Her movie-star good looks did not make Maria Bartiromo a world-famous, award-winning financial television journalist. It’s her smarts, stupid! (Though the striking resemblance to a young Sophia Loren hasn’t hurt, she tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview).
Judge for yourself by catching the so-called “money honey” on her new live show, “Mornings with Maria,” 6 a.m.-9 a.m. (EST) Monday-Friday on the Fox Business Network, and on “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo,” live 10 am-11 am (EST), on the Fox News Channel.
A more fitting nickname than “the money honey” would be “the money hammer,” an admiring Bartiromo colleague once observed about her journalistic strengths.
She is best known as the first reporter to broadcast daily from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. That was when she worked for CNBC, a 20-year stint ending with her November 2013 resignation. In January 2014, she joined the Fox Business Network, where she was appointed Global Markets Editor and anchor of “Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo.”
Two weeks ago, she took over the three-hour FBN timeslot held by “Imus in the Morning.”
“I jumped at the chance,” Bartiromo, 47, tells ThinkAdvisor. The three-hour program provides her with a wide berth to cover financial and business news globally, not just the securities markets short term. Indeed, she welcomes this.
In the interview, Bartiromo has plenty to say about that, as well as dishing out an abundance of advice for financial advisors on how to improve client relationships.
The Brooklyn, New York-born Bartiromo is known for her “gets” — one-on-one interviews with often hard-to-access folks. These have included former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke; Hillary Clinton; Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York; Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone Group chairman-CEO; and Barack Obama, when he was senator.
Thus far, from her new perch, she has talked with, among others, Bank of America Merrill Lynch media analyst Jessica Reif Cohen, presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, Bank of America chairman-CEO Brian Moynahan, presidential hopeful Rick Perry and analyst-turned hedge fund manager-turned analyst Meredith Whitney.
Apart from her informative interviews, “Mornings with Maria” is largely about breaking world news and panel discussions with experts — heavy on Fox News correspondents and other financial reporters, and there is Morgan Stanley vice chair of Wealth Management Gary Kaminsky as a regular — which the anchor adroitly leads.
Bartiromo came to CNBC in 1993 after five years with CNN Business News as a producer, writer and assignment editor. Her goal was to be an on-camera reporter. When she joined CNBC, she became one, full time. She launched “Squawk Box” — reporting from the NYSE floor — and anchored “The Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo,” as well as “On the Money with Maria Bartiromo” (formerly “The Wall Street Report with Maria Bartiromo”).
A New York University grad, she has written several books, including “The Weekend that Changed Wall Street” (Random House 2010) and can be seen — as herself — in feature films such as “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and “Arbitrage.”
The daughter of an Italian restaurant entrepreneur, Bartiromo is married to WisdomTree CEO-president Jonathan Steinberg, a son of financier Saul Steinberg.
Since premiering “Mornings with Maria,” it’s been virtually 24/7 work for the tireless broadcaster. She rises at 3 a.m. and retires early at 8:30 p.m. — 7:30 if she doesn’t sneak in a daytime nap.
However, chatting by phone with ThinkAdvisor at the close of “MWM’s” first week and only 90 minutes after going off the air that Friday, she sounded as peppy as when she kicked off the show earlier that morning. Here are highlights from our conversation:
ThinkAdvisor: How can financial advisors be more effective with their clients?
Maria Bartiromo: The best thing you can do is make them [understand] that you’re watching out for them, that you’re going to get them where they want to go and that you’ll get them there without enriching yourself first and charging the highest fees. These are very hard conversations to have, but they will differentiate you from [other advisors]. What else should FAs do?
It’s important to be honest with clients. Don’t tell me to buy a fund because [the reason is] you’re going to get [a big] commission on it. Tell me to buy a fund because you know it’s going to be cost-effective for me. Don’t avoid ETFs because you think you won’t make any money on an ETF and that you’ll make much more on another fund.
We’ll get back in a bit to your further advice for advisors.
I’m curious as to your thoughts on this: Many FAs and RIAs I speak with have a big beef with what they call “media hysteria”: They say reporters stir up things relating to finance, scaring investors, and that their theme is always short-term oriented. What’s your response?
I agree. There’s too much focus on the short term. That’s one of the reasons I left CNBC. I wanted to get away from trading and instead [concentrate] more on investing. A quick knee-jerk reaction is not the way to invest. It’s really important that the media recognize that their words and writing matter — and that [information and views] should be [presented] calmly. I always tell people not to make important decisions when they’re stressed.
How would you assess your own “calmness level” as a news person?
I was there when the market fell out of bed in 2007-2008. I was there during 9/11. I was there during the boom days. I would like to believe that I was one who dealt with the news in a calm and clear-headed manner. It’s critical to maintain a calm stance and attitude when things are flying off the handle. That’s when [TV journalists] can be valued the most.
To what extent do you have the power to move markets?
When you’re on live television, anything can happen. And that’s the trick. I never know where a conversation is going to go. So depending on what the person says, if will impact people’s money, it will impact markets.
To change the subject substantially: Have your good looks helped or hindered you in your career? You do bear a striking resemblance to a young Sophia Loren.
Helped, chiefly. If I want to go to lunch with someone important, they might say they’d rather go with me than a guy in a suit. But you could be Brigitte Bardot, and that’s not going to help you in business information. You could be Sophia Loren, and that won’t help you either. A superficial thing like looks might help you get a foot in the door or an interview, but it doesn’t keep you [in the game]. If you don’t have the goods, you’re not going to make it and won’t advance in this industry because this is an audience of very smart people who are informed. What else characterizes the audience?
These people are focused on something incredibly important: Their money, their livelihood. So unless you’re bringing them valuable information that they need and can use, you won’t have credibility. Without the meat and potatoes — knowledge of what you’re talking about and credibility — you won’t excel and [have longevity].
What’s the most critical financial issue facing the U.S. today?
No. 1: Jobs. Where are the jobs? People don’t feel great about things, and it’s because they’re worried about their jobs, and jobs in general. No. 2: People don’t save enough. The whole student-loan debt issue is one of the more dangerous things out there. And a midterm issue is entitlements. We’ll run out of money for Social Security at some point. So without reconstruction of some entitlement programs, that could be a real stress.
During the financial crisis, what was the most difficult part about business reporting?
Probably the fact that a lot of people were nervous. The main players were nervous. So they weren’t willing to give out all the information on what was really going on. It was hard to keep track of things because they were moving so quickly. And, of course, when the people you’re talking to don’t want you to really know what’s going on, that’s tough. When you’re in a crisis situation, it’s tough to sort through the noise.
You once told The Guardian that “business news is sexy.” What’s so sexy?
It’s sexy because it affects us all. Very few types of news can change a person’s livelihood. If I’m giving you entertainment news about Kim Kardashian, it’s not going to impact your life. But if I’m telling you what the stock market is doing or providing information about the price of your home, that may change your behavior and your life. That’s sexy. Business and economic news are pocketbook issues: they impact the way we spend and allocate money. The way people have built something when they start from nothing is interesting and sexy. Where the stock market has gone – if only in the years that I’ve been covering it – is interesting and sexy.