Muriel "Mickey'" Siebert: the name is legendary on Wall Street, and not only for her skill in picking stocks that turn into winners.
Starting from scratch a generation ago, she built Muriel Siebert and Company into one of the country's best known discount stock brokers, offering customers lower commission charges than the giant brokerages. The strategy has rewarded her and investors in her company's stock price handsomely. Correspondent Ray Brady reports:
She is the first woman to become a billionaire without having inherited much of the money. How does that make her feel?
"Well, it felt good for two days," she says. "I mean, for a couple days, some of the traders made my stock an Internet stock, and the stock zoomed up."
In today's rapid-fire, Internet-driven Wall Street, where money talks, thousands of customers and Wall Streeters alike listen when this financial veteran talks, especially when she's answering a question like: What keeps this stock market going up and up and up some more?
"It keeps going up," she says, "because there's a lot of 40lK money that has come in. There's a lot of European money that's come in...and people have made money in the market. They believe in the market and they're putting a lot of money into this market. In today's environment, for the first time, the value of stocks that the average household owns has passed the value of the house they live in."
But Mickey Siebert also is known for blunt talking, especially when the talk turns to those financial whirling dervishes, Internet stocks.
"Look, I don't like the craziness that anything that has "dot.com" before it can just zoom," Siebert says. "I want to see some revenues. I want to see a position in an industry."
Ray Brady: "I looked up some of the stocks that were big hot ones back in the 1960s and what happened to them a few years later: King Resources, down 99 percent. Four Seasons Nursing, remember that one?"
Siebert: "Yes, I do."
Brady: "Down 99 percent. Alpha Numeric, down 98 percent. How do we know that's not going to happen with the Internet stocks this time around?"
Siebert: "Well, I do know the Internet is a powerful tool on a global basis. So, there will be room for companies to make it. Is there room for three companies that sell books? I don't know."
If you've gotten the idea that Mickey Siebert is very much her own woman, you're right. She is constantly monitoring every part of her brokerage house. She even appears in commercials for Muriel Siebert and Company that point out that her company is poised to be a major player in Internet trading:
Like most CEOs, she has met with all of America's recent presidents. But what CEO do you know who brings a dog named Monster Girl to the office?
That's not all: Mickey Siebert came to New York, in December, 1954, as a college dropout, and heaed for that bastion of male pride and macho personalities, Wall Street. A woman on Wall Street! In the conservative 1950s, it was unheard of.
Ray Brady: "I remember years ago there was a cry that went through Wall Street, 'She's a woman. She's working here on Wall Street'."
Siebert: "That's right."
Brady: "And it was you."
Siebert: "That was me."
She finally got work as a securities analyst for $65 a week. Analysts study companies in order to find stocks that can be expected to increase in price. But the companies the brokerage house assigned her were Wall Street men's castoffs, stocks the male analysts thought were going nowhere.
But Mickey Siebert saw something in them that the others did not: Says Siebert, "I can look at a page of numbers and they light up and they tell me a story. So, the man that had railroads, shipping, buses, everything that moved, gave me the airlines because he did not think they could pay for the jets."
It gets better. "The man who had chemicals and drugs gave me television, motion pictures and the theaters, because he thought they were boring," she says. "And I wrote the first recommendation on the value of a totally depreciated film for television." That was another home run: investors who followed her advice bought the stocks of movie studios that had libraries of old movies. Those studios racked up big profits when TV paid high prices to run those old films.
From there, Mickey Siebert went on to the front page of The New York Times. She had dared enter Wall Street's holy of holiest. She was the first woman to buy a seat - a license to trade - on the New York Stock Exchange.
Says Siebert with a laugh, "Men and me." What's more she says, "There was not a woman member before because there was no ladies room on the floor of the NYSE."
Brady: "Did they put one in for you?"
Siebert: "No, they actually had a room...and nobody bothered to tell me about it for two years."
It's 30 years later, and now Mickey Siebert is receiving award after award. At the New York Stock Exchange, they invited her to ring the buzzer signaling the closing of the Wall Street trading day to honor the 30th anniversary of her debut there.
Today she spends much of her time working to get more woman and minorities on Wall Street, taking that same blunt Mickey Siebert approach: "People don't care if you're a woman, if you're black, if you're brown, if you're Asian," she tells one group. "If you can make money for them, that's what counts. It's the bottom line."
For investors, the bottom line now is, how long can this market make the kind of money people have become accustomed to in recent years? Mickey Siebert has an answer to that too.
Brady: "A lot of people are saying the economy is on the verge of slowing down. Your analysis?"
Siebert: "I have been waiting for the slowdown because of what' going on on a global basis. But our new industries, the new products created by these industries, the new jobs. We have the lowest inflation, and people are happy. They vote their pocketbook and spend their pocketbook."
Brady: "You've worked with a lot of small investors. How informed is the public today in stocks?"
Siebert: "They're getting more informed. I think what happened is, a lot of the public went into mutual funds starting ten years ago, six years ago. And now they've found individual stocks. They've learned more and they feel more confident."
Now some Siebert-style stock advice: "We have a two-tiered market. We have a market where you've got some companies that are vastly overpriced by standards we know. And we have a market where some of them are vastly underpriced. And, if the public is smart they are going to look at the numbers and they're going to buy some of the stocks that have the value and have the cash flow. And in two or three years they're going to make a lot of money on them."
Success with stocks has vaulted her into the billion-dollar class. Even so, after 45 years on Wall Street, there's no talk of retiring, just talk about the future on Wall Street. For instance, "it's quite likely that a portion of our Social Security money is going to be directed into stocks," she notes. And, she says, "we will have global trading, and you'll be able to trade 24 hours a day."
Mickey Siebert will be there to see it. It would not be Wall Street without her.
Muriel Siebert's Web site is SiebertNet.