The diversity and black history of the NYSE trading floor may provide a rough proxy for the rate of cultural change in the overall stock market.
Most Wall Street observers can name a long list of investing legends like Warren Buffett and John Bogle. But role models of color remain harder to come by. That goes hand-in-hand with the racial wealth gap, which is influenced by the fact that minorities continue to be less likely to invest in stocks. Even celebrity investor Mark Cuban, whose name might imply Hispanic heritage, has Russian-Jewish roots and a name shortened from Chabinesky.
The New York Stock Exchange trading floor remains a largely white male stronghold. The floor felt its first real dose of diversity during World War II. That was when Irish, Catholics and Jews grabbed jobs that opened as traders headed off to war.
In 1967, investor Muriel Seibert managed to fashion another door, becoming the first woman to buy a seat on the New York exchange. Three years later, Joseph Searles broke new ground. Searles had earned a law degree at George Washington University. He then joined the administration of Mayor John Lindsay in New York. He moved on to a position at brokerage Newman Loeb, which financed Searles’ purchase of a NYSE seat in February 1970. It was the first seat owned by an African-American.
The stock market at that time was in the grip of what would come to be known as the Paperwork Crisis. Rising trading volumes overwhelmed the market’s back office systems. The bottleneck choked activity to four trading days a week, plus periodic other closings. The stymied environment drove Searles to give up his seat in less than 10 months, according to Gregory Bell’s “In the Black: A History of African Americans on Wall Street.”
Black History Of The NYSE Trading Floor
The first two black owned and operated firms to buy NYSE seats, First Harlem Securities and Daniels & Bell, arrived in 1971. Those firms, and the black-owned firms that followed, were extremely small businesses. They controlled a fraction of the capital of larger players such as Morgan Stanley.
Also, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and others were, at the time, pioneering the migration of larger brokers into public ownership. This opened the larger firms to even greater access to capital. The trend broadened the gap between traditional brokerages and the incoming black investment firms, Bell wrote.
Still, in 1973, Daniels & Bell paid $170,000 to buy a second seat on New York Stock Exchange. (Merrill Lynch owned 18 seats at the time.) Daniels & Bell brought on former Salomon Brothers trader Frank Quintana to work the floor. That reportedly made Quintana the Big Board’s first Puerto Rican trader.
Gail Pankey-Albert, an African American woman, became a NYSE floor messenger straight out of high school in 1971. She eventually opened her own trading firm. In 1981, her firm bought a seat on the exchange — reportedly the NYSE’s first minority woman to do so.
In 2017, Rosenblatt Securities hired 23-year old Lauren Simmons as a floor trader. Today, she is reportedly the only full-time female trader to hold such a position, and the only African American woman in the trading crowd.
NYSE has made more extensive progress further up in its corporate structure, at least so far as women are concerned. Catherine Kinney handled NYSE’s joint president and co-chief operating officer role in 2002-08. In May 2018, NYSE named Stacey Cunningham to the president’s post. She’s officially the first woman to hold the position of full president in the company’s 226-year history.
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