August 26, 2013

Wall Street Mourns Death of Muriel Siebert

‘Better than anyone, she understood Wall Street — from every element that made it run to the powers that oversaw the enterprise,’ says Openshaw of Finect

Muriel Siebert, then 47, in 1977. (Photo: AP) Muriel Siebert, then 47, in 1977. (Photo: AP)

“Muriel kept going when most would’ve stopped. She broke down walls. She had more stamina than any 20-year-old. And better than anyone, she understood Wall Street — from every element that made it run to the powers that oversaw the enterprise.”

That’s how Jennifer Openshaw, president of Finect, a social media platform, and founder of the Women’s Financial Network describes Wall Street legend Muriel Siebert — known as Mickie — who died on Saturday at 80 of complications of cancer.

A college dropout who left Western Reserve University after two years because her father became ill, Siebert became a bastion of Wall Street. She was the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967 as well as the first woman to be in charge of one the exchange’s member firms. In 1975, she transformed Muriel Siebert & Co., which is a now a subsidiary of Siebert Financial, into a discount brokerage. In 1977, she became the first female superintendent of banking for New York state.

Siebert was chairwoman and CEO of Siebert Financial until her death.

Joseph Ramos, Siebert Financial's chief operating officer, will continue performing "a similar function to those performed by Siebert," the company said in a statement.

"Mickie was a pioneer and recognized as a leader throughout the industry and beyond," said Ramos. "She was respected as a strong voice of integrity, reason and sound business practices. Although she is best known as the first woman to own a seat on the NYSE, she really became one of the great personalities on Wall Street of either sex. Those of us who worked with her will miss her spirit, leadership and great commitment to her clients and the securities markets. We will work to continue her legacy."

In 2000, Seibert bought the Women’s Financial Network. “I had first met [Siebert] to see if she would consider funding Women’s Financial Network, an idea I had to provide women with investment education and resources that would allow them to move toward financial security,” Openshaw recalls. “Like others, she first wanted to see how it did.”

After witnessing WFN’s success as the first company “to focus specifically on the financial needs of women,” Openshaw says, Siebert bought WFN. “Muriel liked to be the first.”

Siebert was “one of the country’s greatest legends — not only in the financial industry but for all American women,” Openshaw says.

Indeed, Siebert was a mainstay on Wealth Manager magazine’s annual top 50 Women in Wealth list from 2008 to 2011. She toured the New York Stock Exchange on a visit to the Big Apple, and “ended up getting a job [at the NYSE] as a research trainee,” Kate McBride, founder of FiduciaryPath and former editor of WealthManagerMag.com, recalls Siebert saying during an interview she conducted with her in 2010.

At the time of that interview, McBride says, Siebert said “her real legacy” and “most important achievement was her financial literacy program, funded from her foundation.” The program was “in use in New York City high schools at the time and she was working to expand its reach.”

Siebert also said at the time that she hoped then-Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Schapiro would be successful in getting the Commission to pass a rule to put brokers under a fiduciary mandate. "I think [a fiduciary rule] is a good idea," she said. "...There are just too many people that are being taken advantage of."

That task is now in the hands of current SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White.

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Check out The 50 Top Women in Wealth: The 2011 Honorees on ThinkAdvisor.

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