Kathleen Cronin, CME Group’s Senior Managing Director, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, harnesses the power of the right amount of employee engagement.
By Christine Gatuiria
Kathleen Cronin does not occupy three offices, answer three phones or receive three paychecks, but she does carry three titles: Cronin is the Senior Managing Director, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of CME Group, a leading derivatives exchange which operates the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade and other contract markets.
How does she manage all of these responsibilities and retain her sanity? “Maybe it’s cliché, but the one thing that enables me to do my job well is the skill and quality of [my team],” Cronin said.
Cronin joined CME Group in 2002, right before the company’s IPO, as Acting General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. At the time she was a corporate attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom working on securities offerings and mergers and acquisitions. Through a referral from a partner at the firm, Cronin was hired for her expertise in helping companies go public, and was soon promoted to Managing Director and General Counsel less than a year after joining the company.
She is currently responsible for several departments that fall under the legal and regulatory umbrella, including Legal, Internal Audit, Enterprise Risk Management, Market Regulation and Global Compliance. This means Cronin has oversight of more than 225 people. The Legal Department alone has nearly 50 members, with attorneys working in Chicago, New York, London and (coming soon) Asia.
Focusing & Leaning
In addition to having a strong team, Cronin says she makes it all work by delegating effectively and capably juggling multiple projects at the same time with the right level of engagement. She explains that this is an acquired skill, and that over time she has learned when to be engaged on a matter and when to pull back. Her work is constantly evolving, so she has to be able to focus on the big picture yet lean in when necessary.
Julie Holzrichter, Senior Managing Director of Global Operations at CME Group, works with Cronin and praises her leadership style. “Kathleen is very responsive and open to new ideas,” Holzrichter said. “She has a balanced approach when supporting new initiatives and when questioning the value of others. [Also], she has a great sense of humor, which makes it very easy to work with her.”
Open Lines of Communication
The ability to see the lighter side of things also helps Cronin in her role as Corporate Secretary. The board of CME Group has 30 members, making it one of the largest boards of any publicly traded company. The fact that Cronin is able to direct shareholder relations and maintain strong relationships with executive management and board members is a testament to her character.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about communication,” Cronin said, “and about what information needs to go through what avenues.”
She constantly evaluates who needs to know what and when they need to know it, and this helps her successfully manage the web of relationships her work entails.
Cronin is also very direct—a characteristic that is vital in her various roles. She deals with attorneys, traders and board members often, so she is not easily intimidated and knows how to handle conflict. “People get angry at you, but I don’t take it personally and hold my ground when I know I’m doing the right thing,” Cronin said.
As a General Counsel in her industry, she emphasizes the importance of speaking out and knowing when to take an unfavorable position. It is all part of the job, and she embraces every minute. But at the end of the day, Cronin is able to leave work at the office (despite the ever-present email) and unwind at home with her two children.
“I think it’s important to get away and take time to focus on family and friends,” Cronin said. “It keeps me sane.”
Christine Gatuiria is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, MO