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Portfolio > ETFs > Broad Market

Putting It Right

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If you ask Muriel Siebert, first woman member of the New York Stock Exchange and founder and president of Muriel Siebert & Co., “the only woman-owned NYSE brokerage firm with a national presence”, what advisors ought to be doing these days, she’ll tell you. You should be more visible. Says Siebert, advisors “have to get known publicly for what they do, how they can help people. The profession needs more visibility. The public has to realize that there is a very valid service that [advisors] perform.”

Clients, she says, need impartial information. It’s easy to get that information, “if they have the right person . . . they need the right professional. It’s very hard to hook the right people up with each other, to get through to the individual to say, ‘I can really help you.’ As the profession gets more visibility, people will trust [advisors] more.” People don’t often open up to strangers, says Siebert, but if the profession is visible enough and respected enough, they will do so. And it is an honored profession, she says. Between codes of conduct and very good people within the field, she says, people will learn that “you don’t have to do it totally on your own or go to people you don’t know.”

What about the state of the markets? “I think the market has done a remarkable job in overcoming some very basic problems,” says Siebert, enumerating: “the IPOS, dot-coms, telecoms, the high price of oil, and”aeof courseaeEnron. “Enron took away people’s faith,” she says. “It took away their trust in the integrity [of the market].” Siebert doesn’t pull any punches with her disgust over what was done in the name of pushing Enron to the top of the market. “We’re going to have to change the rules, whereby directors who sell stock will have to report it in a timely manner,” she says. “These legal loopholes are disgraceful. You can use collars, derivatives, and you don’t have to report things. What kind of nonsense is that? It’s not right. And 401(k)saefrom this will emerge, and I don’t think I’m wrong, the most far-reaching developments that we have. I think by the time we are done with this it will be as important as when the SEC was developed.”

What kind of changes does she think will come? A whole list: “Transparency would be number one. Financial statements should be easy to understand and read. The 401(k) mess has to be straightened out. [It's] totally unfair. We’ve got to have timely reporting of sales by directors. Derivatives have to be spelled out. How the hell did those banks or brokerage firms use derivatives so that loans appeared to be trades? If you did that, or I did that, we’d be banned from the business. Seriously. From this will emerge some very strong laws. And it’s about time.”

If she could, says Siebert, she would “hold advisors’ hands and say, ‘You know, it’s been a tough market and you can’t let a tough market destroy you.’ They’ve got to be pretty sensitive to what happened. It’s been a tough year for brokers, a tough year for advisors. I look at the people whose money wasn’t being managedaethe people whose money was being managed want to do it themselves, because they say, ‘I’m paying people to lose money for me.’ It’s probably the toughest market I’ve ever seen.”

But the outlook, she says firmly, is good. “I think we’re going to see some laws passed, and a return to confidence in the market and the integrity of the marketplace. We have a very good capital raising system in this country, and we have to make sure it stays that way.”


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