Kim Ann Curtin is the author of Transforming Wall Street: A Conscious Path for a New Future. Since the financial market crashed in October 2008, Kim has been working to build a more optimistic and sustainable vision for the finance industry. She is an international keynote speaker and the Founder of The Wall Street Coach, an executive coaching and strategy firm with coaches in the U.S. and the U.K. Curtin and her team work with C-Suite executives and teams in the finance world and from Fortune 500 corporations to start-up ventures.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share the amazing story of how you came to be known as The Wall Street Coach?
Kim: During the summer of 2008, I was a year and a half into my coaching practice and found business declining, just like a lot of other business at the time, as it was the beginning of the recession. I was terribly worried financially for my practice and had a conversation with a good friend of mine who made the unusual suggestion of coaching for free. One of my great mentors, Joseph Campbell, the well-known mythologist, philosopher and author has often spoken about people ‘finding their bliss.’ And as coaching was mine, I just knew that I had to find a way to continue doing the work I was born to do. So I decided to try to find a way to do what I love as well as drum up some new business. Even if that meant coaching for free. I knew that Wall Street wasn’t doing well at the time, having worked in finance for ten years prior to beginning my own coaching business, so I decided to bring my “free coaching” to that industry where I felt they would put my talents to good use. On October 7th, 2008, in a very sharp business suit I sat down on a bench outside the NYSE on the corner of Broad Street and Wall Street with a homemade sign that said ‘The Coach is In’ just like Lucy in the Peanuts except of course she charged a nickel and her sign read: ‘The Doctor is In.’
It just so happened that that day the market dropped more than 500 points. Almost immediately I began coaching passers-by that sought my advice and counsel – people from all walks of life- secretaries, bankers, and executives – some of whom had lost their jobs or were watching their investments disappear. I sat on that bench almost weekly during lunch hour for an entire year, encouraging and strategizing solutions for them to find equanimity under very trying circumstances. Eventually, journalists began to notice me sitting there and dubbed me ‘The Wall Street Coach.” Thus, my practice focusing on those on Wall Street and in finance began and a new name for my company began.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you expand on how you helped, encouraged and coached strangers during a time of despair and uncertainty?
Kim: People were scared and shaken. So the first thing they were in need of was just someone who would listen to them. Often in a crisis we just need a sounding board, to “clear” out and discharge the internal discord and panic we feel. That alone was sometimes all they needed. After they expressed themselves fully, then they were able to be more clear-headed about how to proceed. That is one of the most powerful gifts that coaching offers, a neutrality and a way of drawing out of the individual their own solutions from deep within themselves. When appropriate and if there was enough time, I would offer one or more of what I call my Five Practices. These are the fundamental principles that inform my own way of navigating my work and my life, what I and my team advocate to our clients as well as what I refer to in my new book Transforming Wall Street: A Conscious Path for a New Future.
BusinessInterviews.com: Congratulations on your first book, Transforming Wall Street: A Conscious Path for a New Future. Can you explain why you believe that Wall Street is in the need of a shift?
Kim: A few years back, Michael Lewis, in a Bloomberg interview, said he felt that those at the top of the Wall Street structure needed to display more “social obligation”, and the way to restore that was through shame. While I agree with Mr. Lewis that we are in need of a Wall Street that honors its “social obligation” more successfully, I disagree it is through shame that we will or can accomplish this goal. This book offers an alternative path to that restoration by focusing on what we do want for and from Wall Street and its leaders instead of what we don’t want. Too much time, energy, and focus has been spent on those who have shown no integrity in finance. We are well aware of the breaches of integrity that have occurred. As any true capitalist knows, what we have witnessed is not capitalism but the very antithesis of it. So I’m proposing it’s time to now shift our attention toward what we want. To speak to the qualities we desire. If we want a Wall Street that capitalists can be proud of, then let us focus on those whom we can already be proud of and look at the qualities they share and encourage the same from the rest of our leaders, especially those in the making. I believe rapid improvements are needed and that the stories shared in my book from what I call ‘The Wall Street 50’ are men and women who can assist us in creating these improvements. It’s time to believe in the American Dream again by re-examining capitalism and bringing more consciousness to Wall Street.
BusinessInterviews.com: How do you help reconcile the conflict and fine lines between wealth, capitalism and greed?
Kim: I’d like to break these three apart if I may. My definition of wealth goes beyond money. Wealth reflects joy, satisfaction, health, freedom, contentment, community, peace of mind and love. So one can have a lot of money and yet be without these very things. I would argue that that person then may have money, but not be experiencing wealth.
Capitalism is essentially having the freedom to profit from the creation of something that meets people’s needs. A noble act in my opinion. A win-win.
Greed, I don’t believe exists in and of itself. Greed is simply a way of being in response to living in a mind-set of scarcity. It surfaces when someone isn’t receiving their basic needs. Marshall Rosenberg talks about Universal Needs like respect, identity, and understanding, in his work called Nonviolent Communication. So for example a man may say he wants a sailboat, but if he really is in need of the respect he thinks it will bring him, he may find the “want” for the boat dissipate if he suddenly found himself receiving respect in other ways. Ultimately, a greedy person is someone whose basic universal needs are not being met and so the “greediness” is simply an attempt to try and be nourished. A metaphor that might help is that feeling of hunger after one eats take out Chinese food. In the moment it was satisfying, but you’re hungry again an hour later because you haven’t been properly nourished.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you help our readers envision what a more conscious and sustainable finance industry would look like?
Kim: A more conscious finance industry would be full of leaders that live authentic lives personally and professionally. Those that work there would be without question adhering to what was in the best interest of their clients while simultaneously making a fair and appropriate profit. Imagine those that work there understanding the impact of their actions and inaction on others. Additionally, imagine more millennials that care about being a part of the conscious sustainability movement entering this industry. They need to know that they are part of what will help shift it. I believe the ‘Wall Street 50’ featured in my book Transforming Wall Street can be these role models. They are evidence that one can be a successful capitalist without selling out your client or your own soul. Imagine a Wall Street filled with leaders who have a strong sense of self-awareness and commitment to their own values. Barry Ritholtz, the CIO of Ritholtz Wealth Management and one of my Wall Street 50, said in his interview, “The problem with Wall Street is that there is too much rent-seeking behavior and not enough creation of wealth. Finance should be about innovation and not about trying to squeeze every last dime out of each customer.” Imagine an industry that we all can be proud of that strives to, as Adam Smith advocated, increase the wealth of all.
BusinessInterviews.com: Do you think that your theory of increased consciousness can be applied to most industries?
Kim: Absolutely. My book isn’t just for those in the finance industry although it features men and women from it. These Five Practices will help anyone be a more awake and self-aware human being. Understanding who you are and what makes you tick is the keystone to living your life powerfully and from a context of possibility. Self-awareness helps people in their professional and personal lives – and a side benefit is that you find yourself having more peace of mind, more joy and a deeper level of satisfaction. Anyone who is interested in developing a life where they feel more grounded, happier, and have a better relationship with money will find value in this book.
BusinessInterviews.com: Any last words?
Kim: I want to personally invite any reader here to consider what living with more self-awareness might look like for them personally. I think most of us have a still small voice within that calls us forth to do this, yet it’s easy to ignore. Ask yourself, what might change in your life if you began to live and work with more of self-awareness on a daily basis? What would you stop doing? What would you start doing? Each of us are here to discover the hero within. Why not begin today?
You can find more information about my keynote talks on this topic as well as more information about my executive coaching and leadership development firm at www.thewallstreetcoach.com. My blog is here: www.thewallstreetcoach.com/wall-street-coach-blog and hope you will connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.
Here is a video of talk I did recently for Barron’s Top Women Advisor’s Summit on Authenticity: The Unexpected Key to Revenue. A preview of the presentation is included here:
The full version can be viewed on https://vimeo.com/117830600 using the case sensitive password: Pele.
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