Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President John A. Thain, a 1977 MIT alumnus who majored in electrical engineering and served as treasurer of his fraternity, was named chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, December 18. He will assume his new post January 15, 2004.
Thain's appointment was announced by John S. Reed (S.B. 1961, S.M.), interim chairman of the exchange. Reed described Thain as someone with "knowledge of the markets, who understands the role of technology and is a person of great integrity."
Thain, 48, is known for his confidence in trading technology and now envisions a "hybrid" system in which smaller trades are handled by computers and larger orders by specialists.
The exchange remains the "vital nerve center of the US economy. My goal is to ensure that the exchange remains the world's most liquid and efficient marketplace," Thain told The Washington Post on December 19.
A native of Antioch, Ill., Thain has served as president of Goldman Sachs, the global investment banking firm, since 1999. He came to Goldman Sachs as a trader and has held jobs at that firm including head of operations, technology and finance and co-chief operating officer. Thain is credited with revamping Goldman's risk-management model in 1998 and with guiding Goldman through the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Thain's understated personal style and his experience with leadership following disruption and loss will be called upon in his role at the exchange, which was roiled by public outcry over the excesses of its former chairman, Richard Grasso.
By contrast with his predecessor, Thain's demeanor is "neither flamboyant nor particularly charismatic. He will treat people with respect, and he will be respected and admired in turn. As a leader, he will be thoughtful and analytical, but also strong and decisive," said Richard M. Schmalensee, dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management. Thain has served on the Dean's Advisory Council for the Sloan School since 1999.
Schmalensee predicted that signs of Thain's leadership will pass undetected by the average person - "and that will be a good thing. It will take him a while to take hold and it will take the organization a while to get used to its new structure. I think he will bring stability, quiet and purposeful change."
Thain has maintained significant ongoing connections with MIT. He is a member of the MIT Corporation (as is NYSE chairman Reed); the Corporation Investment Committee, the Economics Visiting Committee, the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Visiting Committee, and the Student Life Visiting Committee.
Thain received the MBA degree from Harvard Business School in 1979. He is married to Carmen M. Ribera (S.B. 1974). They have 4 children and live in Rye, New York.