Isabelle Ealet has credentials — she's a graduate from one of France's elite schools, SciencesPo (or the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris) — but she puts such accomplishments into context amid Goldman Sachs' roster of high-achievers.
"What I appreciate most is the culture of results," Ealet once told L'Expansion, a French business magazine. "At Goldman Sachs, one is judged on his performance, not his contacts or diplomas."
The 47-year-old has steadily climbed the ranks of Goldman since joining the firm's London office in 1991 to head the oil products group, raking in profits while stomaching the ups and downs of the commodities market.
The downsdominated 2008, when Ealet led an effort to double Goldman's multimillion-dollar bet on commodities only to see the market plunge when the financial crisis hit. But 2009 marked a resurgence of most commodities. While Goldman doesn't break out commodities revenue, its trading and principal investments division earned $17 billion in 2009, compared with a $2.8 billion loss in 2008.
Her career in commodities began in trading barrels of crude for France's Total Petroleum in the 1980s. At Goldman, where she has described her career to L'Expansion as "intense days requiring concentration every instant," the native of Marseille, France,became a managing director in 1997 and a partner in 2000.
She took the helm of European trading in 2002. She became head of global commodities in 2007, and is now one of four females on the 30-member executive committee, to which she was appointed to in 2008, making her one of the most influential women on Wall Street.
Ealet-"Izzy" to friends-keeps a low profile outside the firm, generally avoiding media interviews. She declined to be interviewed by U.S. Banker.