After receiving a BS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and an MBA from Harvard University, he began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he held a large number of different positions ranging from corporate finance associate to president of the company.
After his time at Goldman Sachs, Thain joined the New York Stock Exchange in January of 2004, where he served as CEO and a director.
Thain was responsible for reforming the NYSE with the hopes of overcoming its scandalous past, namely Thain’s predecessor Bill Grasso’s $140 million pay package. Thain did just that during his four years at the NYSE, merging with both Archipelago and Euronext N.V. and made the NYSE publicly traded.
“These were moves that were desperately needed; if he hadn’t done them, the exchange would have fallen further behind,” says William Ford of General Atlantic, who was an NYSE board member during Thain’s tenure.
There were initial frustrations with these changes, but success in the form of $400 million and 70% stake brought to the NYSE Group by being publicly traded quieted these complaints.
Thain also brought in new managers and developed new processes, which kick started a cultural shift at the NYSE Group. “With outside shareholders, the accountability had to increase dramatically,” Ford explained.
Thain moved on from the NYSE in December of 2007 to become the Chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co. He held this post until January of 2009 before joining CIT. John Thain is currently the Chairman and CEO at CIT.
Thain is also involved with many other organizations, serving on the board of managers of the New York Botanical Garden, the board of directors at the French-American Foundation, and as a trustee at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Thain has handled the challenges in front of him skillfully, which has led to his successful career.