't attract the interest of many men because they didn't see the potential of it," said Samuel L. Hayes III, professor of investment banking at Harvard Business School. As a result, "women were able to establish a competence, a momentum and a client loyalty" in the business, he said. "By the time the men caught on to the fact that this was a growing area, these women had already established themselves and couldn't be dislodged," Hayes said. Some of the women disagree that men saw these departments as backwaters. Van Eck points out that it was Parseghian and other men who fought for extra resources for asset-backed teams. "They projected that someday the market would be equally as important as the corporate (bond) market," she said. To be sure, asset-backed bond departments, like the rest of Wall Street, are mostly populated by male executives. Still, the numbers of women executives stand out. Goldwasser, of Bear Stearns, was starting out at First Boston in 1985 when she was asked to trade asset-backed bonds, which were just an idea then. She agreed, becoming the first trader of the new securities. Goldwasser, now 35, said she had some doubts about taking that job. She thought she was better suited for an international position. She's of Eastern European heritage, was born and raised in Zimbabwe, and attended the University of Capetown, South Africa. With advice from her bosses, she decided to latch onto a market that would use the blueprint from a thriving mortgage-backed bond business to create bonds from consumer loans. …