CityViews: The youngest trader on NYSE tells her inspirational story

November 20, 2018 - 3:32 pm

1010 WINS -- Lauren Simmons has been dubbed the "Lone Woman on Wall Street," and her story has gone viral. 

When Lauren was hired at age 22 as an equity trader for Rosenblatt Securities on March 6, 2016, she was the youngest and the only full-time female trader.

Lauren's only the second African-American woman in history to wear the coveted badge and sign the constitution of the New York Stock Exchange.

And while the recent focus has been on the impact of her role as an equity trader, the way she got there is just as admirable. Simmons sat down with CityViews host Sharon Barnes-Waters and shared more about her path to the floor of the NYSE while being honored by investment adviser Modern Wealth Concepts in Philadelphia earlier this month.

Simmons came to New York from Georgia with a degree in genetics, but ultimately decided to put that career on hold. When she started exploring other professions, her passion for numbers led her to answer a posting on LinkedIn for a job with a Wall Street company. To keep the job, she had to take and pass the challenging Series 19 exam.

With only one month to study, Simmons passed the difficult exam on the first try -- just so you know, 80 percent of people who take the test fail.

"It's a five- hour exam and I remember hearing about it and having to prep for it and 'How do I study for this?' Well it is nothing you can Google, because it’s nothing you can find on the internet -- it’s an exam strictly for the NYSE and that’s how we get our badge and are able to put our name into history,'" Simmons told Barnes-Waters.  

"It’s a vital part of being on the trading floor and out of a class of 10, only 2 people would pass. You have people who have been in the financial industry for 15 plus years who don’t pass -- it’s a very intense exam," Simmons added.

She told Barnes-Waters many people were surprised she passed. "After I passed, they were shocked because they were like, 'Wow you really passed.'"

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Simmons said she tries not to focus on the fact that she’s the youngest and only full-time female trader at the NYSE. Although she acknowledges its significance, she said that dwelling on it is a distraction. Instead, she highlighted the support she’s received from colleagues who have helped her succeed and develop a strong voice.

"There are a lot of alpha males that are there, but I don’t necessarily know that you need to be an alpha male. You definitely need to have your voice and be respected," Simmons said.

Simmons said her "won’t-take-no-for-an-answer" attitude comes from her twin brother, who has Cerebral Palsy. In fact, he was the inspiration behind her decision to originally pursue a career in genetic counseling.

As a result, she takes no opportunity for granted and isn’t afraid to ask a lot of questions. The millennial also looks to mentors who help guide her and accepts that success comes with the ability to adapt to change.

While this milestone is likely only the first of many for the young trailblazer, Simmons had this advice for other women: "Don’t let fear stop you. If you sit around all day thinking, ‘Oh, I’m the only female or the only minority, the only woman,' … that is a distraction all day long. You can’t sit and dwell on the distraction. Do what you’re meant to do and do it well. You got this."

Simmons also said she wants to see more women and women of color in traditionally male-dominated fields.

"I do hope I see more women of color and women in general in these male dominated fields. I try to stress, whoever I’m talking to, wherever I’m at, I don’t want to be the anomaly -- I don’t want to hear the first or the second. I want to hear, 'this is the norm.'"

A movie is in the works about Lauren's inspiring story staring actress Kiersey Clemonds.

Watch the full interview above.