July 14, 2020
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The first time she heard of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), Ruth Crowell Wild ’02 thought it had something to do with soup. Today, she is chief executive officer of the international trade association that represents the wholesale gold and silver market in London, the world’s largest and most important market for gold and silver. “In nine years, I’ve gone from grunt work to running the show,” she said.
The role of the LBMA is to define and promote standards and practices that facilitate trade in gold and silver. The LBMA maintains and publishes the Good Delivery Lists assuring investors that they are receiving gold and silver bars meeting strict standards. “We are quality control for the wholesale marketing of gold and silver,” she said. The more than 140 trade association members include international banks, bullion dealers and refiners.
The LBMA summoned Wild in 2006 through a temporary placement agency to fill in as an executive coordinator, planning events and seminars. She was working as a paralegal at the time, with designs on a law career, but became disenchanted with the legal field. At the LBMA, “I had no idea what I was getting into,” she said. “I thought bullion was a cube for making soup. I thought I could fake my way through it, and the rest, as they say, is history. My first job there was coordinating a dinner for 500 people.”
Wild eventually was hired permanently and rose through the ranks to become chief executive officer in January 2014. She was just a few months into the top job when she faced a crisis: The banks that set the daily value for silver suddenly decided to pull out of the price-setting business after 117 years. Their decision threatened to scuttle the daily rate-setting mechanism necessary to trade in the precious metal.
Wild had to find a solution, and fast: The banks gave three months’ notice to find another way. Wild marshaled her members to devise an alternative method — a new electronic silver auction — that ensured the continuation of a daily system to set rates.
“It was pretty daunting and made for a lot of sleepless nights at the beginning of my term,” she said. “But we helped institute radical changes, with more transparency, on how prices were determined.” The LBMA is in the process of adopting a similar price-setting system for gold.
Wild honed her leadership and crisis management skills at Kenyon as student body president during the 2000-01 school year, when she confronted two major controversies: the impeachment of one of her officers and a “snowball riot” when students clashed with local law enforcement. “The experiences Kenyon gave me outside the classroom in sports, student politics and other areas helped make me a more well-rounded person,” said Wild, who majored in English.
The daughter of a U.S. Air Force pilot and a high school foreign exchange student to Belgium, Wild had always been attracted to living abroad. She moved to London in 2002 to work as a paralegal and earn a master’s degree in the history of international relations at the London School of Economics. She also spent time in Geneva as an intern for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, where she monitored meetings and events, and met with ambassadors and diplomats.
She continues to work in the human rights field, counting as one of her major achievements at LBMA the institution of a program that prevents conflict gold — produced to fund armed conflict — from reaching the market.
Wild holds a dual citizenship with the United States and the United Kingdom. She is married to Sarah Wild ’04 whom she met at Kenyon. Six feet tall and athletic, Wild has played for the Blackheath Rugby Football Club — the oldest rugby club in the world — and chaired its women’s section.
Wild is also an ardent “Ripperologist” — a student of mysterious serial killer Jack the Ripper, an interest sparked by her former residency in east London near the Ten Bells Pub where most of his victims drank. “I’m a bit of a history geek,” she said. “I started reading books about it and gave my own Jack the Ripper tours when friends visited from the United States.”
— Dennis Fiely