In Thain, Merrill Picks CEO as Risk Manager

Chosen for steady hand in unsteady times
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2007 4:24 AM CST
People leave the headquarters of Merrill Lynch & Co., Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007, in New York. The company has tapped New York Stock Exchange head John Thain to lead the world's largest brokerage through...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The choice of NYSE's John Thain as Merrill Lynch's new CEO signals a focus on a new kind of manager for the financial giant, the Wall Street Journal observes: a strong risk manager. A low-key, detail-oriented veteran, Thain resembles the top execs of the firms least damaged by the subprime mortgage collapse, the paper notes: "They aren't risk-averse but they have a deep understanding of risk and have the battle scars to prove it."

In addition to his valued experience at Goldman Sach's mortgage desk, Thain's successful negotiation of the NYSE/EuroNext merger is said to have impressed Merrill's board and perhaps outweighed criticisms that he isn't enough of a "people person" to lead the company's horde of brokers. Thain is confident he can reverse Merrill's mortgage misfortunes. They've got "one problem area, and I know a lot about that area," he told the Journal.