Salli Schwartz, MBA ’05: Investing in Investor Communication
By Mark Rader, MFA ’02
The credit rating downgrades of Greece, Portugal, and the United States this past summer have led some financial prognosticators to warn of a global recession and made the market vulnerable to wild fluctuations — a direct result of widespread investor anxiety. As global head of investor relations at Moody’s Corporation, Salli Schwartz has to deal with that anxiety on a daily basis — and respond to it calmly.
Before taking this position in February, Schwartz worked in the company’s corporate development division, evaluating potential investment opportunities for Moody’s businesses. Now she focuses more on communication than analysis, responding to questions and concerns of investors, equity research analysts, and journalists, and passing relevant information up the line internally. About her role as a liaison between senior management and the outside world, Schwartz says: “I like having that vantage point.”
In early 2007, Moody’s stock traded around $70; currently, the stock hovers around $30. The decline is the result of many factors, including the real estate crisis and the black eye all three of the biggest rating agencies received in the wake of the bankruptcy of AIG and Lehman Brothers, and the recession that followed. “We’ve shared our piece of the blame,” says Schwartz. “Everyone [in] financial services has been put on the chopping block in one way or another.”
The sorts of questions people ask Schwartz include how Moody’s business has changed in the wake of the financial crisis; what impact the European sovereign debt issues have had on Moody’s; and how, and when, the US RMBS (residential mortgage-backed securities) market will come back. The challenging part of responding to inquiries, Schwartz says, is to provide meaningful information without violating any of the company’s strict disclosure policies. “We have to be very careful that we share our information equally.”
Mother to two young children — Simon, 2, and Isaac, born this July — Schwartz says facing the unpredictable challenges both at work and home is “tough, but doable.” She feels fortunate that Moody’s is supportive of employees maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Undoubtedly, Schwartz says, the mess created by huge levels of debt in the U.S. and abroad won’t be “cleaned up tomorrow.” But, she has hope for a positive outcome. “We’ll see how it all plays out.”