Most of the feature stories that heralded Adena T. Friedman’s ascension to the helm of Nasdaq more than a year ago noted in one way or another how she has beaten the odds to become one of the most powerful women on Wall Street. Friedman is president, CEO, and a member of the board at Nasdaq, having started her business career in 1993 as an intern at the exchange after receiving her MBA from Vanderbilt University. Friedman left Nasdaq after a decade to join The Carlyle Group as chief financial officer, helping to steer the private equity group to its own initial public offering in 2012.
Friedman returned to Nasdaq in 2014 as chief operating officer and heir apparent to Robert Greifeld before being named CEO last year, making her the first woman to run one of the leading U.S. stock exchanges. Friedman has since refocused Nasdaq on analytics and innovation, specifically on market-enabling technology and information resources. Friedman attributes some of her success to lessons she learned in the taekwondo studio. Friedman, who has earned a black belt, credits the Korean martial art in playing a role in building her leadership skills, she told Fortune last year. “I really believe that taekwondo teaches you self-reliance. If you are looking about how to get better, it’s only on you to improve,” she explained. “And I think that self-reliance is an important skill for anyone navigating the corporate world.” In this interview with NACD Directorship, Editor-in-Chief Judy Warner asked Friedman to reflect on her career, what Nasdaq is today, and her prognosis for initial public offerings (IPOs), the fuel of our capitalist system and source of opportunity for new directorships.
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