5 Sharpest Minds on Wall Street

By Lora Keleher , last updated January 3, 2012

Tales of crooks and swindlers inhabiting Wall Street appear in editorial news and online. People blame them for everything from the financial collapse to the shortage in their wallets. Although certain individuals clearly operate using despicable practices, often forgotten are the intelligent and hard working men and women who rose through the ranks to become successful economic leaders.

Warren Buffet

Known for his preternatural ability to select stocks and beat the market, Warren Buffet is one of the sharpest minds on Wall Street. He chairs his profitable, publically traded investment company, Berkshire Hathaway. A self-made man, Buffet raised eyebrows, and possibly awareness, when he published an editorial piece denouncing the current tax system for its preferential treatment of the wealthy, and penalization of the middle class. In his piece, he stated that his secretary pays taxes at a higher rate than he does, which led to President Obama’s proposal of a “Buffet Tax.”

Indra Nooyi

When you think Pepsi, the name Indra Nooyi probably doesn't come to mind, but this intelligent female CEO has helped grow the company while adhering to ethical business practices. A first-generation Indian immigrant, Nooyi came to the U.S. at 23 to attend Yale. In 2006, she accepted Pepsi’s offer to become CEO. In addition to being a brilliant strategist, Nooyi is known for being a caring, and compassionate leader, who believes that a company can make a profit and a positive contribution to the global community. Rather than simply being a mouthpiece, she has consistently taken beneficial actions, such as removing trans-fats and adding health food to Pepsi products.

Charles Schwab

Founding a successful business is a difficult endeavor for anyone, but when you add a learning disability to the mix, the chances of success are even slimmer. Despite being dyslexic, Charles Schwab graduated from Stanford Business School, and founded his self-named investment company in a two-room office. The small company has since burgeoned into a full-scale investment firm that has bought many smaller investment companies over the years. To give back to society, Schwab has made donations to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, and founded the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation.

Meg Whitman

As CEO of online auction site, E-bay Meg Whitman overcame substantial hurdles to help turn it into a successful and profitable business. A Harvard business school graduate, Whitman is one the most successful female business leaders of our time. She’s sat on the board of major companies, such as Proctor & Gamble, and partnered with venture capital firms. Although she made an unsuccessful political run, she’s recently been named CEO of technology giant, Hewlett-Packard, and will play a key role in the company’s success or failure in the coming years.

Benjamin Bernanke

Although he may not work directly on Wall Street, as Chairman of the Federal Reserve (Fed), Benjamin Bernanke’s decisions impact trading, business deals, and the overall success or failure of the U.S. economy. The fed is responsible for setting interest rates, which impact the value of the dollar and affect the relationship between international currencies throughout the world. Over the course of his career, Bernanke has taught at top universities, including MIT, NYU, Stanford and Princeton, and published scholarly articles, and books on economic theory.

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