Wall Street executives aren't exactly known for their humility, but Duncan Niederauer is trying to change that.
The chief executive of NYSE Euronext, which runs the New York Stock Exchange, picked up an award on Tuesday night from the Museum of American Finance. Then he used his speech as a sort of public reflection on his current and future personal clout, while telling the bankers and financial executives in the audience to "be humble."
"I have a business card that gets me in virtually anywhere in the world. I've got to be realistic enough to understand that that business card, once I don't have it anymore, it's not an all-access pass. The only two words that don't matter on that business card are my first and last name," Niederauer said during a gala dinner in downtown Manhattan.
His time to use that business card is running out. Niederauer, who became CEO of the storied exchange in 2007, last year presided over its sale to IntercontinentalExchange Group. Now a co-president of ICE, he has said he would remain with the combined company through the end of this year.
"People want to meet with me because I'm the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange. I can't be confused; in a year or two, when I'm not the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, it may mean that people don't want to meet with me," Niederauer said Tuesday, before warning others in the room to be aware of their own tenuous grasp on professional consequence: "So remember, be humble, keep your roots and your family and friends close."
He was accepting the museum's annual Whitehead Award, which recognizes distinguished public service and financial leadership. The prize was named for John C. Whitehead, a former deputy secretary of state and co-chair of Goldman Sachs (GS).
Whitehead, 91, spoke briefly at the dinner, and made up for some of Niederauer's humility by praising his onetime Goldman employee.
While Wall Street's "future is in doubt" due to increasing competition from financial centers like London and Hong Kong, "Duncan upholds the New York Stock Exchange as a brand that is as important as any brand in America," Whitehead said.