SmartMoney's Power 30
Most of us know that when it comes to the economy, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is an important player, and that when we ponder the next big thing on the Web, we need to watch the folks at Google. But few of us are keeping an eye on Sheila Bair and Herbert Allison Jr. Never heard of them? Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., has been in the thick of the battle to shore up America’s banks. Allison, the new CEO of Fannie Mae, has the unenviable job of fixing the mortgage giant.
As the U.S. sweats out one of its toughest financial periods in decades, Americans may wonder not only how we’ll get through it all, but also who will lead us. Wall Street’s crisis has already claimed some of the nation’s best-known financial companies, spooking investors around the globe. On Main Street consumers face a double whammy: declining portfolios and the steepest drop in home prices since the Great Depression. Each year we pick an elite group, names big and small, that will have an important impact on the economy, investments and other areas vital to your pocketbook. As always, people like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn will play a big role. But so will Sheila Bair and Herbert Allison Jr.
Financial-Services Analyst, Oppenheimer
Bank executives and investors were in denial mode last October, when Whitney predicted that Citigroup would have to shore up its finances by either cutting its dividend, raising capital or selling assets. But then Citigroup stock promptly tanked, CEO Charles Prince lost his job, and the financial-services giant was forced to take all three of those steps. Although Whitney has made her share of mistakes (she was too bearish on Wells Fargo’s performance), her biggest influence now may be in cautioning investors who want to return to financial stocks too soon. She does, however, like the preferred shares of certain banks: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.