Changing the Face of Financial Services Interview Series: Kathryn Rooney Vera, StoneX

To highlight the important work and impressive achievements of women in financial services, the STA Women in Finance Committee is pleased to highlight women from all areas of the industry who aim to inspire the next generation of women in finance.

This month, we spoke with Kathryn Rooney Vera, Chief Market Strategist at StoneX, whose work offers global perspectives in addition to detailed country analyses and specific cross-asset trade recommendations. Her out-of-consensus calls have consistently produced double-digit returns for her clients. Ms. Rooney Vera is a high-frequency contributor to television networks Bloomberg Television, CNBC, CNN International, CNN en Español, CNBC, Fox News and Fox Business. She is a frequent keynote speaker at major conferences. Ms. Rooney Vera holds her Master’s in Business degree, specializing in Economics and Finance, from New York University’s Stern School of Business. 

Why did you choose a career in the financial services industry? How did you get started?

I come from a working-class background in New Jersey. I had started college targeting a Political Science and Communication or English Literature double major, thinking I’d be a syndicated columnist or maybe a Senator. Then 9/11 happened. My father was a pilot out of Newark airport. In those scary and uncertain times wrought with financial and emotional turmoil (and being the oldest of six kids), I immediately changed my major to Finance to make money for my family. In previous times of financial tumult for the family, I can proudly say I helped my mother clean houses to make ends meet. Talk about life lessons! I’m so thankful for all of them because they made me the strong, resilient, persevering and hard-working person of integrity that I like to think I am. Finance wasn’t for me; I found my true passion in Economics. Thinking strategically, I double majored in Spanish Literature, studied in Spain and became fluent in Spanish. Today, I give keynote addresses in Spanish, speak regularly to Latin-American clients in their native tongue and appear on Spanish-speaking TV.

I consider myself a self-made woman. I’m happy I turned down those prestigious universities that gave me admittance but no scholarship in favor of New Jersey’s state university on scholarship (and grateful for all those random scholarships I uncovered – including one for tall women!). I started my career at MetLife Investments in ABS and quickly found the right spot for me in Emerging Markets research. From there, I hunted down the opportunity to enter sell-side research on Wall Street. I identified with Bear Stearns – hard-working, blue-collar guys and gals who, with long hours and serious smarts, made good money and great careers.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the next generation of women in finance?

People say “Don’t be afraid.” Wrong. It’s ok to feel afraid – but do it anyway.

When I started my career, I had terrible stage fright. But I did those investment committee meetings anyway, pushed through and kept at it. It was part of the job. I’m proud of that. Later on, my first TV appearance was in Spanish. I had lost a lot of what I had learned in Spain. Nervous, I wrote down and memorized everything I was going to say. I went into a scary little box, looked into a little black camera at the NYSE and did my first live TV appearance in Spanish. I finished drenched in sweat. I prayed they’d have me back. They did. And I’m grateful to them for that first opportunity. Today, I regularly speak in front of 3,000 people. I average two TV hits per week. I make appearances and keynote conferences exclusively in Spanish. I’m proud of that. 

We all have joy inside our hearts. It’s a God-given gift. No one can take that from you. Protect it. 

Ask and you shall receive. Just ask, ladies – and make yourself do it.

Know your power and your worth. It doesn’t matter if they like you. You like you. 

Find the right partner or don’t do it. It should be a team effort and not all on you. If you don’t find that person, you’re good. There is a Spanish saying, “Mejor sola que mal acompañada” – “Better alone than badly matched.” 

“I am a strong believer in luck and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” – Ben Franklin