She's what most traders aren't: a millennial, a woman, and a minority.
At 23, Lauren Simmons is the youngest and only current full-time female trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
She spoke Tuesday at the Pyramid Club in Center City during an event hosted by local investment adviser Modern Wealth Concepts of Jenkintown.
Simmons, a native of Marietta, Ga., graduated from Kennesaw State University with a degree in genetics and a minor in statistics, all of which helped her impress Gordon Charlop, partner at Rosenblatt Securities and a floor trader for 25 years. As a NYSE floor governor, he hired her last year to work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as an equity trader.
"He liked my stats background, and as a trader, you have to make quick decisions," Simmons told the crowd. Rosenblatt is a specialist boutique brokerage firm that trades mostly exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, she said.
Simmons moved to New York City shortly after graduating to pursue her dreams of working in the Big Apple. A chance opportunity arose when she was deemed overqualified for a position, but the employer insisted on introducing her to Charlop at the NYSE.
She's the youngest female and only the second African American woman to ever work at the NYSE in its 226-year history. On Dec. 5, 2017, she signed her name alongside that of John D. Rockefeller in the constitution of the NYSE.
"When I heard Lauren's story, I knew it was something that needed to be shared," said Jen Montague, executive director of Modern Wealth Concepts and chair of leadership and development programs at the African American Chamber of Commerce, which co-hosted the event along with the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce. Modern Wealth Concepts was founded by fee-based financial planner Keith Donnell and is run by him and his daughter Montague of Cheltenham. The firm manages roughly $20 million in assets.
"To accomplish what she has so quickly after graduating college says a lot about her character and her leadership qualities. No matter where you're at in your career, you will take something away from this experience," Montague said.
Raised by a single mother of three, Simmons initially wanted to work as a genetics counselor because her twin brother suffers from cerebral palsy. "I need to live vicariously for him, that's my mind-set," she said.
How has she changed since joining Wall Street?
"Extroverts like this type of job, and yes, it's a community of men. But to focus on that is a distraction mind-set. Men on the floor are very loud, so I had to change from being a soft-spoken gal from Georgia or I'd get run over. Once I passed the exams to trade on the floor, I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone. And I'm changing their minds, as well."
Advice for women in the workplace? Simmons has that, too.
"Women are taught to pursue perfection rather than taking risks," she added. "That's just silly. You're not reaching too high. You can make anything a reality."
Other advice for new grads?
"Get your face in front of a lot of people. LinkedIn was and is my best friend. And believe in the power of networking in person. Don't take someone saying 'no' so personally." She's also a fan of vision boards and such books as The Universe Has Your Back and You Are a Badass.
Since her hiring, Simmons has met other women who've broken into the boys club — including Martina Edwards, the first African American female broker on the NYSE, and Stacey Cunningham, this year named the first female president of the NYSE.
"At breakfast with Stacey, she told me the prior president asked her, 'Who do you think would make a good successor?' and she didn't get it at first. He was offering her the job. And she thought she wasn't qualified. Women have to find people who want you to succeed. If they're giving you the opportunity, why are you saying 'no'?"
Although much of Wall Street trading is now automated and computerized, the NYSE is one of the last remaining trading floors with humans, she added.
"My orders from clients might move prices, and I can go to one of the market-makers in a stock in-person and ask them what the market is looking like. Technology can't do that."