Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer, Bessemer Trust

Rebecca Patterson might be a financial expert who journalists at CNBC and other news outlets seek out for commentary, but it wasn't so long ago that she was on the other side of the interview.

Patterson used to work for Dow Jones and the Associated Press, covering politics, economics and financial markets in the United States and Europe.

She said the skills she picked up as a journalist help her communicate effectively, including talking anxious clients through recent market blips and downturns. And that guidance has helped Bessemer Trust achieve a 99% retention rate, a point of pride for her.

The highest-ranking woman in the company's 108-year history, Patterson is part of the core executive team defining and driving corporate strategy.

As the chief investment officer, she takes a hands-on approach to research, leading a six-person team that meets daily to review markets and strategy.

"I love research," she said, explaining why she stays involved in it despite her myriad other responsibilities. "It's a group effort, of course, but at the end of the day, it's my neck and I want to own it."

Outside of her job, Patterson is a senior member of the Chess Fund, which promotes competitive chess playing in New York's public schools. She often organizes "chess parties" in her home for promising young students at P.S. 41, where her 8-year-old and 11-year-old daughters attend school. The girls and their schoolmates not only get in some chess matches at the parties, but also bake cookies.

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