Mary Ann Bartels, highly accomplished accidental financier

by Farzana Ali (GSB ’15)

She wanted to be on Broadway: a singer, a dancer. Or maybe the owner of a spa chain. Yet she became the chief U.S. technical and market analyst in the investment strategy group at Merrill Lynch — the first female in the firm’s history to run that division.

Who is she? She is Fordham alumna Mary Ann Bartels (GSB ’85, MA ’92).

Ms. Bartels spoke to Smart Woman Securities members before Easter break — on a day when, coincidentally, the firm announced her promotion to chief investment officer of portfolio strategies in its investment management and guidance group. (Congratulations!)

How did Ms. Bartels manage such an unexpected but extraordinarily successful career? She learned to seek out a mentor, celebrate her own accomplishments, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. She advised SWS students to do the same.

One of the first lessons Ms. Bartels shared: Always be open to opportunity. Or, as she put it, don’t ever close doors. She graduated into a job market with a 7.7-percent unemployment rate, only slightly better than the present one. During her senior year, she had job offers from the New York Federal Reserve — though not for the research position she wanted — as well as Citibank and Chase, among others. Three months before graduation, she decided to take the lowest offer, a back-office position related to manufacturing. Why? Because she saw the greatest potential to grow there.

Ms. Bartels also advised the Gabelli School students to take pride in their work and their network. “You go through the door because someone opened it,” she said. “You stay through the door because you earned it.”

She has noticed that women in the workplace behave differently than men. Women don’t believe they need to tell people that they’re doing a good job. They’re wrong, she said. “You have to let people know your accomplishments,” she advised. “When someone within the firm praises your work, its OK to ask, ‘I need you to tell my boss.’”

Finally, she told the students that they need mentors. In a large corporation, people have to know who you are and what your skills are. You need sponsors and support, inside and outside the firm.

Ms. Bartels brought honesty and humor into her speech and she generously shared her favorite memories. Her story made all the students think about what unexpected turns their own careers may hold.

 

 

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