Global Head of Research, Economics and Strategy | Wells Fargo Securities

Diane Schumaker-Krieg knows firsthand that fear can lead to innovation — and, for her, the beginning of a career in research.

Thirty years ago, Schumaker-Krieg was working as an associate on the equity syndicate desk at the New York investment firm Dillon Read. She was a single mother of a 6-year-old son at the time, making the salary of an early-career associate.

After the Black Monday stock market crash in October 1987, Schumaker Krieg lost her job, along with thousands of other Wall Street investment bankers. She was already coming off of a year without bonus pay. She had to think fast to keep her family on solid financial ground.

"People talk a lot about motivation, and I can tell you that fear is a tremendous motivator," she said.

After 24 hours of what Schumaker-Krieg describes as "sheer panic," she came up with an idea. She called the president of Dillon Read with a proposal: If the company hired her back at her base salary, she would develop a profitable new research subscription business.

Schumaker-Krieg even drafted a contract with ultimatums. If she didn't bring in at least $2 million in revenue after the first year, and $5 million after the second year, he should fire her.

Her first client was James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank who at the time ran an investment firm in New York. She won his business by cold-calling his office.

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"He picked up the phone thinking it was his car service — and I wouldn't let him off until he bought an $80,000 subscription," she said.

It marked the start of her career in equity research. Her business at Dillon Read grew, and Schumaker-Krieg was eventually approached with a takeover offer from Credit Suisse First Boston, which bought her division. She later joined Wachovia Securities, which was sold to Wells Fargo during the crisis.

"Sometimes I try to keep that fear in mind," Schumaker-Krieg said, recalling that can't-fail-now urgency she had when she lost her job.

"It's good to have that mindset, even when you're confronting situations that are difficult but are not life or death. To me, that was life or death."

Kristin Broughton

Kristin Broughton

Kristin Broughton is a reporter for American Banker, where she writes about the business of national and regional banking.