POSITION: CEO, Meredith Whitney Advisory Group, LLC
LOCATION: New York
EDUCATION: Brown University
Meredith Whitney's October 31, 2007, bearish report calling into question Citigroup's capital position and dividend launched her as a rising star, and helped to turn her into something of a celebrity analyst, especially as the subprime crisis began to unwind. Back in 2007, she was an obscure managing director at Oppenheimer & Co. making a very contrarian call. But when her prediction about Citigroup came true, and when she went on to make other prescient bearish calls on financial stocks, Whitney was suddenly the bold straight talker, the leggy blonde with brains who wasn't afraid to tell it like it is. She was soon a highly sought after guest on CNBC, and appeared on the cover of Fortune in August of last year. Shortly afterward, she launched her own research firm, looking to capitalize on her quick rise to fame. And today, she has legions of followers who watch her on television and argue about her predictions in blogs and online comment sections.
But can Whitney continue to make smart calls on financial services stocks? In April, she said that bank earnings and stress tests were going to be better than people thought and she was right. But she has gotten flack from some because at the time, she advocated only covering shorts rather than going long, and, therefore, following her advice would have meant you missed a giant rally in bank stocks. Then in mid July, she sounded bullish notes on Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup. (At the same time, she pronounced herself bearish on the economy in general.) It's too early to tell how that call will play out.
Some financial professionals say Whitney just got lucky last year, and has been riding that wave. After all, how many people can make perfect predictions about the markets month after month, year after year? Very few. She'll have her work cut out for her.