October 31, 2018

Making her mark

KSU alum’s love of numbers leads to Wall Street

Like the popular “Fearless Girl” statue in Manhattan’s Financial District, 24-year-old Lauren Simmons (Psychology, ’16) isn’t afraid of Wall Street’s iconic “Charging Bull” at the opposite end of the plaza. The Marietta native has proved she can hold her own with the denizens of Wall Street.

For the past year and a half, the Kennesaw State alum has worked as a stockbroker on the frenetic floor of the New York Stock Exchange. As the NYSE’s first full-time female stockbroker, she has stood her ground and drawn plenty of supporters.

“Within a month of working on the floor, the men there knew I was serious about the role I was in,” Simmons said. “They definitely listen when I speak.”

Photo of Kennesaw State University Alumn, Lauren Simmons

Simmons has been profiled by the BBC and CNBC, and in print by The Philadelphia Tribune, Essence and Black Enterprise.

It’s a good time to be a woman working on Wall Street, where in 2017 Adena Friedman became president and CEO of Nasdaq and where, for the first time in its 226-year-old financial market’s history, a woman leads the rival NYSE. Stacey Cunningham, who began her career as summer intern on the NYSE floor 24 years ago, was named president of the exchange in May.

While Simmons loves trading equities, it’s not exactly the path she intended to pursue. As a psychology major and statistics minor at Kennesaw State, she had set her sights on becoming a genetic counselor. However, after interning in a medical clinic, she decided that wasn’t the route she wanted to pursue. A change in direction led to a stint as a sales manager at Saks Fifth Avenue, but Simmons soon discovered a career in retail didn’t really suit her.

“Following graduation, I moved to New York and was applying for all sorts of different jobs,” said Simmons. “There was one job that I applied for at Rosenblatt Securities, but I was told I was overqualified for it. That’s when Gordon Charlop reached out to me on LinkedIn.”

Photo of Kennesaw State University Alumni, Lauren Simmons posing on the stock exchange floor

A partner and managing director of Rosenblatt, Charlop invited Simmons to interview for a floor trader position and visit the NYSE floor.

“When I went into the interview, I wasn’t sold on being a trader, but when I saw the tickers and all those numbers on display around the floor, it clicked,” she said. “For me with my minor in statistics, and my love of numbers, I could see how the markets move and how it all connects to people. I noticed for me what had been a minor point for me in my college career had now become a major factor for me in my career.”

Charlop, the Wall Street veteran, introduced Simmons to the veteran traders on the floor and let the excitement of the action on the floor work its magic.

“He brought me on the floor to look around and there weren’t any women, just about 20 men there. But I could instantly feel it was a very warm and inviting community, one where I would be comfortable to work. I think he knew I would love it and he wanted me to feel confident. Once I saw it, I knew this was the place where I wanted to be. It is so iconic.”

She’s happy with the way things have turned out thus far in her young life, even though it wasn’t in the plan.

“For me, the best part of the job is that every day is new and exciting and fun. You get the most growth in life from being in uncomfortable situations. The opportunities and experience you can get will be limitless and a lot of other feeling to breaking the glass ceiling.”

Simmons had this advice for KSU students: “Be open-minded to opportunities that come your way. When you leave college, you have a dream job in your head that you want to get and that dream job doesn’t happen for some people, so be open-minded to opportunities. Anything is possible and that is why I am at the NYSE. Here I am.”

– Robert S. Godlewski

Photos by Rob Witzel

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