Catherine Kinney joined the Bridgewater community for a conversation with her longtime friend and former colleague, John Halvey, Bridgewater's General Counsel from 2013-2020. During the talk, Kinney outlined the principles that guided her to a successful career at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and beyond.
One of the first women employed at the NYSE, Kinney spoke passionately about the sense of purpose she felt during her 35-year career there, while accrediting much of her success to her willingness to take risks. She got her first opportunity to run the NYSE’s trading floor operations right before the crash in 1987. She said, “I was a complete novice. And so, I learned very early that you have to depend on people... Because when you’re uncomfortable and you’re on the edge and you don’t really know anything, you have to rely on people. And that’s one of the secrets to leadership — to know what you know, what you don’t know, and don’t pretend like you know things you don’t.” Learning to manage and accomplish through others was a critical inflection point in her career. Kinney emphasized the strong relationships with mentors and colleagues as a key driver of her long-term success.
One of Kinney’s toughest challenges was navigating the attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing impact that had on the NYSE. Recovering from that period took resiliency, which to Kinney did not mean having all the right answers or resuming business as usual. She said it meant, “remaining calm, and looking out for your people because they’re all going through the same set of circumstances and maybe even in a different way, in a harder way.” The experience taught Kinney that leaders must show both empathy and toughness when leading groups through crises.
While her career at the NYSE represented a significant portion of her life, Kinney also stressed the importance of having a diverse set of passions and interests outside of the workplace. She told the Bridgewater audience that people were not meant to just be one thing or do one thing, and operating that way significantly limits us. Instead, we should make our ambitions known to the people around us and chase after them, which will often involve pursuing multiple high priority things at once.