Meet The Female Leaders Of Finance: “Talk to older people about what happened financially in economic downturns” with Christina E. Carroll and Tyler Gallagher

Tyler Gallagher
Sep 23, 2019 · 9 min read

I would also recommend that you talk to older people about what happened financially in economic downturns. Early in my career I worked with a woman whose grandfather bought up a lot of real estate during the Great Depression and as a result, they are a very wealthy family. I also watched some of the largest institutional investors during the crisis and they didn’t hesitate to buy back their own debt and double down in purchasing assets at very low asset prices. Based on these experiences, I didn’t sell any securities during this time and over time the markets recovered.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christina E. Carroll. Christina is a Managing Director in the Valuation Advisory group where her responsibilities include providing valuation and transaction related advice. For more than 25 years, Ms. Carroll has been a Board and C-suite advisor on complex transactions and strategic issues with a focus on evaluating transactions and assisting her clients in enhancing shareholder value. Ms. Carroll’s experience includes rendering fairness opinions, solvency and related transaction opinions to board of directors, special committees, financial institutions, pension funds and other fiduciaries in conjunction with mergers & acquisitions, going private transactions, spin-offs, recapitalizations and financing transactions. Ms. Carroll also performs independent valuations of businesses and securities for tax, financial reporting, estate and gift tax planning, Employee Stock Ownership Plans and other purposes. Prior to joining Stout, Ms. Carroll was a Director in the Financial Advisory Services Group at Houlihan Lokey where she was responsible for business valuations, fairness opinions, co-investment advice, portfolio valuation and other strategic transaction advice to institutional investors and large private and public companies. Prior to Houlihan Lokey, Ms. Carroll was a partner at Ernst & Young in Los Angeles, Dublin, Ireland and Dallas, Texas. During her tenure at Ernst & Young, she advised CEOs, founders and management teams on their strategic transactions included mergers, acquisitions, capital raising, IPOs, ESOPs, spin-offs and going private transactions.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

I first grew interested in finance in a Capital Markets class in college at UCLA because I wanted to understand how to beat the stock market. Originally, I wanted to become an asset manager, but I was concerned that in the long run asset managers couldn’t beat the market and jobs in asset management were scarce out of school. I tried the next best thing to investing in public markets: valuation of private companies and securities and eventually, transactions and investment banking.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?

The most interesting story for me was when I was asked to relocate to Dublin, Ireland three days after September 11th. It was a sad, tumultuous time in our country and there was a lot of movement and change in our firm at that time, so living in Ireland in the aftermath seemed like a good time to retreat to a safer country for a great opportunity. My boss at the time asked me to get on a plane to Dublin before any planes were flying in the aftermath of the terrorist attack (I flew over to Dublin right after). Immediately after my first trip to Dublin, I moved over to Ireland for a 2 year secondment with my husband and two young children, ages 4 and 18 months. During my secondment, I primarily worked with companies to raise capital and figure out how to commercialize in the US. I was also a member of EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year team, which is on national television in Ireland. It was a treat working with so many high quality entrepreneurs.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

M&A transaction levels remain high for us and we continue to see strong transaction activity in other areas such as recaps and spin-offs and some distressed M&A in pockets such as retail, energy and assisted living. Some of the most interesting projects are when companies or investors aren’t sure what direction to go, so we work with them first on determining what the company or division is worth, then we lay out the spectrum of alternatives they have open to them. Ultimately, we help clients develop a transaction strategy and execute it, which helps clients solve problems or realize opportunities to monetize or grow their business. I have a few of these types of projects going on right now, which is always interesting and fun.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Stout stands out with its culture of relentless excellence. We achieve these high standards by living by our core values: Positive & Team Oriented, Accountable, Committed, Entrepreneurial and Relationship Focused. We are constantly working to improve all aspects of our business and to serve our clients with the highest level of satisfaction.

We recently had a quick turn, complicated transaction opinion that we were delivering over a weekend and we had 4 of our most senior MDs in the firm on the phone for over 3 hours working through details with the deal team on a Saturday to ensure that we delivered with the highest level of technical expertise. I really enjoy working at a firm with the principals care so deeply about client service and take an active role in helping when needed.

Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

I think there has been some change in corporate America with more women represented in the C-suite and more women being added to public company Boards, but I haven’t seen much change candidly in most segments of Wall Street and Finance. Senior levels of private equity, hedge funds, investment banking and asset management seem to have the lowest representation of women and minorities within the finance world, especially at the partner level. Nearly 70% of private equity and venture firms are all male and only 11% are of partners are female. Women also account for less than 17 percent of senior leaders in investment banking (Catalyst).

I was fortunate to overcome the odds with a lot of hard work and the help of some male leaders that were gender blind.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and /or c) society to support this movement going forward?

I) Hire at least 50% females at the junior levels, part of the gender issue starts in imbalance at the junior analyst level.

II) Mentor females in the same way male professionals are mentored. If women don’t get the opportunities early on, they don’t develop skills at the same rate as men.

III) Women often leave at the mid-level of careers, frequently when they start families. Companies that are more flexible and work with women in the transition build a lot of loyalty. Careers are long and children are small a short time (one of my mentors told me this and I never forgot it).

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non-intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each?

I think most of my advice about becoming financially literate is intuitive. When I talk to my adult children about becoming more financially literate, I encourage them to read books, magazines and the Wall Street Journal on the subject of personal finance and investing. There are some great books about how wealthy people made their money by living within their means and investing prudently.

There is a pending retirement crisis in the US where most Americans have not / are not saving enough for retirement. Being financially literate includes saving early (as soon as you are working) and whenever possible, make sure to save a good portion of your raises because you won’t feel it in your paycheck and over many years of accumulation and earnings, you will be in better shape to retire. Start saving for college when your kids are born, so that you have the benefit of many years of accumulation and earnings on the underlying investments.

Most of the large investment platforms such as Vanguard and Fidelity have a body of knowledge resources on their websites, which is largely available to the public. There are also online courses that you can take.

I would also recommend that you talk to older people about what happened financially in economic downturns. Early in my career I worked with a woman whose grandfather bought up a lot of real estate during the Great Depression and as a result, they are a very wealthy family. I also watched some of the largest institutional investors during the crisis and they didn’t hesitate to buy back their own debt and double down in purchasing assets at very low asset prices. Based on these experiences, I didn’t sell any securities during this time and over time the markets recovered.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I was lucky that I had a lot of help along the way from mentors and bosses who extended a hand to me. Two people, in particular, stand out to me who changed my path for the better. Greg Range and I have worked together on and off for nearly 30 years. Greg hired and promoted me multiples times, pushed for me and advocated for me throughout my career. Greg supported me as the new Los Angeles office leader for Stout 18 months ago, which has meant a lot to me.

The second person, Peter Griffith, hired me when my first child was a year old, mentored me, inserted me into development opportunities outside my comfort zone, pushed for me to be promoted to partner at EY and consistently worked with me to enhance my career. Peter changed the trajectory of my career.

I’m grateful to all the people that mentored me, especially Greg and Peter.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” As a child and young adult, I day-dreamed a lot and developed a strong sense of independence and what I wanted out of my life and my career. I decided that if I’m going to spend so much time working, it had better be special and I’d better be passionate about my career. I’m also quite stubborn and I have a tendency to ignore people or statistics that make it seem a path is improbable. Some of the more difficult paths I have taken include becoming successful in a male dominated business, raising three children while working full-time, becoming a partner at EY, moving to Ireland and starting a practice there, and more recently, joining a public company Board.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I am particularly interested in helping alleviate hunger and for the last 11 years, I’ve been on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. In LA County, 1 in 8 people are considered food insecure (hungry) and for children, 1 in 4 are hungry in LA County. With large societal problems such as hunger, I think people get overwhelmed by the scale of the problem and they do nothing as a result. On the other hand, if everyone tried to help one person each day (e.g. a meal, protein bar, bottle of water) or when they see someone struggling, we would not have a hunger problem in this country. I think other societal problems can also be addressed by convincing people that their small contribution matters.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

Tyler Gallagher

Written by

CEO and Founder of Regal Assets

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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