Since its founding in 1817, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has been a governance leader in its work with public company boards and its listing requirements. Inside America’s Boardrooms is thrilled to announce it has returned to the NYSE studios as its primary filming location. We can’t imagine a better way to kick off this new partnership than with a visit from Stacey Cunningham, the first female president of the NYSE.

When you look back at the history of the NYSE, we’ve always had a history of the highest governance standards and a history of making sure that board members are held to a higher level than even federal regulations might hold them to.

— Stacey Cunningham, president of the New York Stock Exchange

Keeping up with digital transformation and an expanding role

Cunningham shared insights from her first year with the leaders of listed companies across a range of geographies and sectors. She cited digital transformation as one of the trends shaping governance today.

As companies evolve and threats intensify on the cyber front, Cunningham explained, boards must adapt with a broader range of viewpoints, perspectives, and people.

“It’s more important than ever to have a board with diverse backgrounds and experience so they can actually be helpful and additive to running the business,” she said. “It’s very technical, which is why I think you see different directors being chosen for their corporate experience in different areas than what we may have seen traditionally.”

Concurrently, as companies get bigger and bigger, the role of a company in our society is evolving as well.

“Companies are asked to be more purpose-driven and think about their stakeholders,” she said.

Preserving the public market and investment opportunity

One of the troubling things we’ve seen over the past couple of decades is that the number of public companies is down by half.

— Stacey Cunningham, president of the New York Stock Exchange

In Cunningham’s words, the NYSE’s mission is: “To help great companies raise money so they can go out and change the world and provide investors with the opportunity to share in their success.”

Furthermore, many companies have waited until later in their lifecycle to go public, denying investors returns from a steep growth trajectory earlier on.

“One of the things that we’re focused on is right-sizing regulations, addressing some of the barriers that companies have to becoming public companies,” she said. This involves making sure there’s a balance between what’s asked of public companies and what’s expected of private companies, so corporations don’t choose to opt out of the public market.

That being said, “The IPO market is really picking up,” Cunningham said, particularly in the area of tech.

“I look back at the role the New York Stock Exchange has played in helping companies literally change the world and change how we do it. We’re proud of that,” she said.

“I couldn’t be more proud to lead this institution,” she concluded. “I look forward to many more women joining the financial markets and having fun while they’re doing it.”