Whither Wall Street’s Most Powerful Woman?


"Wall Street’s Most Powerful Woman" is the headline in the April issue of Portfolio, which has yet to hit newsstands. The question is whether she’ll still be there by the time most people pick up the magazine, for the woman in question is Erin Callan, Lehman’s CFO. And the CFO is often the first to shoulder the blame when the stock price plunges 40% in one day.

What Lehman needs right now is someone who knows the nitty-gritty of bank accounting and can rescue the bank from the fate which befell Bear Stearns. And it’s not clear that Callan is that person. This kind of thing doesn’t read well in a crisis:

She doesn’t have an accounting background, which is increasingly key for C.F.O.’s as such regulatory requirements as Sarbanes-Oxley have upped companies’ financial-reporting demands. But she’s already trying to position herself as a big thinker rather than a bookkeeper.

"I see myself in more of the strategic camp," Callan says. "When you don’t grow up in the accounting profession and you grow up more as a deal person, your bias is to look much more at the big picture." Otherwise, she says, "you really could consume yourself entirely just staying in the weeds."

(Photo: Jeff Riedel)

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