Ready for lift off: How Amanda Mark nailed her elevator pitch

How a chance meeting in a lift - and having that all-important elevator pitch ready - opened doors for Women on Boards member and financial markets expert Amanda Mark. 

From avoiding fisticuffs on the trading room floor to conquering Wall Street and now running her own financial market regulation consultancy, what Sydneysider Amanda Mark lacks in physical stature she makes up for with her fearless determination and big picture thinking.

It was always Amanda’s dream to work in financial services overseas, so after landing a job in Sydney for a money market broker as a chalky in the early 90s - one of four women on a trading room floor of more than 250 men - Amanda secured a role in Morgan Stanley’s Sydney office before getting a transfer to the New York head office after the Sydney Olympics, age 30. 

It was here in Manhattan that Amanda was to make her biggest impact and it all started with her elevator pitch, and a chance meeting in a lift with CEO Phil Purcell. 

At a recent private lunch hosted by Women on Boards for former British Prime Minister, the Honorable Teresa May at the Women’s Club in Sydney, Amanda retold the story of how she made a big impression in the New York office.

“One Monday morning I happened to get in the office at about 6.30. I'm on the ground floor, pressed the elevator button and there was Phil Pucrell in the lift. I got in and I introduced myself. I said, ‘Hi, I'm Amanda Mark, Equity Client Services.’ I told him my elevator pitch and what the team had been doing, because you've always got to be prepared for when you meet senior people,” she said.

“After that I got off on the 33rd floor, and he got off on the 60th floor or wherever it was way up in the clouds.”

After some detective work, Amanda deduced that Phil Purcell was flying into New York from Chicago every Monday morning, arriving in the car park underneath the building and coming up from the basement around the same time every week.

“So next Monday, I'm in the office for no other reason than to meet Phil Purcell in the elevator again. I pressed the button, no Phil Purcell. I pressed another couple of times and, lo and behold, there he was.

“I got in the elevator again and said, “Good morning, Phil. Amanda Mark, Equity Client Services’. I told him another story about something fabulous that we'd been doing and asked him a question. Then I got off on level 33 and off he went up the tower.

“I did that every week after that. A lot of times he was not there. I may have spent half an hour pressing the elevator button, just trying to run into him. But every week I was there looking for Phil Purcell. And every week I’d tell him something that we had done. I think it took him a few months before he actually said, ‘Good morning, Amanda.’”

Later on that year Amanda was at a big work event where everyone was waiting for the CEO to arrive.

“Phil Purcell walked into the room full of people, looked around, and the first person he saw that he knew was me. He came over and said, ‘Hi, Amanda, how are you?’ and we started chatting. My boss was floored. She came over, I introduced her and he said what great work the  Equity Client Service team had been doing. Then a lot of senior people noticed me because I was talking to the CEO.”

It was a well-played move which Amanda credits with subsequent career success. “It goes to show, it’s well worth having your elevator pitch ready. It's got to be current and make sure you’ve always got something interesting to say,” says Amanda.

“For example, I found out one of Phil Purcell’s best mates was Australian and an AFL supporter. So I would make sure I knew the AFL results over the weekend so I could give him an update.

“It’s about making sure you're noticed and remembered. You’ve got to put your voice forward, and not be afraid to do so.”

Want more? Listen to the Amanda's full chat with Claire in this podcast

In this insightful and entertaining podcast, Amanda also discusses the evolving challenges of being a woman working in the financial markets, the devastating experience of being in New York during 9/11 and losing a much-loved colleague in the attacks, working through the GFC and clean-up and moving from the ‘sell and buy side’ to the ‘dark side’ of financial regulation in Australia.

Listen to the podcast HERE

Watch Claire’s full interview with Amanda on YouTube HERE

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