In a year of tremendous change, the 100 most powerful men and women in global finance.
2016 RANKING: 61
PATH TO POWER: Sloan has been with Wells Fargo since 1987, and by 2015 he had risen to president and COO. Late last year, he took over the reins from John Stumpf, who was forced out after it was revealed that, under pressure to meet aggressive sales goals, Wells Fargo employees had created as many as 2 million bogus bank and credit card accounts. Sloan must have known he was stepping into a tight spot; he’s a member of Wells Fargo’s old guard—though he oversaw wholesale banking, not the bank’s embattled retail unit. It’s hard to see how he will avoid being tainted by a scandal that just keeps rolling.
POWER PLAY: Predictably, 2017 was a rough year for the bank. So rough, in fact, that by the end of it, senator Elizabeth Warren was calling on members of Sloan’s board—though not Sloan himself—to resign. In August, Sloan warned his employees the scandal could grow, and, shortly thereafter, it did: A review by the bank discovered that 1.4 million more accounts than previously reported were opened without customers’ permission.
PATH TO POWER: Mansharamani grew up in New Jersey and won a scholarship funded by Vanguard founder Jack Bogle to attend the prestigious boarding school Blair Academy. That, in turn, landed him an internship on the institutional equity sales and trading desk at Bear Stearns—a unique experience for a 16-year-old. His 2011 book, Boombustology: Spotting Financial Bubbles Before They Burst, established him as an expert on global markets. He has worked in management consulting, investment banking and asset management, and is a lecturer at Harvard and, before that, Yale. His influential opinions on topics ranging from global politics to food systems to the economy have been published in outlets including the Financial Times, the Daily Beast, the Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn, where he was ranked the number one top voice for finance and economics in 2015 and 2016.
POWER PLAY: Mansharamani has had a career offering advice through speeches, columns, serving on boards and consulting. His specialty, he explains, is a “global generalist approach,” which involves “connecting the seemingly irrelevant dots” to understand how worldwide trends create winners and losers. This year, he started the Kelan Global Opportunities Fund to invest in the long-term trends that he has been identifying, analyzing and sharing for years.
PATH TO POWER: Born in Brooklyn to a junior high school math teacher and a computer administrator for the New York City Housing Authority, Brown had an early acuity for numbers combined with a sense of public duty. After graduating from SUNY Albany, Brown started her career at Lehman Brothers—a rare black woman in the financial industry in the early 1990s— and within four years was a senior policy analyst at the Treasury Department under President Clinton. Over the years she worked at Morgan Stanley, Lehman once more and Bank of America, and was part of Barack Obama’s Treasury transition team in 2008 and 2009. In 2015 she joined Bloomberg as its first global head of diversity and inclusion.
POWER PLAY: Thanks to her hard-core financial background, Brown’s recommendations carry a lot of clout. She has been instrumental in improving diversity in Bloomberg’s 192 global offices, and her recommendations, from 18-week paid family leave for men and women to pushing for amicus letters from the company in support of gay marriage, are solidly based in data. Brown has been successful at promoting diversity and making Bloomberg an example to the industry, because she has been able to prove that it improves the bottom line.
See a Q&A with Erika Irish Brown.
PATH TO POWER: When Preet Bharara was fired by the Trump administration in March, he was replaced by Kim, his friend and former top advisor. Kim served two years as deputy U.S. attorney, helping to oversee the criminal and civil divisions of the office. As acting U.S. attorney, Kim, the son of a South Korean diplomat, is charged with handling any white-collar crime cases in the nation’s financial capital.
POWER PLAY: Kim inherited from Bharara some cases that could end up involving the president, his former business partners and his former campaign manager. That means Kim’s office will likely be in touch with special prosecutor Robert Mueller as he digs deeply into Trump and his associates’ ties to Russia—and anything else that might be of interest. Indeed, in June, one of the top prosecutors on Kim’s team decamped for a new job with Mueller.
PATH TO POWER: The son of Egyptian immigrants, Mallouk is a resolute Midwesterner. He grew up in Kansas, earned his degrees (several BAs, a law degree and an MBA) from the University of Kansas and is a major philanthropist in the Kansas City area. He first worked for Creative Planning as an estate planner, then purchased the investment firm in 2004. He had modest ambitions: to service the Kansas City area, pitching the company as a less-conflicted alternative to large brokerage firms with proprietary investments. Under his leadership, however, Creative Planning’s business exploded; the firm now has offices coast to coast and AUM of more than $26 billion. Though an increasingly potent force in the financial industry, Mallouk has not set out for New York—he still does most of his business in his home state.
POWER PLAY: Mallouk is at the forefront of a shift in the financial industry away from large brokerage firms and toward independent advisors that are themselves increasingly large, multistate operations. Mallouk has been expanding the firm’s reach as it seeks to manage its meteoric growth. Over the last two years, Mallouk nearly doubled his staff by adding some 200 employees. He interviewed each one personally.
2016 RANKING: 84
PATH TO POWER: El-Erian is an American son of an Egyptian diplomat father and a French mother. An economics graduate of Cambridge and Oxford, he took a position with the IMF in 1983 in Washington, eventually becoming deputy director before going on to work with Bill Gross as co-head of PIMCO, one of the world’s largest bond investors. He left in 2014 amid infighting with Gross and is now the chief economic advisor at PIMCO’s parent company, Allianz.
POWER PLAY: El-Erian, who has written two books on current economic issues, for years has been arguing that a pro-growth agenda has been missing from government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis. “A decade after the start of the crisis, advanced economies still have not decisively pivoted away from a growth model that is overly reliant on liquidity and leverage—first from private financial institutions, and then from central banks,” he wrote in the Guardian in August. El-Erian makes a similar argument in his best seller, The Only Game in Town. And in August, he claimed that President Trump is “diverting” attention from what should be his pro-growth agenda.
PATH TO POWER: Castle-Newman graduated from Virginia Tech in 1990 with a degree in finance and worked in management at Bankers Trust and the Bank of New York before joining Morgan Stanley in 1996. She’s been with the firm ever since, making managing director in 2004 and rising to COO for global equity distribution in 2006. Concerned about the dearth of women in finance, she founded the Women’s Investment Roundtable in 2013, which has become recognized as one of the most important initiatives on Wall Street to bring together some of the top women in finance to share stock ideas and strategies.
POWER PLAY: Castle-Newman has had a hand in setting Morgan Stanley’s focus on technology, both for trading and in interactions with customers. In 2016, the firm combined three cash equity sales desks—voice, program trading and electronic trading—into one, called One Delta One, for greater efficiency. Her advocacy for women on Wall Street also seems to be paying off: In 2017, Morgan Stanley promoted 140 people to managing director, 29 percent of whom were women—the highest percentage ever for the firm.
2016 RANKING: 80
PATH TO POWER: With a net worth of $3.3 billion, Smith is ranked among the top five wealthiest black people in the world (at press time, he edged out Oprah Winfrey). Ambitious from a young age, Smith landed an internship at Bell Labs while in high school—after calling every week for five months—even though the company traditionally only accepted college upperclassmen as interns. After earning a BS in chemical engineering from Cornell and an MBA from Columbia, the Denver-born-and-raised son of two PhD-educated teachers worked at Goldman Sachs in technology investment banking from 1994 until 2000. He founded Vista Equity Partners, his private equity and venture capital firm, that year.
POWER PLAY: While Vista invests in lesser-known software companies, Smith’s firm has never lost money on a leveraged buyout, and it’s known to deliver 30 percent ROI to investors on an annualized basis. In August, Vista acquired Goldman-backed software maker Applause for an undisclosed amount. A leading philanthropist, Smith was elected chairman of Carnegie Hall’s board of directors in 2016, the first African American to hold the post, and he donates to a host of charities through his Fund II Foundation. In 2016 he gifted $20 million to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture and $50 million to Cornell for its new School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, which now bears his name.
PATH TO POWER: Reece began his career as a lawyer, working in regulation during the Reagan and Bush I administrations. In the early 1990s, he was special counsel for the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance. He turned to the private financial sector in the late ’90s, joining Credit Suisse, where he spent 18 years, rose to head of equity capital markets and was rumored to be on the short list to assume the leadership of the firm. In 2015, Reece founded his own merchant bank, Helena Capital, based in New York and Los Angeles. But in February 2017, he was lured to UBS, which he joined as executive vice chairman of its investment bank.
POWER PLAY: After a long and successful career at Credit Suisse, Reece’s move to UBS this year made waves. UBS is looking for more top-level executives to cut deals in the U.S. for its corporate and financial sponsors business and saw Reece as the man for the job. The top two global bankers at UBS are making a bet that Reece, the consummate networker and deal maker, can help elevate its U.S. platform to the top-tier status that UBS enjoys in the rest of the world. Reece’s power base is global in reach across multiple geographies and industries; an internal bank memo said he was hired to “leverage his experience and network.” Reece will work across the investment bank, both inside the U.S. and abroad, and will also work with the firm’s wealth management arm. Those who have followed Reece’s career know that it is he, often behind the scenes, who has been pulling the levers of power on some of the finance industry’s most complicated and meaningful deals.
2016 RANKING: 92
PATH TO POWER: A former senior vice president at Citigroup in Dubai, Saeed is head of First Abu Dhabi Bank, which was born in 2016 when the UAE’s two biggest banks merged in the largest banking merger since the 2008 crisis.
POWER PLAY: The merger will take more than two years to be fully complete but will result in one of the largest banks in the Middle East and Africa. Halfway through the new bank’s first year, it reported slightly lower profits—2.56 billion dirhams, down from 2.68 billion dirhams ($697 million, down from $730 million)—but also posted falling operating expenses, a sign that the merger is paying off.
2016 RANKING: 78
PATH TO POWER: Figueres was born to a prominent Costa Rican political family—her father was president of the environmentally progressive nation three times. Figueres has spent her career in public service. In 2009, following a failed attempt to tackle climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, the United Nations brought Figueres in to come up with a global diplomatic solution. She succeeded when she brokered the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement as the UN’s lead negotiator.
POWER PLAY: Following her 2015 success, Figueres is working to make sure that smaller actors—cities, companies and investors—align their activities with the work that nations are doing as part of the Paris Agreement. This focus on cities, business and finance has taken on particular importance since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord. For the U.S. to meet its commitments, it will require American states, cities and corporations to step up and voluntarily make changes to combat climate change. Figueres is uniquely qualified to broker these kinds of commitments.
PATH TO POWER: As CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014, Ballmer, who succeeded Bill Gates, was one of the world’s most powerful executives. After leaving the company, it seemed like the Detroit-born Ballmer would spend his retirement enjoying his success. He purchased the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion in 2014, and that was the primary context in which most people heard about him for the next three years. But he was interested in more than just basketball.
POWER PLAY: This spring, Ballmer launched USAFacts, a nonprofit devoted to compiling accurate facts and numbers about the government and economy of the United States. While most of this info exists in disparate locations, there previously was no single clearinghouse for it, and it was often presented in formats inaccessible to the layperson. Ballmer hopes that reputable data, audited by a third party, can inform logical policy discussions and help people vote responsibly.
PATH TO POWER: A Harvard Law graduate, Bonderman worked as a law professor at Tulane and a special assistant for the U.S. attorney general before joining Robert Bass in Fort Worth, Texas—a foray into the investment business that led him to cofound buyout firm TPG Capital in 1992. TPG has grown into one of the most powerful private equity firms in the U.S. with $75 billion in assets, giving it control of myriad companies.
POWER PLAY: This year Bonderman scrapped plans to take TPG public, after nursing the idea for three years, as stocks of other buyout firms have performed poorly. The notoriously reclusive 74-year-old Bonderman made headlines in June when he resigned from the board of Uber after making a sexist joke at an all-staff meeting. In response to Uber board member Arianna Huffington talking about the importance of having women on boards, he quipped that would make it more likely there would “be more talking.”
2016 RANKING: 100
PATH TO POWER: Weissbluth had a long history with investing, first as a director at investment consulting firm Rogerscasey, then as president of broker-dealer U.S. Fiduciary Services, before launching HighTower Advisors in 2007, at the beginning of the financial crisis. He has a BA in English from Rice University and a JD from the John Marshall Law School.
POWER PLAY: Weissbluth’s timing was perfect for
HighTower, which was designed to avoid the conflicts of interest and lack of fiduciary standards that made investors wary of traditional advisors following the stock market crash of 2008. Through acquisitions, HighTower has grown rapidly using an open-source platform—from $5 billion to $50 billion in AUM by 2017. But it may have hit a speed bump this year. In July HighTower lost president Michael LaMena, widely considered one of the Chicago-based rollup’s best assets at fitting new RIAs and brokers into its central system.
2016 RANKING: 75
PATH TO POWER: Branson, a Brit, studied math and management at Cambridge before launching his finance career at accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand. He had stints at Credit Suisse and SBC Warburg, then in 2006 became CEO of UBS Securities Japan and later CFO of the firm’s wealth management and Swiss bank divisions. Branson joined FINMA in 2010 as head of its banks division and became CEO in April 2014.
POWER PLAY: As Switzerland’s top regulator, Branson’s challenge has been to combat money laundering. Indeed, FINMA has investigated some headline-grabbing scandals in recent years, including the FIFA corruption crisis, a case that routed $1 billion from the Malaysian Development Bank into prime minister Najib Razak’s personal accounts, and the conviction of the daughter of a now-deceased Uzbek dictator for embezzlement. The scandals have highlighted what prime targets Swiss banks are for international players hoping to move money outside of the law, and Branson is under pressure to step up his oversight. He will have to decide in the year to come whether and how he’ll do it.
2016 RANKING: 66
PATH TO POWER: Born in New York, de Blasio attended NYU and Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, graduating in 1987. The following year, he hung out with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, putting a sheen on his lefty credentials. After working on David Dinkins’ mayoral campaign in 1989, de Blasio ran Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign. He soon won a seat on the New York City Council and eventually became the city’s public advocate before winning the mayoral race in 2014 in a crowded Democratic field.
POWER PLAY: The Blah’s performance has deteriorated during his years in office, culminating in 2017’s rolling collapse of the city’s famed subway system. With straphangers continually delayed on their way to work, the mayor proceeded to get into a pissing match with governor Andrew Cuomo over who should pay for repairs to the aging infrastructure and to suggest a tax on high earners for the fixes. While not necessarily a bad idea—the subway benefits workers and business owners alike—the tax was a nonstarter, requiring approval by the Republican-controlled State Senate in Albany, and was yet another example of de Blasio pandering to his base rather than trying to come up with actual, real-world solutions. To top it off, he got caught in a scandal when it came out that he was traveling by daily motorcade 12 miles from Gracie Mansion to his gym in Brooklyn. Still, given that there are no legitimate contenders for next year’s mayoral race, de Blasio will likely stay in power—and continue to have a voice in the future of Wall Street.
2016 RANKING: 15
PATH TO POWER: Sanders was first elected to federal office in 1990 and has pulled off the nearly impossible feat of staying on-message for almost three decades. Though an independent, Sanders votes like a Democrat (albeit a lefty one), and that party’s loss in last year’s presidential election was his as well. But Sanders remains a potent force in the Democratic Party, particularly when it comes to economic issues.
POWER PLAY: The Democratic Party’s new agenda, “A Better Deal,” shows Sanders’ continued influence, with the party devoting much of its policy approach to an in-the-weeds war on corporate consolidation and monopolies, an issue about which left-of-center wonks are excited. Sanders’ vision for the Democratic Party received further buy-in when top contenders for 2020, such as Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), endorsed his Medicare for All plan. He will be in his late 70s in 2020, but Sanders has privately told friends he hopes to run for president again.
PATH TO POWER: A native Californian, Loeb received an economics degree from Columbia, leading to a series of Wall Street jobs at such firms as Jefferies and Citigroup, before he eventually started his Third Point hedge fund in 1995. It is now one of the most prominent hedge fund firms, with $18 billion in assets and a more than 15 percent annualized return that has set it apart from the struggles facing many others.
POWER PLAY: Loeb earned early notoriety for his “poison pen” letters to CEOs, giving him a reputation for being something of a wild-man shareholder activist, an image he has sought to shed. This year, with his fund outperforming the S&P 500, Loeb made his biggest activist play ever, a $3.5 billion stake in Nestlé SA, the Swiss conglomerate, his first foray into Europe. But his personal reputation was challenged this summer, when the billionaire was forced to delete and apologize for a racially charged Facebook posting about an African American New York state legislator, which was part of his ongoing battle with the teachers’ union regarding the charter schools he supports.
2016 RANKING: 70
PATH TO POWER: With a BS in business from Indiana University, Becker has spent his career at Silicon Valley Bank, from 1993 to the present, holding titles of chief banking officer, chief operations officer and president before becoming CEO in 2011. Dedicated to innovation and investing in tech companies, SVB—with 29 U.S. offices and another six abroad—has helped fund upward of 30,000 startups, including Airbnb, Fitbit and Pinterest.
POWER PLAY: As CEO, Becker is credited with giving SVB a growth rate that outpaces competing banks. For fourth-quarter 2016, parent company SVB Financial Group reported earnings of $99.5 million, a 13 percent increase over the previous year. And 2017 has shown strong earnings for Q1 and Q2. SVB is well regarded for nurturing excellence. The bank partnered with First Data to launch an accelerator program called Commerce.Innovated; its 2017 class accepted four new companies this summer, and since its inception in 2014 the program has offered insights, advice, mentorship and, for those selected, capital to help fund close to 24 small startups.
PATH TO POWER: A former securities regulator and vice president of the People’s Bank of China, Guo made a name for himself during a long career as an enemy of financial crime and an advocate for more open markets. After a stint as governor of Shandong, China’s second-most populous province, Guo was picked in February to take over the Banking Regulatory Commission from Shang Fulin. Guo is considered the most likely candidate to replace Zhou Xiaochuan as governor of the People’s Bank of China, should Zhou ever retire.
POWER PLAY: While Shang was primarily concerned with maintaining stability, Guo is expected to move quickly to make the financial system safer—and more appealing to outside investors—through regulation. In his first months in the position, he engaged in what the Xinhua News Agency described as a “regulatory windstorm,” taking steps to rein in the country’s enormous wealth management industry and crack down on shadow banking. Experts in China expect Guo to bring reforms across the entirety of its financial sector during his tenure.
2016 RANKING: 47
PATH TO POWER: Andreessen graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993 with a degree in computer science. The billionaire venture capitalist, entrepreneur and web pioneer is credited with launching the dot-com boom by codeveloping web browser Mosaic and cofounding internet company Netscape (known for web browser Netscape Navigator), which was acquired by AOL in 1998 for $4.2 billion. In 2009 he partnered with Ben Horowitz to cofound Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, which was an early investor in Airbnb, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest, Skype and Twitter, among some 150 other startups.
POWER PLAY: Andreessen is embroiled in a conflict-of-interest controversy involving his role on the board of Facebook and his personal relationship with CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In 2015 Andreessen was named to a special three-person committee to represent shareholders’ interests, but in 2016, he allegedly shared confidential information with Zuckerberg to help him with negotiations with shareholders, meaning minority shareholder interests were not being properly represented. Andreessen and the Facebook board are being sued by pension funds and individual investors.
2016 RANKING: 87
PATH TO POWER: A veteran of China’s central bank, Hu has led China’s Export-Import bank since 2015, playing a crucial role in the country’s efforts to fund infrastructure projects worldwide. Hu first rose to prominence during a stint as the administrator of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, prompting the Wall Street Journal to name her one of 50 women to watch in 2007 and 2008. Hu holds a master’s in economics from the Graduate School of the People’s Bank of China and has been known to quote Milton Friedman.
POWER PLAY: From Africa to the Middle East to Europe, China’s ex-im bank is involved in projects such as dams, highways and high-speed railways. These projects abroad are a crucial component of China’s foreign policy as Xi Jinping tries to position the superpower as the proglobalization answer to Trump’s isolationist tendencies. At Davos last winter, Xi indicated that China will be opening itself up for more imports—a priority that would fall under Hu’s purview.
PATH TO POWER: David and Charles are two sons of Fred Koch, a chemical engineer and inventor who made his fortune in the petroleum industry. Fred became political after doing business in the former Soviet Union, where he came to despise communism. He went on to help found the John Birch Society, an influential conservative group, in 1958. The brothers have largely followed in their father’s footsteps. David ran for vice president as a Libertarian in 1980, but the brothers decided against direct involvement in politics and opted instead to operate behind the scenes, providing money to politicians, ideas and causes that align with their values. Through their group Freedom Partners, the Kochs now help direct the money of hundreds of wealthy Americans. The Koch family has an estimated net worth of $82 billion, making them one of the richest in the U.S.
POWER PLAY: The 2016 elections were a blow to Democrats, but also to the Koch brothers and Freedom Partners, which helped fund many of the Republican politicians whom Donald Trump trounced. When Trump won the Republican nomination, Charles and David signaled that they would be sitting the rest of 2016 out. “The Koch brothers were supposed to buy the 2016 election. What happened?” asked influential conservative journalist Reihan Salam in one column. Tensions between the billionaire brothers and the president escalated in December, when Trump ejected a group that included one of his most critical biographers, but also David Koch, from his West Palm Beach golf course. According to one report, Koch “was appalled” and criticized Trump as “petty” and “vulgar.” Despite the bad blood, Charles and David have managed to exercise considerable influence in the White House. Legislative affairs director Marc Short, advisor Kellyanne Conway and White House lawyer Don McGahn have all worked for the Kochs in the past, and vice president Mike Pence has long been one of their favorite politicians.
2016 RANKING: 79
PATH TO POWER: At age 15, Swiss native Ermotti left school for an apprenticeship at Cornèr Banca, his first job in banking. Later, he completed the Advanced Management program at Oxford. Ermotti worked at a series of banks, including Citibank, Merrill Lynch and Italian bank UniCredit before joining UBS in 2011. He initially headed up UBS’s Europe, Middle East and Africa group, and was appointed CEO after Oswald Grübel resigned later that year.
POWER PLAY: In July 2017, Ermotti said that Frankfurt was “a location of choice” for its EU hub, leading an expected exodus from London due to Brexit. In an uncertain global banking environment, UBS has been cutting its bonus pool, and Ermotti also took a pay cut last year. Still, UBS has been gaining new client money in private banking under his leadership. In an interview with CNBC following its latest earnings announcement, Ermotti said that geopolitical uncertainty was likely to put pressure on investors in the near term.
2016 RANKING: 72
PATH TO POWER: Launched in 1987, the Carlyle Group is one of the world’s largest private equity firms, managing $158 billion in assets, and its cofounder, Rubenstein, is one of the richest people in the U.S., with a fortune of $2.9 billion. Rubenstein’s hobby is refurbishing national monuments, and he has donated a reported $44 million to the cause, including an $18.5-million project to refurbish the Lincoln Memorial.
POWER PLAY: Rubenstein made his name as a fundraiser (he has called himself “a salesman, in effect”) for Carlyle, and he reports that this year the fundraising market is one of the best he’s ever seen. Carlyle also won a victory this year when it dodged having to pay a $1 billion penalty for a mortgage-bond fund it founded in 2006—cue ominous music—which, shortly thereafter, imploded during the financial crisis. A British judge ruled that the fund’s managers were not at fault.
PATH TO POWER: As founder of Farallon Capital, Steyer, an alum of Yale, Stanford Business School and Goldman Sachs, became a billionaire investing in coal around the world. In 2010, Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, shifted focus to using that money to help the planet: They signed the Giving Pledge, following in the footsteps of Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. And in 2013 Steyer founded NextGen Climate, a political action group aimed at fighting global warming. Earlier this year, NextGen expanded its purview to immigration, healthcare and more as
POWER PLAY: Since 2012, Steyer has emerged as a liberal counter to the Koch brothers. In 2016, Steyer personally spent more than $87 million backing liberal, climate-conscious candidates at all levels of the ballot. While the Democrats weren’t especially successful, Steyer has become a major force in politics and is heavily pushing environmental regulations in the face of a Trump administration filled with climate change deniers.
PATH TO POWER: After studying at Virginia Tech, Bannon spent seven years in the Navy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Next, it was off to Wall Street, where he worked in mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs, then launched his own boutique investment bank, Bannon & Co., in 1990. He managed Biosphere 2 and traveled to Hollywood, where he became a part owner of Seinfeld rights, making him a very wealthy man. Along the way, he produced several documentaries and movies espousing far-right politics and an apocalyptic understanding of history. He became executive chairman of alt-right mouthpiece Breitbart News in 2012.
POWER PLAY: Bannon is the Littlefinger of the Trump White House. Under his leadership, Breitbart sowed the seeds of discontent that helped elect Donald Trump, and he used his relationship with the Mercer family to insinuate himself into the presidential campaign itself, replacing its chairman, Paul Manafort. When Trump entered the White House, Bannon followed as chief political strategist. But his power was always nebulous. He pushed Trump toward extreme policies of racial exclusion, economic isolationism and authoritarianism and larded the West Wing staff with former Breitbart staffers. Ultimately, the president soured on him, perhaps incensed by media reports of Bannon as the real power in the Oval Office, and Bannon eventually was pushed out after the neo-Nazi and alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Va., made his presence in the West Wing too politically toxic. But as Bannon himself told 60 Minutes in a September interview, he remains President Trump’s “wingman.”
2016 RANKING: 49
PATH TO POWER: Paris-born antitrust and labor lawyer Lagarde became the first female chair of Baker McKenzie in 1999 after being with the international law firm for 18 years; she became chair of the firm’s global strategic committee in 2004. In 2005 she was appointed France’s trade minister, and two years later French president Nicolas Sarkozy named her finance minister—the first female to hold the post. Lagarde was appointed managing director of the IMF for a five-year term—also the first woman to hold the position—and was reelected in July 2016. Lagarde is a strong voice for the advancement of women in leadership roles. “We need a 21st-century mentality for women’s economic participation,” she famously said. “We need to flush away the flotsam of ingrained gender inequality.”
POWER PLAY: Lagarde has had a tough year. In December 2016 a French court found her guilty of negligence for not challenging the 2007 payout of €400 million to a French businessman with ties to Sarkozy when she was finance minister. While she could have faced up to one year in prison and a €13,000 fine, Lagarde was not sentenced. She maintains her innocence, saying, “I acted with trust and with a clear conscience with the only intention of defending the public interest.” After her conviction, the IMF continued to support her, saying in a statement it had “full confidence in the managing director’s ability to continue to effectively carry out her duties.”
PATH TO POWER: Harris cofounded Apollo with Leon Black and Marc Rowan in 1990. The firm struggled during the 2008 financial crisis, but Apollo has emerged as one of the world’s hottest private equity firms, bringing in high rates of return and raising some of the largest sums in the business. Harris is worth an estimated $3.3 billion. A marathon runner and former wrestler, he demonstrated his love of sports by buying the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011.
POWER PLAY: In March, Harris was one of several business leaders to meet with Trump about infrastructure plans. Some in Trump’s cabinet have urged the president to eschew public-sector funding and instead seek private equity commitments to finance new infrastructure projects and repair old ones. If the White House moves in that direction, Harris, and Apollo, could have quite a few new investment opportunities. When it comes to politics, however, Harris has given money generously on both sides of the aisle, including, in June, to Trump’s Republican antagonist Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). In 2015, as Hillary Clinton ran for president, Bill Clinton delivered a speech to Apollo Management Holdings and was paid $250,000.
PATH TO POWER: An Albany, N.Y., native, Gillibrand came from a Democratic family. But after pursuing Asian studies at Dartmouth and studying abroad in Beijing and Taiwan, she interned for Republican senator Alfonse D’Amato while attending UCLA School of Law. She joined New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardell and was a key member of the Philip Morris defense team during the 1990s, although she also pursued numerous pro bono cases, particularly focusing on abuse cases. She left Davis Polk in 2000 to work briefly for Andrew Cuomo, who was then the U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and soon found herself deeply involved in Democratic politics, fundraising for Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign. In 2006, Gillibrand won a seat in Congress representing New York’s 20th district, and when President Obama appointed Clinton secretary of state in 2008, Gillibrand took over her Senate seat, which she has occupied ever since.
POWER PLAY: Gillibrand has emerged as a leader in a Democratic Party roiled by the unexpected rise of senator Bernie Sanders and loss by Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Hailing from a conservative district, she has a reputation for being equally capable of connecting with working class laborers and the left of the larger Democratic Party. She has built substantial grassroots political will over the years thanks to Off the Sidelines, a group she founded in 2011 to boost the involvement of women in politics. And in Washington, Gillibrand has targeted key economic and financial issues: She helped pen the STOCK Act, which passed in 2012 and prohibits congresspeople from benefitting financially from insider information, and she has backed bills to raise the minimum wage and create a national paid family leave program. In the aftermath of the Clinton campaign’s failure, many observers now see Gillibrand as a potential Democratic nominee in 2020.
See a Q&A with Kirsten Gillibrand.
2016 RANKING: 71
PATH TO POWER: Born in Ivory Coast with a dual citizenship in France, Thiam studied advanced mathematics and physics, receiving his MBA from INSEAD in France and going to work as a consultant at McKinsey. He worked in the Ivorian government and the insurance industry, first at Aviva, then at British insurer Prudential, which he headed from 2009 to 2015. Thiam’s success at Prudential led him to be chosen CEO of Credit Suisse in 2015, succeeding Brady Dougan, who left under a cloud after the bank pled guilty to helping clients evade taxes.
POWER PLAY: An outsider, Thiam was hired to turn around struggling Credit Suisse and focus on growing its wealth management division while scaling back investment banking. So far, the turnaround has stumbled. Credit Suisse is the worst performing of the top banks over the past two years. Earlier this year, Thiam cut costs and agreed to lower his own compensation in the wake of bank losses in 2016. He also is raising $4.3 billion in capital instead of selling off its Swiss Universal Bank, which caters to ultrawealthy clients; Credit Suisse is establishing a new unit catering to those clients.
2016 RANKING: 88
PATH TO POWER: A Queens native, Asness received an MBA and a PhD from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, then joined Goldman Sachs, where he used his academic training in efficient market theory to launch what would become the firm’s biggest hedge fund based on algorithmic trading, the now-defunct Global Alpha. In 1998, Asness left to help start his own hedge fund, AQR Capital Management, which has become the second-largest hedge fund in the world.
POWER PLAY: A fierce conservative, Asness became famous in 2016 for being part of the #NeverTrump movement, but he didn’t let politics slow him down when Trump won the election. AQR’s assets have ballooned to $195 billion, with just under $70 billion of it in hedge funds, as quant funds became the hottest investment strategy while other hedge funds have struggled. Recalling the woes that beset quants a decade ago, Asness wrote in an August blog post that “the next crisis probably won’t be a repeat of the last, but they probably will rhyme.”
2016 Ranking: 30
PATH TO POWER: Soros is one of the most successful investors living today. He is also a wealthy donor to Democratic politicians and founder and chairman of the progressive Open Society Foundations. That’s made him a bogeyman for the American right wing—so much so that a petition urging the White House to declare Soros a “terrorist” and seize his assets garnered more than 100,000 signatures, the threshold requiring an official response from the Trump administration. Born in Hungary, Soros lived under Nazi occupation as a teen, studied at the London School of Economics and founded Soros Fund Management in 1970. He is worth an estimated $25.2 billion.
POWER PLAY: As Democrats took stock following last year’s elections, they realized that they not only failed to win control of either chamber of Congress and had lost the presidency, but they had also ceded their hold on governors’ mansions and statehouses. Soros himself had spent more than $25 million boosting Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates and causes. But in 2017, Open Society Foundations has continued to fund activist groups—and they have had some successes. One victory that carried potent symbolic weight came when activist groups helped by Soros successfully pressured U.S. business leaders to quit Trump’s advisory councils following the violence in Charlottesville, Va.
2016 RANKING: 65
PATH TO POWER: Known to keep a low profile, Erdoes is a quiet, steady influence in her role as J.P. Morgan Asset Management CEO, a post that she’s held since 2009. With the bank for more than 20 years, the Georgetown grad with a Harvard MBA is a well-respected member of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s inner circle. In August, Dimon boasted about the firm’s focus on gender equality, noting that 30 percent of his direct reports (the bank’s top 200 people) are women; it is speculated that he will back either Erdoes or CFO Marianne Lake as his eventual successor.
POWER PLAY: Erdoes helped lead the Asset Management division to record revenue of $12.1 billion in 2015 (the sixth consecutive year of record revenue) on assets under management of $1.7 trillion. And she was well compensated: In 2016, she earned $19 million, $1 million more than the year prior. A major Republican Party donor and fundraiser, Erdoes was thrilled at the prospect of Trump as president in early January, when she said, “The U.S. economy will take off in a way that it hasn’t for many years. There has been a pendulum switch that will be very positive for U.S. companies and should cascade to other businesses outside the U.S.”
PATH TO POWER: Memphis, Tenn.-born Jones decided to forgo his acceptance to Harvard Business School and instead founded Tudor Investment Corporation in 1980 in Greenwich, Conn., after working as a broker at EF Hutton. Since then, he’s become a billionaire several times over. After cofounding the Robin Hood Foundation in 1988, he also became one of New York’s most prominent philanthropists.
POWER PLAY: Jones has not limited his philanthropy to the millions raised and distributed by the Robin Hood Foundation. In 2015 he founded Just Capital, a nonprofit that rates companies on how justly they treat their employees and society (it’s been referred to as a “moral index”). In November 2016, Just Capital released its inaugural ranking of the 100 most just companies across 32 different industries, creating for the first time a qualitative ranking of publicly traded American companies’ positive impacts on the world.
2016 RANKING: 52
PATH TO POWER: Brainard took her seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 2014 after a stint in the Obama administration’s Treasury department. As the daughter of a foreign service officer during the Cold War, Brainard grew up in Poland and Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Prior to entering politics, she was an economics professor at MIT and a Brookings Institution fellow.
POWER PLAY: As anti-globalization angst has grown to a fever pitch in the West, Brainard has made a point of listening to those in the U.S. left behind by the increasingly international economy. She recently made visits to struggling communities in Appalachia and the Deep South, explaining in a speech that “we really do have to be focused on the kinds of policies that can reconnect those people to the workforce.” Whether her findings will influence Federal Reserve policy or the economic outlook of its board of governors remains to be seen.
2016 RANKING: 60
PATH TO POWER: Born in Tulsa, Okla., Kravis earned a degree in economics from Claremont McKenna College and an MBA from Columbia in 1969 before working at various financial jobs in New York, where he joined Bear Stearns, becoming partner at age 30. In 1976 Kravis, his first cousin George Roberts and his former boss Jerome Kohlberg all quit Bear Stearns to launch their own private equity firm, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Kravis and Roberts each put up $10,000 and Kohlberg, 20 years their senior, contributed $100,000 to start the company. KKR now owns stakes in more than 100 companies—including GoDaddy, Lyft and Toys “R” Us—with a combined annual revenue of approximately $200 billion.
POWER PLAY: At age 73, the private equity titan is worth $5.1 billion. Last year, Donald Trump voiced interest in Kravis as a potential treasury secretary. But the longtime Republican donor went on the record saying, “While I’m honored to be mentioned, I love my job and can’t imagine leaving it.” Or maybe he could. This summer, KKR announced succession plans for Kravis and Roberts (Kohlberg resigned from KKR in 1987 and passed away two years ago): Scott Nuttall, 44, and Joe Bae, 45, were named copresidents, cochief operating officers and members of the board of directors, who will run the day-to-day operations of the company. Kravis and Roberts wanted to lay out a clear plan for the future of the $137-billion firm, though neither has confirmed a retirement date.
2016 RANKING: 38
PATH TO POWER: Appointed by Obama in 2012 to head the CFPB, an agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, Cordray is under scrutiny now that Republicans lead both chambers of Congress and the White House. A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, Cordray began his career as a law clerk to ill-fated Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. He later served as solicitor general of Ohio and, in 2009, became Ohio attorney general. He’s also a five-time Jeopardy champion.
POWER PLAY: Cordray’s term expires in July 2018, and it seems his foes in Congress and the White House are willing to let him stay in the job until then, with the hope that he won’t rock the boat too much. After that, they’ll be able to replace him with a more docile regulator to head an agency that is meant to serve as the public’s primary consumer watchdog. Cordray hasn’t talked publicly about his future beyond 2018. But he’s been such a force at the CFPB, enforcing old protections and creating new ones, that many Republicans are concerned about rumors that he plans to mount a bid for governor or a U.S. Senate seat in his home state of Ohio.
PATH TO POWER: The founder of one of largest private equity firms in the world, Black rose to prominence as the head of the mergers and acquisitions desk at Drexel Burnham Lambert, which collapsed amid mismanagement and federal racketeering charges in 1990. But Black teamed up with two of the firm’s junior employees, Joshua Harris and Marc Rowan, to found Apollo in 1990; the firm now has $192 billion under management. Black remains the public face of Apollo and is worth an estimated $6.3 billion. A good portion of that money is locked up in his art collection, worth an estimated $2 billion.
POWER PLAY: It was a great year for private equity, with fundraising higher than at any point since before the financial crisis. Apollo pieced together $23.5 billion to create the largest buyout fund ever. Returns are down across all asset classes, but these things are relative: Apollo only needs to do better than its rivals, and with this heap of money, Black has given himself the room to take risks that could make a difference.
2016 RANKING: 67
PATH TO POWER: A native of Jackson Heights, Queens, and the son of a jazz musician, Dalio started investing when he was 12 and put the $300 he earned as a caddy into Northeast Airlines stock. He tripled that first investment when the airline merged with Delta. After attending Long Island University and HBS and working briefly at Sandy Weill’s Shearson Hayden Stone, he founded his hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, in his apartment in 1975.
POWER PLAY: While Bridgewater’s performance has been below average in recent years, over the course of his career, Dalio has proven to be one of the best hedge funders of all time. This year saw the release of his first book, Principles, where he outlines the strategies and rules he’s lived by and how he’s used them to run his company. Early response indicates it will be a bible of sorts for striving investors and seasoned executives for decades to come.
PATH TO POWER: Engelbert’s entire career, since graduating Lehigh with an accounting degree in 1986, has been with Deloitte. She became chairman and CEO of Deloitte & Touche, the company’s auditing arm, in 2014 and was promoted to CEO of the entire U.S. consulting company the following year. A former Division I college basketball and lacrosse player, Engelbert is an advocate for increasing the number of women in positions of power. “In an age of exponential change, we need the power of diverse thinking, and we cannot afford to leave any talent untapped,” she wrote in a Time essay last year.
POWER PLAY: As head of 80,000-employee Deloitte, Engelbert has been a prominent voice tamping down fears about automation and AI, and the changes these technologies will bring to the economy. “Throughout history, automation has often helped increase labor productivity and focused workers on the higher value-added elements of work,” she told Quartz.
2016 RANKING: 50
PATH TO POWER: Born and raised in the UK with a dual citizenship in the U.S., Lake earned a BS in physics from Britain’s University of Reading and began her career at PricewaterhouseCoopers in its London and Sydney offices. She worked for both Chase and J.P. Morgan in London. In 2009 she became CFO of JPMorgan Chase’s Consumer & Community Banking unit, rising in 2012 to CFO of JPMorgan Chase where she oversees $2.5 trillion in assets. From July 2016 to July 2017, the bank generated $26.5 billion in profit, and its share price has risen more than 130 percent since Lake became CFO.
POWER PLAY: One of four women on JPMorgan Chase’s operating committee, Lake is one of two women (Mary Callahan Erdoes being the other) poised to succeed Jamie Dimon as CEO. She leads earnings calls and interacts with investors more than the average CFO. While other banks are making cuts at the top, Lake received a 14 percent pay increase in 2016 to bring her compensation to $12.5 million.
PATH TO POWER: New York’s current governor has a political pedigree—his father was New York governor Mario Cuomo, a towering figure in the state’s political history. While in his mid-20s, Cuomo worked on his father’s campaign. Later, in the early 1990s, he was New York mayor David Dinkins’ chair of the Commission on Homelessness before leaving to join the Clinton administration. After stints as Clinton’s HUD secretary and New York State’s attorney general, Cuomo assumed the governorship in 2011.
POWER PLAY: Cuomo is a potential Democratic presidential candidate for 2020 on what is shaping up to be a crowded field. He was already known for his infrastructure accomplishments, an image somewhat undercut this year when his nemesis, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, blamed him for the sorry state of the city’s subway system. But Cuomo has also burnished his national image as one of several Democratic governors standing up to Trump. In January, he denounced the administration for its travel ban, and in September he promised to sue Trump should he end DACA. “You want to deport immigrants? I say to them, start with me, Andrew Cuomo, the grandson of Andrea and Immaculata Cuomo, Italian poor immigrants,” he bellowed before a cheering crowd of unionized hotel workers in Times Square. If he can keep it up, he may have a chance to outshine his many rivals in 2020.
2016 RANKING: 56
PATH TO POWER: A veteran of the Agricultural Bank of China, Liu took over the CSRC in 2016, stepping into the high-profile role of chief regulator of the country’s wild and volatile securities market. At the time, it was in a state of crisis. In his rush to stabilize it, Liu scrapped a host of reforms that were planned by his predecessor.
POWER PLAY: Now that the crisis is over, some in China are hoping he will push forward with a reformist agenda, but Liu is taking his time. In April of this year, he maintained that ensuring market stability remained his top priority—and, implicitly, that pushing reforms that could cause jolts were not. Overseeing China’s casino-style markets is something of a gamble itself, and a misstep could see Liu out of a job: The CSRC has had eight chairs in 26 years.
2016 RANKING: 62
PATH TO POWER: Born in South Korea, Kim immigrated to the U.S. as a child and excelled in academics, eventually receiving both an MD and a PhD in anthropology from Harvard. Kim went on to become a public health activist and president of Dartmouth College before being nominated by President Obama to lead the World Bank in 2012.
POWER PLAY: Given his background as an activist, it’s no surprise that Kim has pushed the World Bank to focus on ending extreme poverty and income inequality, as well as addressing broader topics like climate change—although projects for the latter have not been receiving funding in the Trump era. Early in his first term, Kim engineered a shake-up at the bank that was controversial among insiders, but he was unanimously appointed to a second five-year term in late 2016. It began in July.
2016 RANKING: 54
PATH TO POWER: Raised in Connecticut, Corbat studied economics at Harvard and was a college football All-American before embarking on a Wall Street career at Salomon Brothers, the bond trading behemoth that became part of Citigroup. After assuming various roles there, he was named CEO in 2012, replacing the ousted Vikram Pandit.
POWER PLAY: Corbat got the top role after taking on the arduous job of managing the troubled assets of Citi, its so-called “bad bank” that was wound down. The bank was forced to take nearly $500 billion in bailouts and guarantees, and failed its stress tests twice with the Federal Reserve before finally passing in 2015. It recently promised to return $60 billion to shareholders, which could help boost shares, still down 90 percent over the past decade. Citi remains among the weakest of U.S. banks; although, as a result, Corbat’s salary for 2016 was cut by 6.1 percent, he still earned $15 million last year.
2016 RANKING: 51
PATH TO POWER: After receiving her MBA from Harvard, the granddaughter of Fidelity founder Edward C. Johnson II joined the investment firm in 1988 as an analyst and portfolio manager. Ten years later she moved into executive roles and was named CEO in 2014. In 2016 she became chair, replacing her father, who retired at 86, and making her one of the most powerful women in finance.
POWER PLAY: Fidelity posted record revenue, asset growth and operating growth in 2016, even as Johnson admitted that the firm faces intense competition that this year led to layoffs and other changes. Fidelity has been slow to move away from active management, although Johnson has made attempts to expand the firm’s ETF offerings and other passive products. In late July, Fidelity said it would also cut fees on such products to better compete with firms like Vanguard.
PATH TO POWER: A longtime Republican donor and one-time chair of the Republican Party in Michigan, DeVos is a member of that state’s wealthy Prince family—her brother is Erik Prince, the former marine and businessman behind the private security firm Blackwater. DeVos, who once headed a pro-school-choice advocacy group, was a surprise appointment for education secretary, but one who, thanks to her good relationship with many legislators, was easily confirmed in February. She quickly stocked her department with advocates for charter schools, religious education and for-profit colleges.
POWER PLAY: DeVos has promised to overhaul the $1.3 trillion student loan system by 2019. She initially endorsed a plan under which the current system, which has multiple companies service loans, would be replaced with one that awards a contract to a single company. But, in August, she changed course after bipartisan backlash denounced that plan as anticompetitive. She has signaled that she will be an ally to for-profit colleges and may offer help to those that are accused of swindling students out of their money. (It’s an issue that may be close to the president’s heart; he was embroiled in a lawsuit over Trump University that he settled for $25 million while in the midst of campaigning.) DeVos’ department has delayed and is now rewriting Obama-era rules designed to protect students from being exploited by for-profit colleges. While the rewrite is in the works, the department is sitting on tens of thousands of requests for student loan forgiveness from students who say they were defrauded, and it has cut off the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from viewing student loan information, a move seemingly aimed at making sure the consumer watchdog doesn’t intervene.
2016 RANKING: 27
PATH TO POWER: A former investment banker at Goldman Sachs, Carney, a Canadian, became the governor of his country’s central bank in 2008 before moving to the Bank of England in 2013. He also serves as chairman of the G20’s Financial Stability Board.
POWER PLAY: As the United Kingdom negotiates its withdrawal from the European Union, it’s Carney’s job to figure out what a post-EU UK financial sector should look like. Some have called for deregulation, claiming that a light touch could prompt dramatic financial growth in London. But, recalling the credit crunch of the last decade, Carney has cautioned against moving too quickly in that direction. Ten years after the crisis, Carney claims that his country has put in place the reforms needed to prevent a repeat, and he’s not eager to see them unwound.
PATH TO POWER: Gore, a former Democratic senator from Tennessee, served as Bill Clinton’s vice president. In 2000, he ran for president himself, narrowly losing to George W. Bush. Since then, Gore has been dramatically, and convincingly, sounding the alarm about climate change. He is particularly good at noting the economic impact of environmental destruction, and he runs a very profitable fund, Generation Investment Management, which focuses on environmental sustainability.
POWER PLAY: This year thrust the former VP back into the spotlight with the release of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, a follow-up to his 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Climate change, the seemingly distant tragedy of the commons, has started to look a lot more threatening this year, as Trump has methodically worked to slash regulation for oil, gas and coal corporations, and natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma put a spotlight on the issue. Gore has remained a presidential prospect since his failed run, but with the Democratic Party yet to settle on a message that goes beyond bashing Trump, rumors of a 2020 Gore presidential run might have some weight.
2016 RANKING: 16
PATH TO POWER: Massachusetts’ first female senator, Warren won her seat in 2012 after serving as Obama’s assistant to the president, helping to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and chairing the Congressional Oversight Panel. A respected attorney, scholar and educator, Warren taught at the law schools of UT Austin, Penn and Harvard. She earned a BS in speech pathology and audiology from University of Houston in 1970 and a law degree from Rutgers in 1976.
POWER PLAY: On the short list of potential candidates for a 2020 presidential run, the outspoken Democrat—who, interestingly, was a Republican until 1995—has been a leading voice for student loan reform and, in September, cosponsored Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill. This year Warren released her 11th book, This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class. In February, during a speech critical of attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions on the Senate floor, Warren was silenced by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who stated, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” That last line became a battle cry of feminists nationwide.
2016 RANKING: 53
PATH TO POWER: The Spanish banker studied economics at Bryn Mawr before eventually returning to Madrid in 1988 to work at Banco Santander, which has been led by her family for four generations. Botín has headed units in Latin America, Spain and the UK. She became chair when her father died in 2014.
POWER PLAY: Spanish banks have been under pressure for years, making Botín’s leadership challenging. But this year, she made progress on several fronts. In June, Santander agreed to take over failing Banco Popular, Spain’s sixth-biggest bank, in a deal that Botín claimed “is good for Spain and…good for Europe.” In the U.S., she sought to cap the troubles in Santander’s consumer bank by replacing the head of the unit, which makes subprime auto loans, after it was forced to restate its earnings amid regulatory scrutiny and lawsuits. The U.S. unit also finally passed its Federal Reserve stress tests this year, after failing for three years. And Santander’s shares have risen 60 percent over the past year.
2016 RANKING: 73
PATH TO POWER: Frankfurt, Germany–born Thiel cofounded PayPal in 1998 and made smart early investments in companies such as Facebook, making him one of the wealthiest and most successful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. But Thiel’s voice has been loudest on the political and social fronts in recent years. He bankrolled pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan’s bankruptcy-inducing lawsuit against Gawker Media last year, and his brand of Silicon Valley libertarianism has been gaining influence.
POWER PLAY: In 2016, Thiel went all-in on Donald Trump, even speaking at the Republican National Convention, and made the case for Trump being a president who would support big business. Once Trump was elected, Thiel went to work helping to organize the president’s short-lived advisory councils of executives. In the aftermath of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., the council was disbanded, and how much influence Thiel actually wields continues to be in question. But as someone who waited most of a decade to take down Gawker, his final goal may be hard to see right now.
PATH TO POWER: Tusk became president of the European Council in 2014, fresh off a stint as Polish prime minister, a role he had held since 2007. Tusk had a long career in Polish politics as a centrist, though his country is now governed by the populist, right-wing, sometimes Euro-skeptic Law and Justice party—a fact that has contributed to the EU’s difficulties under Tusk’s leadership.
POWER PLAY: This has been a challenging year for the European Union. Tusk hunkered down and led his embattled coalition—even as, at one point, rumors circulated that his native Poland might follow the United Kingdom’s lead and quit the EU. But Tusk sought to frame negatives as positives. As Brexit negotiations began, he declared, “Paradoxically, there is also something positive in Brexit. Brexit has made us, the community of 27, more determined and more united than before.”
2016 RANKING: 44
PATH TO POWER: An Oxford-educated economics professor and the former president of the Asian Development Bank, Kuroda has been the governor of Japan’s central bank since 2013, when he was appointed by incoming prime minister Shinzō Abe. He was also a special advisor to the cabinet of Abe’s predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. He now directs monetary policy for the third-largest economy in the world and is charged with implementing the prime minister’s “Abenomics” agenda to deal with chronic deflation.
POWER PLAY: Despite the country’s economic struggles, Kuroda sounded optimistic this year, telling reporters that the massive stimulus effort he has overseen, including negative interest rates on some reserves, is working. He predicted shifts in the country’s labor markets, and growing inflation, amid continued monetary easing in years to come. Kuroda had announced the negative interest rates in January 2016. Then, in September, the central bank adopted a “yield-curve control” policy, intended to keep the 10-year government debt yield at 0 percent. These were some of a slew of policies intended to increase interest rate gaps between Japan and other world economies. The moves were controversial, but, more than a year later, it’s looking like some of the concerns of Kuroda’s harshest critics were overblown. Following Donald Trump’s electoral victory in the U.S., foreign yields rose, putting downward pressure on the yen—the outcome Kuroda had hoped for. He is expected to be offered another term leading the bank in April 2018.
PATH TO POWER: A graduate of Amherst and Harvard Law School, Schneiderman started his career clerking for the U.S. Court for the Southern District of New York before joining K&L Gates, eventually becoming a partner at the firm. He was elected to the New York State Senate in 1998, a role he held until 2011, when he became New York attorney general.
POWER PLAY: As AG in New York, Schneiderman has jurisdiction over a host of financial matters. In early September, for instance, he initiated an investigation of credit reporting agency Equifax over its hacking in July. But it is his ability to go after Donald Trump’s businesses and campaign, both headquartered in Manhattan, that are most significant this year. Presidential pardons only extend to federal crimes, giving Schneiderman significant cover in pursuing the president and his associates. Schneiderman’s persistence as an investigator will be key in the ongoing Russia probe against the president.
2016 RANKING: 82
PATH TO POWER: A former Brown University rugby player and a graduate of Notre Dame’s law school, Moynihan rose through the ranks over more than two decades with Bank of America. He became the head of consumer banking in 2009, after being named the head of Merrill Lynch when BofA bought it in 2008. He took over the CEO post from Ken Lewis, the architect of the megabank, when Lewis retired in 2010.
POWER PLAY: Moynihan has spent most of his tenure at the top cleaning up BofA’s mess from the financial crisis, including the legal woes of subprime lender Countrywide, which it bought in January 2008. In 2014, BofA settled investigations related to the mortgage business and this year finally passed a Federal Reserve stress test, deeming it able to withstand tough markets. A further sign of Moynihan’s success came in August, when Warren Buffett became the bank’s largest shareholder after he swapped his preferred shares for common. The tycoon had lent BofA the money in 2011, when the bank was still facing significant balance sheet and litigation issues.
PATH TO POWER: Obama-era SEC chair Mary Jo White was one of the first financial regulators to quit her post in the new administration, announcing her plans to leave less than a week after election returns showed Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Clayton, her successor, is a Wall Street lawyer who, like White, defended many of the same banks he now polices. During the financial crisis, Clayton advised Bear Stearns and Barclays Capital in its purchase of Lehman Brothers’ assets. In his confirmation hearings, Clayton promised that he will not be hung up on fond memories of his former friends while executing his duties, and pledged to root out fraud.
POWER PLAY: Should the president’s allies in Congress succeed in rolling back parts of Dodd-Frank, Clayton will be responsible for determining, through the rulemaking process, a large part of how that rollback would work in practice. His early acts in office suggest Clayton himself is—no surprise—a proponent of deregulation. Notably, Clayton has helped with the Department of Labor’s efforts to halve the implementation of the fiduciary rule for investment advisors.
PATH TO POWER: Buckley’s father was a top surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and his mother was a nurse. Though he considered a career in medicine, he instead studied economics at Harvard. After graduating, he worked as an assistant to Vanguard founder John Bogle, who was CEO at the time, before pursuing his MBA at HBS in 1994. Buckley joined Vanguard again in 1996, eventually rising to CIO in 2013.
POWER PLAY: In July it was announced that Buckley had been unanimously selected by Vanguard’s board to succeed F. William McNabb, who has been CEO of the company since 2008. On January 1, Buckley will take the helm of a company that boasts $4.5 trillion in global AUM, up from about $1.4 trillion at the start of McNabb’s tenure. He’ll have big shoes to fill, but his status as a Vanguard lifer and the support he has from the board should help him along the way.
2016 RANKING: 48
PATH TO POWER: Gundlach was on his way to earning a PhD in theoretical mathematics at Yale when he left to pursue a career as a rock musician in California. Failing at that, Gundlach joined the bond desk at TCW in Los Angeles, where he rose to chief investment officer before being fired in December 2009. He then founded DoubleLine Capital, hiring many of his former TCW associates. The firm now has $116 billion in assets.
POWER PLAY: Gundlach was a top-performing bond manager at TCW and for years at DoubleLine, earning him the title the “New Bond King,” which he usurped from rival Bill Gross. But lackluster performance since 2016 and provocative predictions that have not borne fruit have led investors to pull money from DoubleLine’s largest fund. Meanwhile, Gundlach has grown bearish on everything from stocks and bonds to emerging markets. In mid-2017 Gundlach was buying puts on the S&P 500 and eyeing gold. But he remains one of the most intriguing voices in finance, and one whose moves are closely watched.
PATH TO POWER: A former clerk for justice Clarence Thomas, Rao heads an obscure agency that will nonetheless take a prominent role during Trump’s presidency. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs was started during the Carter administration and has rarely been in the spotlight since then. This year could be different.
POWER PLAY: Rao was picked by the Trump administration to oversee one of its top priorities, regulatory rollback, or, as former White House strategist Steve Bannon more colorfully described it, the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Among other initiatives, the White House has pledged to cut two rules for every new rule enacted, prioritizing those that are most costly. While scandals have kept both the president and cable news occupied, deregulatory efforts have been humming along, largely without hiccups, and largely under the radar. Still, Rao’s agency has started to come under scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers who accuse it of operating behind a shroud of secrecy and hiring lobbyists to rethink regulations that affected their former clients.
2016 RANKING: 42
PATH TO POWER: An Athenian, Tsipras was politically active as a youth, joining the Communist Youth of Greece and playing a key role in student protests in the 1990s. He went on to study civil engineering and received a graduate degree in urban and regional planning. By the time the Greek financial crisis hit in 2008, Tsipras had risen to the top of the left-wing Syriza party and was elected prime minister in 2015.
POWER PLAY: Though he entered office as an anti-austerity candidate, Tsipras has proven adept at working with Greece’s creditors and the nation’s myriad political parties, even resigning as PM in August 2015 only to be reelected a month later. Despite domestic unpopularity thanks to his support of austerity, Tsipras has worked well with his European counterparts. As of July, Greek productivity was rising and the nation held its first debt offering—issuing bonds onto the global marketplace—since 2014, indicating that Greece may not need further European loans in 2018.
2016 RANKING: 81
PATH TO POWER: Although he was a talented student from a young age, Jin had to leave school in 1966 because of the Cultural Revolution. He joined the Red Guard at age 17 and was sent to rural China to grow rice for three years before finally returning to school in 1978 and pursuing an MA in English. Jin went on to become a Hubert Humphrey Fellow and studied economics at Boston University. He has held multiple academic appointments in China and has published Chinese translations of English-language economics books and poetry.
POWER PLAY: Though Jin took the helm of the then-new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015, the $100 billion institution has really started to make waves only in the past year. Intended to counter the influence of the World Bank and project Chinese economic power as the country embarks on its “One Belt, One Road” expansion of trade connections, Jin and the AIIB will wield increasing power in the Asia Pacific region, particularly now that President Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Even before Trump’s election, Jin said that he saw an end to American hegemony, as reported in the New York Times: “The U.S. risks forfeiting its international relevance while stuck in its domestic political quagmire.…History has never set any precedent that an empire is capable of governing the world forever.”
2016 RANKING: 34
PATH TO POWER: With a net worth of around $13 billion, there’s little doubt that Wharton-educated Cohen has been one of the most successful hedge fund managers in history. But after being charged with failing to prevent insider trading at his firm, SAC Capital, in 2013, he was forced to wind down his positions and limited to investing his personal fortune.
POWER PLAY: Four years after the SAC debacle, Cohen is back, raising money for a $20 billion fund he intends to launch in 2018, once the SEC restrictions placed on him are lifted. Whether the tainted hedge funder can woo investors again and run a tighter ship than at SAC is unclear. But his return to the field by itself may be one of finance’s greatest comeback stories.
PATH TO POWER: A St. Louis native and Stanford computer science dropout, Altman founded several tech firms before making his way to Y Combinator, arguably the most successful startup incubator in Silicon Valley. He became president of Y Combinator in 2014; the following year the combined value of its portfolio companies crossed $65 billion. In 2015, Altman launched the $700 million YC Continuity fund to provide follow-on investments to portfolio companies.
POWER PLAY: In the past couple of years, the 32-year-old Altman has branched out from Y Combinator’s core mission of funding nascent startups. Last year, Y Combinator quietly launched a research project examining the feasibility and impact of universal basic income (essentially guaranteed income). In July, he launched a political action initiative, the United Slate, targeting healthcare costs, infrastructure spending, housing costs and more. And he has announced that Y Combinator will accept 10,000 applicants to its online Startup School next semester (in 2018)—though how many of those companies ultimately will get funding is an open question.
PATH TO POWER: A Brit, Masters studied economics at Trinity College in Cambridge, England. She joined J.P. Morgan in 1991, became the bank’s youngest managing director at just 28 and has been credited as the inventor of the credit default swap. Masters was named J.P. Morgan Investment Banking CFO in 2004 and head of global commodities in 2007. In 2015, she joined startup Digital Asset as CEO.
POWER PLAY: At Digital Asset, Masters is using blockchain, the technology that underlies Bitcoin, to revolutionize core banking technology. Essentially, Digital Asset’s technology will accelerate and simplify transaction clearance between banks, brokerages and other financial institutions. In February, Digital Asset and clearinghouse Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, the world’s largest financial services corporation dealing in post-trade transactions, announced that they had completed a proof of concept for implementing the technology. A blockchain-based DTCC platform is scheduled to debut fully early next year.
2016 RANKING: 33
PATH TO POWER: A fiscal hawk with politics to the right of many in his party, Hensarling is nothing if not a purist. He voted against the bank bailout during the financial crisis, even while acknowledging that thousands could lose their jobs or homes; he feared, he said, that it would put the nation on “the slippery slope to socialism.” A former Texas political operative, he was elected in 2002 and rose quickly through the ranks in Congress, consolidating his power after the Tea Party movement and backlash against President Obama buoyed Republicans in 2010.
POWER PLAY: With a Republican in the White House, Hensarling, as chair of the House Financial Services Committee, will have a chance to target his greatest nemesis: Dodd-Frank. Early candidates for the chopping block include capital requirements for banks, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Volcker Rule.
2016 RANKING: 35
PATH TO POWER: Griffin started trading convertible bonds from his Harvard dorm room, then founded Citadel in Chicago in 1990, a year after he graduated, with a $1 million investment from Glenwood Capital’s Frank Meyer. After a near-death experience during the financial crisis of 2008, Citadel has thrived to become a $27 billion hedge fund empire.
POWER PLAY: Griffin was the highest-paid hedge fund manager two years running, in 2014 and 2015. But he lost that crown in 2016, after Citadel had its worst year since the financial crisis, with its two main multistrategy funds gaining only 5 percent. Given the pummeling hedge funds faced that year, Griffin still was one of the top earners, taking home $600 million. And this year, those funds are coming back, having gained 7 percent through July.
2016 RANKING: 28
PATH TO POWER: A native of Janesville, Wisc., Ryan went to Miami University in Ohio, where he studied political science and developed a love for conservative theorists and economists such as Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman. He was first elected to the House in 1998 and joined the budget committee in 2007. In 2012, he ran as vice president on Mitt Romney’s Republican ticket. Although Romney lost, Ryan had fully attained wunderkind status and became speaker of the House in 2015.
POWER PLAY: Ryan has shifted seamlessly from the Obama presidency to the Trump presidency, although his voice has been muted as he has sought to navigate between supporting Trump enough to please the Republican base and not supporting him so much that Trump’s more extreme opinions stick to the Republican brand. Although Ryan has not necessarily been successful at this, he retains substantial influence within the party. And with the Trump administration under investigation, it’s worth remembering that should both the president and vice president be forced from office, the speaker of the House would rise to the top job.
2016 RANKING: 37
PATH TO POWER: China tends to force financial officials out of their roles, citing mandatory retirement ages that vary depending on the position. But Zhou, 69, is considered to be irreplaceable by many in the Communist Party. He has steered China’s central bank since 2002 and is predicted to continue to do so for years to come.
POWER PLAY: Zhou has played a key role this year in China’s efforts to brand itself as the new, friendly champion of globalization. In one speech, he denounced Chinese protectionism—a message foreign firms were happy to hear—and, in another, he called for “One Belt, One Road” projects to use local currencies rather than the U.S. dollar. The People’s Bank of China’s assets also grant Zhou considerable power by default: The institution holds $3.1 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves, including $1.1 trillion in U.S. Treasury securities.
PATH TO POWER: After a stint in the U.S. Army, Duperreault started his career at AIG in 1973 and steadily rose to the insurer’s executive ranks. He left AIG in 1994 to become a nonexecutive chairman of ACE Group, the company now more widely known as Chubb Limited, where he spent 10 years. Duperreault then served as CEO of Marsh & McLennan and founded Hamilton Insurance Group. He has tried to retire twice, but it seems that Duperreault, now age 70, won’t be kicking back on a beach anytime soon.
POWER PLAY: In 2017, AIG lured Duperreault away from his position as CEO of Hamilton Insurance with the opportunity to lead the corporation where he started his career. The job is widely considered one of the toughest in the industry, as AIG continues to struggle to recover from the financial crisis, even after a government bailout. The company has had seven CEOs in slightly over a decade, and Duperreault’s predecessor, Peter Hancock, was ousted at the urging of activist investors, including Carl Icahn. “I didn’t come here to break the company up. I came here to grow it,” Duperreault said upon taking the insurer’s helm. As he works to turn around AIG—still a powerhouse with more than $52 billion in revenue in 2016—he will receive an annual pay package valued at $16 million.
PATH TO POWER: After growing up in Teaneck, N.J., Singer received a JD from Harvard Law School in 1969. He soon joined the real estate division of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, leaving to start his hedge fund, Elliott Management, in 1977. Early losses made Singer risk averse, which has ensured Elliott’s survival. It is now one of the oldest hedge funds in the U.S., with $31 billion in assets and an annualized return of 13.5 percent.
POWER PLAY: Singer gained notoriety for his 15-year legal battle with Argentina, which he finally won in 2016. Elliott ended up making $2.4 billon on defaulted Argentina bonds, with accrued interest, some 10 to 15 times what it had paid for them, leading the firm to post a 13 percent return in 2016, its best in years. He has used his fearsome image to become one of the top shareholder activists, taking on four companies on four separate continents this year, including Arconic in the U.S. and BHP Billiton in Australia. Singer is also a top Republican financier and led the #NeverTrump campaign.
PATH TO POWER: The Communist Party replaced Lou Jiwei with Xiao in November 2016. Before the promotion, Xiao was an aide and confidant to prime minister Li Keqiang and spent more than two decades working on the nation’s financial policy.
POWER PLAY: As the finance minister for the world’s second-largest economy, Xiao is a key point person for China’s efforts to push back against protectionism of the sort espoused by Donald Trump—elected the day after Xiao was appointed to the post—and conservative populists in Europe. He also faces challenges at home: Many are looking to him to reform the country’s economy while exercising increased control over local officials, who are often dependent on funds from the central government but unaccountable for how they use them.
2016 RANKING: 13
PATH TO POWER: A graduate of Yale (and a member of its secret Skull and Bones society) and Harvard Business School, Schwarzman is in some ways the quintessential Wall Street power player. After graduating from HBS, Schwarzman joined Lehman Brothers’ M&A practice, becoming a managing director at 31. He cofounded private equity firm Blackstone with his former boss Peter Peterson in 1985.
POWER PLAY: Blackstone ended 2016 with $367 billion in AUM, a record for the firm and a 9 percent increase over the previous year. Schwarzman spent $100 million to help endow the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, which he sees as a contemporary alternative to the Rhodes scholarship program. And as the head of Trump’s economic advisory forum, Schwarzman was instrumental in rallying the corporate world around the incoming president. But even as the council disbanded in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Schwarzman has stood by the president, perhaps because he believes he can exert influence on Trump. Indeed, Blackstone secured a contract to manage a $20 billion fund for the Saudi government during a visit by Trump to the nation (Blackstone says it had a longstanding relationship with the Saudis and that Trump had nothing to do with the deal), but Schwarzman’s personal brand has undoubtedly suffered thanks to his association with the administration.
PATH TO POWER: The 45-year-old prime minister is the first to be a descendant of a past PM; his father, Pierre Trudeau, held the office from 1968 to 1984. Ottawa-born Trudeau graduated from McGill in 1994 with a bachelor’s in literature and the University of British Columbia in 1998 with a BA in education before attempting, then quitting, two post-graduate degrees. Turning to politics, in October 2008 he was elected as a Liberal to represent the riding of Papineau in the House of Commons. Five years later, Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party with nearly 80 percent of the vote; in October 2015, he was elected prime minister.
POWER PLAY: Trudeau’s open immigration policy has positioned him as the anti-Trump of North America. Earlier this year, the prime minister used Trump’s favorite communication method to tweet: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” More than 26,000 asylum seekers crossed Canada’s borders in the first eight months of this year, many Haitian refugees who were fleeing the U.S. Some have called Trudeau’s tweet irresponsible, but the PM remains the most popular political leader in Canada and is among the most popular political figures in the world.
2016 RANKING: 77
PATH TO POWER: Robbins grew up in Southern California and fled a chaotic home life at the age of 17. He took a job as a janitor and eschewed college to practice sportswriting. He launched his career as a motivational speaker, encouraging others to change their lives by changing the story they tell about themselves. During the 1990s, he could often be found on television infomercials, pitching viewers on 30-day self-improvement courses. In the two decades since, Robbins has won the ears of an increasingly rich and powerful set of leaders, including hedge funders, musicians, athletes, actors and former president Bill Clinton. He’s also become a prominent philanthropist, targeting hunger around the world. He is worth an estimated half a billion dollars.
POWER PLAY: Robbins published Unshakeable in winter 2017, a financial advice book cowritten with Creative Planning founder Peter Mallouk. The book, which became a number-one New York Times best seller, aimed to help Americans who, remembering the financial crisis, remain wary of investing. Robbins also continues to counsel up-and-coming entrepreneurs, ensuring that he will have the ear of the Silicon Valley titans of tomorrow.
2016 RANKING: 07
PATH TO POWER: Draghi’s father was a banker and his mother was a pharmacist, and after studying economics at Rome’s Sapienza University, he graduated with a PhD in economics from MIT. He dove into finance and economics, working at the World Bank, Italian Treasury and Goldman Sachs. Draghi was named governor of the Bank of Italy in 2005 and president of the European Central Bank in 2011, becoming a major player in the eurozone crisis and bailout of Greece.
POWER PLAY: Draghi has helped Europe achieve 17 straight quarters of economic growth, and nations such as Greece and Spain, which were seen as economic basket cases when he took over during the financial crisis, seem to have regained their equilibrium. But the year ahead will be fraught: Between Brexit, nearly five years of missed inflation targets and a euro that surged 13 percent against the dollar during 2017—mostly as a result of uncertainty caused by the Trump administration—Draghi will have his hands full.
2016 RANKING: 26
PATH TO POWER: Born into a prominent political family in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Abe studied political science at Seikei University and spent three semesters at USC studying public policy and international affairs. After a brief stint at Kobe Steel, he entered politics in 1982 and first won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1993. He was prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and then returned to the position in 2012.
POWER PLAY: Japan under Abe is playing an increasingly muscular game as the United States steps back from Asia and the Pacific, and North Korea becomes more belligerent. In July, Japan took the lead in negotiating a new free trade deal between the 11 nations that had originally joined the U.S. in the now-scrapped Trans-Pacific Partnership. At the same time, Abe agreed to join China in its “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure development plan. And with the Japanese economy growing 2.5 percent during the second quarter of 2017, the nation is experiencing its longest stretch of growth in 11 years.
2016 RANKING: 24
PATH TO POWER: Blankfein is a Brooklyn native, who grew up in public housing, the son of a postal worker, and became valedictorian of his high school class. He attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, graduating in 1978. Blankfein worked at Proskauer Rose and Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine before joining J. Aron, the commodities trading firm that was purchased by Goldman. He has been with the Wall Street powerhouse ever since and was named to the top post in 2006. He is one of only two top bankers (Jamie Dimon is the other) who kept his job after the financial crisis.
POWER PLAY: Blankfein shepherded Goldman through the crisis, when it was derided for its role selling subprime securities to unsuspecting clients. During the Obama administration, the firm lost its connections to power, but it is back with the Trump administration, where a number of former Goldman honchos, including Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin, have prominent roles. But while Goldman has done better than its rivals since the crash, Blankfein took a pay cut in 2016. Goldman reported a stunning 40 percent decline in bond-trading revenue, and its stock price is still lower than it was 10 years ago.
2016 RANKING: 41
PATH TO POWER: A renowned corporate raider and billionaire, Icahn found fame as an evangelist of activist investing in the 1980s. This year, he took a gamble when he endorsed his friend Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency, and the bet paid off nicely: He won a gig in government, as special advisor to the president for regulatory affairs.
POWER PLAY: Icahn is known for his obsessive focus on seemingly small things that can affect his bottom line. His aggressive advocacy for a change to regulations relating to the renewable-fuel standard—regulations that were cutting into his investment returns—made him a target for allegations that he was a particularly conflicted member of an administration that tends to shrug off conflicts of interest. Icahn was accused of attempting a raid on the U.S. government, and, soon after, he was either fired from his government advisory role or quit—it depends on whom you ask. But his ongoing friendship with Trump likely means he maintains a degree of influence over the president’s thinking.
2016 RANKING: 21
PATH TO POWER: The 87-year-old billionaire might be as well-known for sharing his wealth as he is for earning it. Born in Omaha, Neb., and a graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (at age 19) and Columbia Business School, Buffett made his money at Omaha-based conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, of which he became chairman, CEO and the largest shareholder in 1970. As of September, the Oracle of Omaha was the third-wealthiest person in the U.S. with a total net worth of $78.9 billion. Buffett has been donating billions to charity for years, since launching the Giving Pledge with Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010. This year, he gifted $3.17 billion in shares of Berkshire Hathaway, divvying the stock among the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four organizations of the Buffett family.
POWER PLAY: Buffett endured several failed investment attempts this year. In August, he and Berkshire Hathaway Energy lost a $9 million bid to acquire Oncor Electric Delivery. Six months prior, Berkshire Hathaway’s offer of $15 million to help Kraft Heinz buy out Unilever was rejected when the deal was leaked prior to finalizing negotiations. But Buffett found new opportunities. In August, he became the largest shareholder of Bank of America stock after buying 700 million shares to own 6.6 percent of the bank. Also in August, the world’s first internationally managed nuclear fuel reserve opened in Kazakhstan, a project Buffett has helped fund since 2006.
PATH TO POWER: Fearless Girl is a bronze sculpture that depicts a girl facing the iconic Charging Bull statue in the financial district of New York. Commissioned by State Street Global Advisors and installed on the eve of International Women’s Day, March 7, 2017, the statue advertises a State Street index fund made up of companies that have a high percentage of women among their senior leadership. The plaque below the statue states, “Know the power of women in leadership.”
POWER PLAY: The defiant image of a young girl, hands on hips, is part of State Street’s campaign to put more women on corporate boards, but it quickly became a symbol of women’s struggle for equality in finance generally, from equal pay to respect from advisors. The statue, created as an advertising campaign by Interpublic Group’s McCann New York for State Street, swept the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity, taking home four Grand Prix. It has also drawn the ire of the sculptor of Charging Bull, who threatened to sue if it wasn’t taken down. So far, the statue still stands and has a permit for another year. New York mayor Bill de Blasio is one of its staunchest defenders. “Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl,” he wrote on Twitter.
2016 RANKING: 20
PATH TO POWER: A graduate of Harvard Law, clerk for former Supreme Court chief justice William Rehnquist and lawyer for the Reagan administration, Roberts was nominated to a seat on the D.C. Circuit by president George W. Bush in 2001. He wasn’t confirmed until 2003, but just two years later he became chief justice following Rehnquist’s death.
POWER PLAY: The limited ability of Congress or the White House to get little done in the last year has had a notable exception in the courts. Roberts has shown a libertarian streak, and when Congress confirmed justice Neil Gorsuch in April, it granted Roberts an ideological ally, likely to support the chief justice on big decisions and shore up his court’s conservative legacy. The cases Roberts will play a critical role in deciding over the next several years will likely include Trump’s deregulatory efforts, some of which have already been challenged in lower courts.
2016 RANKING: 29
PATH TO POWER: Raised in Melbourne, Australia, Gorman studied law, then attended Columbia Business School and joined consulting firm McKinsey before moving to Wall Street, where he became Merrill Lynch’s head of global private client businesses. He joined Morgan Stanley in a similar role in 2006. In 2008, the investment bank almost failed and pulled back its trading business, putting more emphasis on the business Gorman headed. In 2010, he was named to Morgan Stanley’s top spot, a sign of its postcrisis focus on managing money for clients.
POWER PLAY: Gorman has been reining in excessive pay in recent years (and took a pay cut himself in 2015), amid other measures, like focusing on tech clients, to try to restore the white-shoe investment bank to its former glory. By 2017 he was rewarded with the second-largest pay package among banks, at $22.5 million. This summer, Morgan Stanley achieved a milestone when it reached a 10.7 percent return on equity, easily hitting a target set earlier in the year. While ramping up the firm’s digital offerings, Gorman also defended the role of human advisors, noting that there had been many predictions of their demise. “We actually saw this movie once before in 1999,” he told Business Insider in July, but it “didn’t play out.”
PATH TO POWER: The son of a Goldman Sachs partner, Mnuchin was born and raised in New York and graduated from Yale before embarking on a career in finance. He worked at Goldman Sachs, where he also became a partner, until 2002, then started a hedge fund that invested in two of Donald Trump’s hotel projects. He had been a successful Hollywood producer for several years before joining the Trump campaign as finance chair in 2016. Soon after winning the election, Trump nominated Mnuchin to be treasury secretary, and he was confirmed in February 2017, but only after tough hearings during which his foreclosure practices at a mortgage lender he bought during the financial crisis, among other concerns, came under criticism by Democrats.
POWER PLAY: Mnuchin’s early support of Trump turned him into one of the most important people in the administration, where he is working to promote the president’s efforts to reduce the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from the current 35 percent and end the taxation of U.S. foreign corporations’ profits. With the failure of the Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare (so far), tax legislation is viewed as the best hope for a Republican win ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The prospect of significant corporate tax cuts has also buoyed the stock market this year.
2016 RANKING: 22
PATH TO POWER: A New York native, Dimon’s first job in finance was with American Express, which had also employed his father. He began as an assistant to Sandy Weill and ultimately helped Weill build Citigroup. In 2000, Dimon was hired as CEO of Bank One, and when JPMorgan Chase bought the bank, he came with it. Dimon became CEO of JPMorgan Chase on the final day of 2005 and has seen the largest bank in the U.S. (for the last six years) through the financial crisis and a host of other scandals, including the London Whale trading loss. In 2010, two years after the crisis, Dimon earned the dubious honor of being called “America’s least-hated banker” by the New York Times Magazine. He is worth an estimated $1.2 billion.
POWER PLAY: In a JPMorgan investor call in July, Dimon went on a rant, complaining that the U.S. was not doing what it needed “to promote business and growth.” “We have become one of the most bureaucratic, confusing, litigious societies on the planet,” the CEO charged, adding, “it’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid shit we have to deal with in this country.” But Dimon is doing more than venting. Reuters reported in September that he had been to D.C. more than a dozen times this year, meeting with top members of both parties in Congress as well as Gary Cohn and Janet Yellen. Dimon may yet have a hand in fixing some of the “shit” that afflicts U.S. business.
PATH TO POWER: Despite an early dyslexia diagnosis, Cohn went on to become one of the most successful men in finance. An Ohio native, he worked at U.S. Steel after graduating from American University, then joined Goldman Sachs in 1990. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming president and COO in 2006.
POWER PLAY: Cohn was a perennial favorite in the handicapping for Lloyd Blankfein’s successor as CEO until he left the firm in 2017 to join the Trump administration as director of the National Economic Council and chief economic advisor to the president. In this role he has faced backlash from Trump’s alt-right supporters, who see him as an unrepentant globalist, from Democrats and moderates shocked by the fact that, despite his Jewish heritage, he stands by Trump, and from Trump’s own inner circle. While Cohn is a logical successor to Janet Yellen as chairman of the Federal Reserve, he reportedly drafted a resignation letter after Trump equivocated between the KKK and civil rights counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., and his days in the administration are anything but secure. Still, Charlottesville proved an indication of Cohn’s power: When rumors of his possible departure hit, markets roiled, with the S&P dropping 0.5 percent in about 20 minutes. Investor confidence, and the overall rise of markets under the Trump administration, clearly owe a lot to the perception of Cohn as a steadying force.
PATH TO POWER: Macron studied philosophy at Paris Nanterre University, received a master’s in public affairs from France’s Sciences Po and attended Nationale d’Administration, which grooms promising civil servants, before embarking on a career in finance. He was an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque before François Hollande appointed him deputy secretary-general in 2012, marking his entrance into politics.
POWER PLAY: Just as Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, there were numerous signs of Russian meddling in France’s election. Many observers warned that the interference could tip the election to the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, as it already had in the U.S. Macron prevailed, though, thanks in part to being a blank slate running on a centrist ticket for a new party—in other words, someone onto whom the French could easily project their political beliefs. At 39, Macron became France’s youngest president, but a recent scandal over his more than $10,000 per month makeup habit have some questioning the inexperienced leader’s seriousness.
2016 RANKING: 10
PATH TO POWER: Brown was first elected governor of California in 1974, at the age of 36, serving two terms. He came back 28 years later to win the governor’s race in 2010, when the state faced a serious fiscal crisis that he successfully tackled. In between, Brown ran for president three times and was the mayor of Oakland for eight years and state attorney general for three years. After he has served four terms as governor, his final term will end in 2019.
POWER PLAY: Brown’s leftist politics made him a novelty in the 1970s—he was called Governor Moonbeam—but his recent leadership saved the state from bankruptcy while making it a global model for progressive ideas in everything from environmental conservation to education reform. The state has a powerful and forward-thinking tech industry and is the sixth-largest economy in the world. And Brown and California have emerged as bulwarks against Trump’s agenda as the state promised to protect the undocumented “Dreamers” that the president has threatened with deportation, and he vowed to support the Paris Agreement after Trump withdrew the U.S.
2016 RANKING: 01
PATH TO POWER: A native of Van Nuys, Calif., Fink went to UCLA for his MBA, then headed east. He started his career in finance at First Boston in New York, becoming the youngest managing director ever at the firm at 31, and was instrumental in creating the mortgage-backed securities market. But after a $100 million loss in 1986, Fink became persona non grata. In 1988, he left to found BlackRock with a $5 million investment from Stephen Schwarzman (a former business partner from whom he split in 1994). Fink had learned his lesson, and BlackRock’s obsessive focus on understanding risk was a key part of why, during the financial crisis, the firm was chosen to manage $130 billion of Bear Stearns and AIG assets and oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s $5 trillion balance sheets.
POWER PLAY: With $5.7 trillion in AUM—a sum larger than the GDP of many major industrialized nations—BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager. That size means that when BlackRock and Fink decide to prioritize an issue, markets and companies listen. Although President Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris Agreement, BlackRock has stated categorically that climate change is a risk to portfolios and that “climate-proofing portfolios is a key consideration for all asset owners.” The firm is now requiring companies to disclose their climate risks.
PATH TO POWER: Mercer grew up in New Mexico and, while studying math and physics at the University of New Mexico, worked on a military base near Albuquerque. A genius at programming and manipulating data, he was unimpressed by government work and later went to work for IBM. Mercer, who is reportedly obsessed with model trains, was instrumental in the foundational research behind speech recognition and translation software. He joined hedge fund Renaissance Technologies in 1993 and became co-CEO in 2010. The fund, which uses only a quantitative trading strategy, has historically had some of the best returns in the industry—on average, almost 72 percent annually from 1994 to 2014 and more than 20 percent in 2016, a year in which hedge fund returns were generally moribund.
POWER PLAY: Mercer’s politics run to the extreme fringe of conservative thinking. He is a primary funder of Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News, which has aggressively promoted economic isolationism and Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. And along with his daughter Rebekah, he has financed big-data firm Cambridge Analytica, which provided deep insight on voter behavior to the Trump and Ted Cruz campaigns. In March 2017, David Magerman, a Jewish philanthropist and 20-year veteran of Renaissance who had voiced concerns about Mercer’s political involvement, wrote in a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer saying Mercer “was effectively buying shares in the candidate and….now owns a sizable share of the United States presidency.”
2016 RANKING: 64
PATH TO POWER: Bloomberg founded his eponymous company in 1981 and rocketed to billionaire status by making its terminals indispensable on Wall Street. The company now boasts a global news organization with more than 190 offices worldwide. Bloomberg hasn’t limited himself to financial data, though. He served as mayor of New York from 2002 through 2013 and famously brought his penchant for numbers to bear on seemingly intractable urban problems. He returned to Bloomberg as CEO in 2014.
POWER PLAY: When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, many observers feared that it would completely undermine the global fight against climate change. Bloomberg stepped up, though, and personally pledged, through his charitable arm Bloomberg Philanthropic, to pay the nation’s $15 million contribution to the UN agency putting the agreement into action. Since then, he’s been instrumental in rallying mayors around the nation (and world) to bring their cities in line with the Paris Agreement, regardless of what the federal government does, or doesn’t do, to combat climate change.
2016 RANKING: 08
PATH TO POWER: At 28, Luxembourg-born Juncker was named the country’s deputy minister of labor and 13 years later, in 1995, became its prime minister. Juncker served until 2013, becoming the longest-serving head of any EU national government. He went on to hold many roles in the EU, including chair of the EU Economic and Financial Affairs Council, where he helped create the euro. From 2005 to 2013 he was the first president of the Eurogroup before becoming president of the European Commission in 2014.
POWER PLAY: Juncker’s tenure at the EU has been racked by the European financial and sovereign debt crisis, a migrant crisis and the resultant rise of nationalism that threatens to break apart the EU. Brexit was the first blow to a man who has been called “Mr. Euro.” But he has not backed down. Juncker has supported Angela Merkel’s policy of embracing immigrants from Syria, saying, “Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians.” Despite the rise of nationalist sentiments (and parties) in Europe, he insisted in his state of the union speech in September that “the EU is sailing in a more federalist direction.”
2016 RANKING: 09
PATH TO POWER: The daughter of a vicar, May attended Oxford and studied geography before embarking on a career in finance. Her true calling was politics, however, and in 1986 she ran for the first time in a local London race. She entered Parliament as a Conservative in 1997 and became party chair in 2002. Over the next eight years, May occupied various roles in the shadow cabinet and became home secretary in 2010 under prime minister David Cameron. In July 2016, she became prime minister herself and was immediately faced with sorting out the political, financial and economic mess created by the Brexit vote.
POWER PLAY: May has a thankless task negotiating the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union while trying to maintain the integrity of its economy and massive financial services industry. So far it appears that the European Union has the upper hand, and May faces accusations of causing unforced errors. But the overall importance of the Brexit negotiation means that May has a large amount of influence on the global financial system, whether her critics are happy with her performance or not.
2016 RANKING: 06
PATH TO POWER: Brooklyn-raised Yellen graduated summa cum laude from Brown and was the only woman in her class at Yale, where she received a PhD in economics in 1971. She taught at Harvard, the London School of Economics and UC Berkeley before joining the Fed’s board of governors as an economist. Yellen had several other posts at the Fed, including vice chair, before becoming the first woman to be named chair, by President Obama in 2013. Her term expires in 2018, but the success of the economy and the stock market under her watch could lead Trump to appoint her for another term.
POWER PLAY: Before Yellen was named Fed chair, many financiers derided her for her dovish monetary views, which they feared would lead to a continued easing of monetary policy. While the U.S. was still recovering from the Great Recession, with no hint of inflation, Yellen moved cautiously. Finally, at the end of 2015, the Fed raised interest rates for the first time since 2006 and under her watch has done so another three times, without any deleterious effect on the markets. Trump criticized Yellen during his presidential campaign, and her comments on the need for continued bank regulation are at odds with him and other Republicans. But her success at shepherding relatively smooth economic growth has earned her grudging respect.
2016 RANKING: 14
His impact on global finance? For some, it’s hope; for others, horror. But mostly, it’s uncertainty. Less than a year into Trump’s term, fair-minded people, regardless of whether they valiantly defend his presidency or passionately oppose it, might agree that America’s 45th president is well described by a Churchill quote: He is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Trump is a hard man to understand.
One moment he is demonizing members of his own administration, like Reince Priebus or Jeff Sessions. The next he is attacking not just opponents in Congress, but the institution itself. The next, he’s striking a deal with Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that his Republican colleagues—virtually simultaneously—swore would never happen.
No one is certain what Trump will do next. And whether this unpredictability is a genius strategy or the behavior of someone unfit for the presidency, we do know one thing: Financial markets hate uncertainty. Trump revels in creating it—yet the markets are stable and, generally, rising. That’s part of his riddle.
By the sheer virtue of the office he holds, Trump is one of the most powerful people in global finance. Any U.S. president is. But the ways in which Trump is deploying and pushing the boundaries of his power are unorthodox and unprecedented.
On a domestic level, the president has inserted himself into the affairs of individual companies, both public and private, to comment on and influence economic behavior such as where to locate factories and produce products. Globally, Trump’s criticisms of international trade agreements have reignited long-standing debates about whether such agreements help or hurt American workers.
Trump’s tweets and refusal to play by the traditional rules of presidential behavior have prompted divisive discussions (and protests) about income equality, class and race. Yet the president has managed to navigate a seemingly impossible balancing act: He retains the fervent support of his populist political base, even as many elite Wall Streeters also continue to support him, perhaps motivated by the promise of business and personal tax cuts and a simplified tax code.
To his fans, Trump represents the economic hopes of millions of Americans who have been left behind in this country; the desires for lower taxes and a simpler tax code and the removal of regulations that they believe will fuel the continued growth of the economy and more middle-class jobs.
To his critics, Trump’s behavior in office is reprehensible, diminishing the economic power of the presidency by undermining America’s moral authority; fighting for isolationism in a world irreversibly connected; and, in the case of North Korea, possibly escalating the chance of a nuclear confrontation.
Neither side could deny the power President Trump possesses in global finance. Whether it’s an opportunity for millions or a threat to even more or some unprecedented combination of both, it’s an evolving reality. It may inspire you; it may horrify you. But the Trump presidency, and therefore its impact on global finance, still has to play out.
2016 RANKING: 04
PATH TO POWER: Merkel grew up in East Germany and earned a degree in physics at the University of Leipzig and a doctorate in quantum chemistry at the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin. When the Berlin Wall fell, she became heavily involved in Germany’s reunification movement, which led her into a career in politics. In 1990 she was elected to the Bundestag and rose to become leader of the Christian Democratic Union party. She was elected chancellor in 2005 and has helped Germany weather the eurozone financial crisis, Brexit and renewed Russian aggression in the east.
POWER PLAY: In many ways, Merkel entered 2017 as one of the last defenders of globalism, liberalism and Western Democracy. Like Hillary Clinton in the United States in 2016, she faces a restive right-wing movement intent on toppling the global economic order. Russian aggression, right now concentrated in cyber war and an ongoing incursion into Ukraine, is sending tremors through Europe. And Brexit is a serious test of European unity. But through it all, Merkel has maintained a steady hand. In September 2017, she won her fourth term as German chancellor. And, in the wake of Donald Trump’s isolationist moves, she has earned a reputation as “the new leader of the free world.”
2016 RANKING: 02
PATH TO POWER: Modi’s rise to power has a storybook quality to it: His father was a low-caste tea seller, yet Modi rejected an arranged marriage out of high school, traveled around India living in ashrams, studied political science at Delhi University and got a master’s in political science from Gujarat University. But it’s not all positive. Modi’s rise to political power came through the RSS, a Hindu nationalist youth league, and then the BJP, which has capitalized on anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. As chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, Modi failed to intervene in massive anti-Muslim riots that killed more than 1,000 people. Yet he was elected prime minister in 2014 and has helped India implement key economic reforms while becoming a more muscular presence on the global stage.
POWER PLAY: While mobile transfers are taking hold in urban areas, India is still a cash economy, a fact that has encouraged corruption and tax evasion (less than 2 percent of Indians pay income tax, according to economist Kenneth Rogoff) and retarded growth, especially in rural areas. On November 8, 2016, Modi went on TV and told the nation that the 500 and 1,000 rupee bills, the largest banknotes in India, accounting for roughly 86 percent of the cash in circulation at the time, would be phased out. Indians had 50 days to deposit their money in banks. Just like that, more than 1.3 billion people had to change the way they manage their money. While most people seem to have avoided giving up “ill-gotten gains” through complex money-laundering schemes, demonetization (as the removal of the notes was called) did cause Indians to begin shifting from cash to a modern, banked economy.
2016 RANKING: 18
PATH TO POWER: Putin spent the early years of his career as a KGB lieutenant colonel, and he has always been adept at operating behind the scenes, collecting information and manipulating unseen levers. He became prime minister of Russia in 1999 and has served as either president or prime minister ever since.
POWER PLAY: Over the past year, Putin has emerged as one of the most powerful, though enigmatic, people in the world. As the oligarch among oligarchs, all wealth in Russia flows through his hands—not even the most powerful corporate executives can operate outside of his influence—making him arguably the wealthiest individual in the world, though that wealth is difficult to quantify. (Bill Browder, a former hedge fund manager in Russia, estimates the president could be worth $200 billion thanks largely to “ill-gotten gains.”) In Syria, Putin struck a deal in December 2016 with the government of Bashar al-Assad whereby Russian military contractors gain the right to extract natural resources in territory they capture from ISIS. Russia consolidated control of eastern Ukraine and the strategically significant Crimean peninsula, and the armed conflict on Ukraine’s eastern border shows no sign of dissipating soon. And Putin has even tipped the global political scales, interfering in the U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. As president, Trump has displayed remarkable fealty to the Russian leader, refusing to investigate his involvement in the U.S. election—which was effectively a quiet act of war. His coziness with Putin is so worrying that Congress passed a rare bill with massive bipartisan support in early August. Its purpose? Levy new sanctions against Russia and, in an unusual move, prevent the U.S. president from being able to unilaterally ease those sanctions.
2016 RANKING: 03
PATH TO POWER: Xi, 64, grew up in a family committed to the Communist Party; his father was a revolutionary who eventually became vice premier. Xi himself has spent more than four decades in the party, becoming familiar with every nook and cranny of the Chinese state apparatus, and rising to chairman in 2012. In 2013, he became president of the country. Xi is deft at dispatching his enemies, taking action in a quiet and deliberate way. He’s also an accomplished diplomat and has cultivated many friends, both in emerging economies and, increasingly, in the developed world as well.
POWER PLAY: As the United States has stepped back from global leadership, particularly in Asia and the Pacific, China is quickly filling the void. From deploying his nation’s massive economic resources through foreign infrastructure projects to launching new aircraft carriers, Xi has literally begun projecting Chinese power into new places. Within months of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, China initiated trade talks with the other member nations as well as South Korea. Similarly, when Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, Xi raised a potent call for global cooperation on climate change, warning about a risk to the global economy. And in response to rumblings of a trade war between China and the United States, Xi addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, saying that “protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. Wind and rain may be kept outside, but so are light and air.” In a bizarre but profound shift, Xi, a Communist with autocratic tendencies and an iron grip on domestic power, has become the global voice of free trade and international cooperation.