It's a cold and cloudy evening in New York when Marie Stewart
answers my call.Yet another long and busy day for this senior J.P. Morgan Chase & Co executive, and there's only so much interview time before she
has to head off to another engagement.
Then my mobile rings and it's Stewart
again, completely unfazed and keen to continue the interview despite the dollars clocking up on her
phone bill.It's a great piece of theatre - and one that clearly appeals to the former aspiring drama student.
"When I was 18 and graduating from high school, I seriously thought about becoming an actress," she
says in an Australian drawl only slightly softened by her
14 years in the Big Apple.She
went as far as auditioning for a place at the National Institute for Dramatic Art
(NIDA) in Sydney before deciding it was too uncertain a career.
"My brother-in-law's brother was working at Deloittes
at the time, and he
suggested I have a look at accounting.So I looked in the papers, saw two ads, went to two interviews and got two offers," she
"I decided to go to Ernst & Young
because they were going to pay me more.I was 18 years old and they were paying me $4000 a year - that was in 1976 and I thought I was rich!"
So began a 17-year career with Ernst & Young
that saw her
move from the audit section into a training role.Stewart
soon discovered she
had a natural talent for explaining the complexities of accounting rules and by 1984 had established herself as E&Y's
Sydney training manager.
And it was just chance that out of a range of possible roles in E&Y offices in different countries, Stewart
picked New York.Her
boss made a phone call and six months later - in October 1987 - Stewart
found herself in the world's financial capital."I got here two weeks before the crash - but it had nothing to do with me," she
chuckles.What started out as a two-year secondment soon became a permanent arrangement, with her six years at E&Y's New York office encompassing management roles in the areas of training, mergers & acquisitions, and on-call consulting.She
found New York "gob-smacking" when she
first arrived."It's just like you've seen in the movies.In fact you feel you've stepped onto a movie set.To this day, I walk down the streets of New York and I stop and think. 'OK, it's a movie set, so where are the cameras?'"Stewart
soon got over feeling intimidated once she
realised that commonsense and communication skills would work just as well for her
in a New York office as they had in Sydney.In 1993 she left E&Y to work in ING Capital's internal audit division, based in New York.She
return to audit after a long lay-off was not her
best move, and after a year she
moved to Bankers Trust
role was to provide advice on the accounting ramifications of new financial products, including the boom area of securitised products.
"Since I started at BT I've specialised in this particular area.Securitisation really took off in the mid 1990s, and I happened to have the expertise," she
says.It was that expertise that led to her being appointed by J.P. Morgan Chase in 1996 as head of the investment bank's 10-person accounting policies unit.Four years later and after a dizzying series of promotions, Stewart is now vice-president in Structured Products where she serves as the resident expert on GAAP and bank regulations as they affect structured products worldwide.
So where to from here?"My next move is to become a J.P. Morgan
managing director - I certainly hope that's going to happen in 2002," she
While the title 'managing director' is not the same in the US as it is here, it's still senior enough to carry a salary the size of a telephone number.Stewart
hopes it's not so senior that she'll have to start managing people once more.
"I largely work on my own, with noone reporting to me," she