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Cordray, ousted Equifax CEO among year's most influential in financial services


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Cordray, ousted Equifax CEO among year's most influential in financial services

The leadership turnover at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau following the change in presidential administrations, a fintech proxy fight that may not be over and the bitcoin surge produced some of the most influential news-makers of 2017 in financial services. S&P Global Market Intelligence presents a list of the year's most important players with a look ahead to what could come next for them or their institutions.

Richard Cordray, former director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Cordray headed one of the most controversial regulatory offspring of the Dodd-Frank Act and pursued enforcement actions with verve. Mortgage lenders, debt collectors, payday lenders and credit card issuers were among those who found themselves in the CFPB's crosshairs. His leadership gained plaudits from reform-minded lawmakers and consumer advocates and unending scorn from critics, especially the new administration of President Donald Trump.

His departure is expected to radically change the bureau's enforcement posture, and some companies enmeshed in legal and regulatory disputes with the agency could angle for lighter penalties or discontinued enforcement under a more industry-friendly administration. The ex-director's next action will be a run for Ohio governor.

William Ackman, CEO, Pershing Square Capital Management LP; Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO, Automatic Data Processing Inc.

Hedge fund manager Ackman thought ADP needed a leadership change, although he claimed his slate of nominees for the company's board was not a takeover attempt. Whatever his motivations, his purchase of a minority stake in the financial technology company began one of the year's biggest proxy fights.

ADP's shareholders eventually sided with Rodriguez and rejected Ackman's board nominees. Even though observers believe ADP is well run, at least one analyst expects that Ackman will continue to look over management's shoulder for other proxy openings.

Richard Smith, former CEO of Equifax Inc.

Smith's performance as head of the credit reporting company was widely lauded until the revelation of a security breach that could have compromised the data of more than 140 million people, a failure the public and investors could not bear. Smith officially retired from the company as the gears of internal and regulatory investigations began to grind.

Hundreds of lawsuits ensued, and Congress introduced legislation intended to protect consumers from any further similar data breaches. But analysts believe the company's business-to-business model is secure and will remain mostly unaffected in the breach's aftermath.

Bitcoin investors (and Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin's reputed founder)

Nakamoto may not be an actual person, but a pseudonym or a mere fintech legend. But the 2017 run-up of the cryptocurrency fueled by investors has been a very real spectacle.

The price of the cryptocurrency has soared to $15,000 and beyond, though sudden, steep declines have bookended the highs. While bitcoin has been around for years, in 2017 it gained new legitimacy as an asset thanks to a wider investor base, wide coverage in the media and the listings of futures contracts based on the asset's price. In 2018, exchange-traded funds — the easily traded investment vehicles favored by retail investors — based on bitcoin may emerge.

Bryant Riley, chairman and CEO, B. Riley Financial Inc.

B. Riley acquired FBR & Co. and Wunderlich Securities Inc. in one of the year's most significant investment banking expansions. The second transaction added more than 200 covered companies and $10 billion in assets under management to the FBR combination.

Riley expects to continue growing B. Riley's retail brokerage network with the lure of its new research scale.

Charles Drucker, president and CEO of Vantiv Inc.

Vantiv's longtime courtship of international rival Worldpay Group plc culminated in a $9.95 billion merger agreement promising to add Worldpay's formidable international e-commerce platform to Vantiv's domestic business.

Observers expect the deal to reduce Vantiv's exposure to the lagging growth of domestic retailers and give the combined company access to high-growth markets in the U.K. and Asia-Pacific region.

Michael Cagney, former chairman and CEO of Social Finance Inc.

The sudden departure of SoFi's co-founder likely delayed one of the most anticipated IPOs in the digital lending space. Cagney's exit, which followed a blistering media report on sexual harassment allegations against him, was the last of a spate of executive departures from the company.

Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO, Blackstone Group LP

Blackstone announced a deal to raise a $40 billion investment fund dedicated to infrastructure anchored by a $20 billion commitment from the Saudi Public Investment Fund. The company has been at the forefront of alternative asset managers raking in investment capital from investors looking for returns outside of equity markets.

The infrastructure fund, the first of its kind for Blackstone, is scheduled to close in January 2018.

Schwarzman described the demand one of his executives encountered during a trip through Asia. At nearly every stop, the executive reported "dramatic desires to increase [investors'] exposure to the alternative field, and we're the reference institution in the alternative business," Schwarzman said, according to a transcript.