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Carolyn Jackson's Literary Secret

By Robert Hunter

Literary agents and acquisition editors routinely scour the professions in the hopes of signing up the next Scott Turrow or John Grisham. One place they haven't tried is the International Swaps and Derivatives Association. Carolyn Jackson hopes to change that.

In January, Jackson announced she was leaving her position as executive director and board member of ISDA to pursue a career in writing. "After giving 15 years to the financial world, it is time to turn to what I always wanted to do," she says.

The news came as a shock because of the extraordinary success Jackson has achieved. She began her career in 1982 at Chase Manhattan Bank, serving as an original member of its fledgling swaps team. After rising to head of U.S. dollar derivatives trading, she moved to BNP Capital Markets, where she set up its New York office and managed U.S. dollar derivatives sales and options trading. Before signing on with ISDA, she moved to Banque Indosuez, where she served as first vice president in charge of the firm's derivatives products group and its New York trading desk.

The one-time English major at the University of Virginia changed over to economics during her sophomore year because she had already read most of the books assigned by her literature professors. "I switched to economics, and I found my passion," she says. Her second passion that is-she had decided at age 8 that she wanted to be a writer. Part of her rationalization to postpone writing was a belief that she had to gain some real-world experience before taking up the plume. Twenty years went by and she had not yet published a word.

When Jackson celebrated her 39th birthday recently-perhaps it's more accurate to say she experienced it-it became something of an epiphany. She realized that she was no closer to her dream than she was in college. She also realized that the derivatives business was not as fulfilling as it once had been. "I was in it in the beginning, and the period of innovation has now slowed tremendously," she says. "It was time to move on."

Jackson is interested in writing pop novels. Her first effort, she says cryptically, will be "based on an experience I had in the business world 10 years ago." She cites Irwin Shaw as her primary literary influence (though Theodore Dreiser is her favorite), and hopes to borrow Shaw's descriptive flair. "I want to capture the pace and feel of New York City," she says, just as Shaw did in Rich Man, Poor Man.

Retiring from ISDA will allow Jackson more time to pursue another avocation. In 1993, after spending six years in hard-core aerobics classes, she became a certified personal trainer, and began teaching aerobics and body sculpting at Jeff Martin Studio and at Pumping Iron Gym in New York.

Garry Popofsky's Green Eyeshades

The foreign exchange sales departments and accounting departments at most derivatives dealers occupy different floors-and different intellectual universes.

That's why Garry Popofsky's latest career move is something of a surprise. The new senior vice president in charge of corporate foreign exchange sales at Lehman Brothers is a CPA who started his career as an auditor at Arthur Young & Co. Soon afterward, however, he moved to FX sales and swaps jobs at Salomon Brothers and Goldman Sachs.

"FX hedging is loaded with accounting implications, so it was a natural synergy with my accounting background," he says. "Some long-date currency hedging involves both FX and interest rate components." Popofsky adds that his swaps background will also come in handy.

JoAnne Tillemans' Solo FX Shop

There are two paths to career success-one is driven by the head and the other is driven by the heart. In the latter category is JoAnne Tillemans, who for 12 years has been a prominent consultant to corporate FX programs, opening her own consulting firm, Avalon International Strategies, seven years ago. In her 20s, she ran her own dance company, played piano professionally and worked as an arts program manager in inner-city schools. Later she enrolled in night school at Hunter College and then went to Stanford to get her MBA-recommended there by current Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, who was running Hunter at the time. At Stanford, she interned at Salomon Brothers, where she helped write a product manual on currency swaps. "These were so new at the time that they let an intern do it," she quips. She matured as an FX salesperson while working with Goldman Sachs in London, where she felt FX was more evolved than in the home country. "What happens in the United States is nothing compared to the level of sophistication in Europe," she says.

Her craft today is to help companies identify and manage their currency risk by doing complete overhauls from the bottom up. A typical project works as follows: Tillemans identifies all currency exposures globally, looks for operational changes, sets up hedging strategies, trains accounting and treasury staff, and writes the company's FX policy and operational management procedures. "I use an educational approach that teaches everyone the whole way through. It's very detailed, and typically takes one to two years to complete," she says.

Bob Baldoni Heads Midtown

For 11 years, Robert J. Baldoni stood at the helm of Emcor Risk Management, a successful boutique run out of a mansion in Irvington, N.Y. A peripatetic figure at conferences and seminars, and a voluble writer besides, Baldoni shrewdly promoted his skills to corporate end-users. Most recently he's been a passionate advocate of Value-at-Risk for corporate currency, interest rate and commodity exposures.

Last month, Baldoni announced that he and his consulting firm would join a newly restructured risk group at Ernst & Young.

It seems that recent macroeconomic trends in the risk management consulting marketplace have not been favorable to boutiques like Emcor. "The business changed," says Baldoni. "It required an increasingly heavy investment in resources, and, as a boutique, that got harder and harder for us to do." To develop a high-end VAR software package, he notes, costs between $500,000 and $750,000. "We've spent that in the past, but that level of investment gets harder to maintain as the market gets more complex and the systems get more expensive."

Another industry trend that helped Baldoni make the decision to jump: "the lower end of the risk-management consulting business has become commoditized to some degree," he reveals. "While we don't necessarily agree that it is the right thing to do, a lot of people are whipping up risk-management policies off some kind of word processor. Policy and procedures used to be one of our big businesses and that has slipped to some degree."

In his first week at the mid-Manhattan Ernst & Young offices, Baldoni was clearly thrilled by the sudden access to internal specialists in a wide range of topics, as well as access to E&Y's rich client base. "There are crossovers that we lacked as a smaller firm, particularly in the areas of accounting and tax."

Since the move, Emcor Eurocurrency Management, the firm's associated money management group, announced it wouldn't be renewing the five-year lease on its Irvington estate. The mansion will be fondly remembered by many derivatives dealers and end-users who honed their skills at the firm's champagne-soaked "Las Vegas Night" parties.