At age 22, Lauren Simmons made history in 2017 as the youngest person and just the second Black woman to work as trader in the 228-year history of the New York Stock Exchange.
Last month, she launched her podcast Mind Body Wealth with Lauren Simmons, which curates conversations about a holistic approach to wealth building.
I caught up with Lauren and wespoke about her time as a trader, misconceptions about money, and her new podcast.
Grove: Growing up, were you always interested in finances and investing?
Simmons: I have always been into personal finances. My family always taught us early on about building up credit and having a checking and savings account. I was put on my mom’s and grandparent’s credit card to build my credit before the age of 18. My mom opened up a teen checking account with Wells Fargo when I was 13 for any allowance that I got. Then,when I was 16 and had my first job. I learned early on to budget and to put a majority of my check into my savings account. It really grew from there. My firsthand experience of investing, obviously wasn’t until I came to the trading floor.
Grove: How did you transition from studying engineering to genetics and then finance?
Simmons: When I was in high school, we had to pick a curriculum that would take us through all four years. I mistakenly got into architectural engineering. At a minimum, I thought I was going to do one semester but I fell in love with it. I love being in spaces where it doesn’t make sense. This has happened to me throughout my entire career. I was the only girl in that class for all four years and one of very few African Americans that were in that class. I thought I would end up going to Georgia Tech or some architectural engineering program. When I didn’t get into an engineering program, I had to pivot once I got to college. For me, it was easy to make that change from engineering to genetics because I have a brother with cerebral palsy. I really wanted to impact families the way that doctors impacted mine growing up. There are so many things on a personal level and on a professional level of how they correlate I mean. I was still heavily involved in statistics, math, and algorithms. So it made sense to make that pivot from architectural engineering to genetics, and then ultimately into finance.
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I was writing my senior thesis and I realized that we weren’t as technologically advanced as I had hoped within genetics, which is what I was pursuing in college. I still wanted to move to New York and I was going to figure it out from there. So in my transition to New York, I didn’t seek out the New York Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange sought me out. I was looking for a position where I could leverage my background in analytics, statistics, and data. That’s how I ended up at the New York Stock Exchange.
Grove: When you began at the New York Stock Exchange, were you aware that you were the youngest trader and one of the Black women in its history?
Simmons: No. Nor did I know I was the second African American woman. I didn’t even realize at the time that I was the only woman with around 250 men. I think when you’re in a space and you’re doing things, you’re not the person on the outside looking in. So when I walked into the room, of course, there were women on the floor who were news reporters, assistants, there were other women in other capacities but by and large, I could count on one hand the number of women on the floor. I would say about five.
I came from a background where most of the time, I was always the only woman or one of very few women in the space and certainly the very few minorities in the room. I had been in environments like that the majority of my young life so it wasn’t anything new. But of course, once somebody points it out. A reporter contacted me from BBC News and he emailed me on LinkedIn and said, “Are you the only woman that works on the trading floor?” It was when someone else called it out, that I was able to recognize it.
Grove: As you worked in one of the original “good old boys clubs” as a young Black woman, what lessons did you learn from your experience on the Stock Exchange that you will take with you throughout your career?
Simmons: One of the things that I get asked often when I was on and off the trading floor is, “What stocks should I invest in? Or,“How can I get wealthy overnight?” Those things just don’t happen. I was an equity trader. We’re not fortune tellers, right? We are moving, with the same information that people are getting. Are we getting information in more real-time, yes. But we still have no idea how a stock is going to perform. That being said, accountability is something that I learned. Whether that is, you know, for your personal finances or for your own personal journey. As a trader, I was working with a notional value of $150 million on a daily basis of trading stocks and we had to make decisions in microseconds. So what I learned is anything that we did, any decision that we made, whether it was good, bad, indifferent, we had to be accountable. We couldn’t hide behind someone else for our mistakes. We couldn’t blame somebody else for our mistakes. We just had to show up and own it. Whatever the outcome was, we would have to take that head-on. I think that that’s one of the biggest lessons that I learned early on in my career. Being in a space where you had to be accountable, there was no making mistakes and blaming it on another person. I think that directness has carried me so far in my business career and even in my personal finances. It’s one of the things that when people meet me or that personally know me, they say, Lauren’s very direct.
Grove: Now lets move to your latest venture. How long have you been developing Mind Body Wealth with Lauren Simmons podcast and how was it to partner with Spotify?
Simmons: Yes! This is something I’ve been working on for two years. I’m just so grateful and honored to work with Spotify and for them to lean all the way in. They really believed in my vision and wanted to bring it to life. I’m so grateful to be on this journey with them. Within 10 minutes of me pitching them, it was a yes.
Grove: As an investor myself, I’m always checking out CNBC, Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance, and other outlets. I have two Black daughters who I often talk to about building wealth. From now on, we will be listening to your advice. With that being said, what do you want your listeners to get from the podcast?
Simmons: Wow. I love that you watch CNBC, Bloomberg and I do as well. I just genuinely love learning about the space. But I think for me, this is not a traditional finance podcast. I think we have so many platforms and mediums that are out there if you want to learn direct finance. I think that the mark is missed with CNBC, Bloomberg from a couple of different angles. One, that the demographic and the audience that they’re trying to reach. I don’t think that they’re as inclusive as they could be. The other thing is this conversation of like building wealth, is so much bigger than investing and getting returns. I work with clients that are high-income earners and still live paycheck to paycheck. I work with people who have a great team and they manage their money but they don’t understand the mindset of being wealthy. So my podcast really is all interconnected. It’s the mind, the body, and wealth. We’ll have these intimate conversations with people who have been successful and what their personal journey with finances is. I think that’s where we start to see the shift and the change of seeing people create wealth. I’m a true believer that everyone can make money. But even if you make a lot of money, what does that mean? That is where I want to have a different conversation and how we should be having these conversations and not making talking about money taboo but also changing what it means to have a wealth mindset. I think if we can do that, from a holistic approach, we can really change the trajectory of the future and especially when it comes to money for women and minorities.