Long before she knew what career path she would take, Mary Ann Bartels had a mentor and role model in an aunt, Bernadette Bartels Murphy, who joined the male-dominated financial industry in the 1950s.

“What my aunt kept teaching me was that I could do whatever I wanted to,” says Bartels, who began her own career on Wall Street in the 1980s. “She empowered me not to be intimidated just because I was a woman.”

Bartels grew up on City Island in the Bronx and attended community college before transferring to Fordham, where she deepened her newfound passion for analyzing the economy as “a puzzle with a lot of different moving parts.” She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Gabelli School of Business in 1985 and later earned a master’s degree in economics at Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Today, Bartels is a leading investment strategist with a knack for explaining financial concepts to the general public. As head of the Research Investment Committee and of exchange traded fund strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, she has often shared her expertise on outlets like CNBC. And she continues to come back to Fordham, she says, because “they gave me a chance.”

As a member of the President’s Council, Bartels has been a guest lecturer in classes and for the Smart Women Securities club, and has served as a judge at a Shark Tank-inspired event hosted by the Gabelli School. On October 23, she’ll be attending Fordham’s third annual Women’s Philanthropy Summit, where she’ll participate in a panel discussion titled “A View from the Top: Reflections on Success and Coaching the Next Generation of Women Leaders.” It’s an important event to her, she says, because “it’s women supporting women.”

“It’s nice that Fordham is creating an environment where women can come together and share their success and do good for whatever their cause is,” she says.

“You know, women have come a long way,” Bartels says, “yet we have a lot more to do. Many women used to be hostage to a husband and their views on how to use their wealth. Now women have their own finances and their own voice. But we still represent very small ratios in most lines of business.”

That’s why continuing to engage in mentorship is also important to Bartels. “For women and men alike, how do we grow without mentorship? It’s a way of giving back,” she says.

That desire to give back is something she sees in her daughter, Lorraine, a first-year student at Fordham College at Rose Hill. Bartels says that her daughter was most attracted to Fordham’s ethos of engaging with surrounding communities. She started her Fordham experience with Urban Plunge, an optional pre-orientation program run by the University’s Center for Community Engaged Learning where students participate in community-enriching programs throughout the Bronx and Manhattan.

“She is absolutely thriving,” Bartels says of Lorraine. “And I get to see Fordham in a new way—as a parent.”

What are you most passionate about?
At the end of the day, what’s most important to me are my two children. My main responsibility is to be a mother; it has to be.

My second passion, at least professionally, is that I love to assist people with their finances. I love sitting down and helping a client understand what they have and how we can get them to where they want to go.

Another passion I have, and something I’m really learning as I get older, is how to stay healthy and have a health program for longevity, starting with diet. In your 20s, you feel like you’re invincible; you snap back like a rubber band. In your 30s you still think you’re invincible, but you start to learn that the rubber band doesn’t snap back quite as fast. By the time you’re 40, the rubber band does not always snap back. And by the time you’re 50, you really need to have everything together.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My Aunt Bernadette taught me the value of networking, and how a lot of life is about networking and meeting people. But I didn’t appreciate it until it worked for me. When I look at my past, through Wall Street, a lot of it was connected by people I met through the years and who I stayed in touch with, who became my friends within the industry both inside and outside my company. As you go through your career, you need a mentor, right? But you also need what’s called sponsorship, people that you work with who say “you are adding value to our business.” So you never know who that might be.

On a personal level, and we’ve all heard this from many different avenues, another piece of advice that has been important has been “learn how to accept yourself, take care of yourself, and love yourself.” As you get older and wiser, you really start understanding why that was said to you so often. You’re pulled in so many different directions, especially women, and many of us struggle with that. How many women have said, “Yeah, I just don’t do anything for myself.” And then they end up unhappy. You have to love yourself enough to take care of yourself. Or you can’t help anybody, you can’t be at the top of your game. And even if you get there, you can’t enjoy it.

What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
My favorite place in the world is Alaska, the pristine and absolute beauty of the nature there. Especially in the winter. I get there and it’s my happy place. I’ve been there many times, fished there, seen whales and porpoises, been out on glaciers. The people are wonderful and grounded. It’s all about loving and being with nature.

My favorite place in New York is harder. I think it would be Battery Park. I worked down there for many years. My office was overlooking the water and I took the ferry twice a day. And I just loved being there on the river.

Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
So this is probably going to be very odd. Early in my career, my aunt told me to take this course on technical analysis. And the book we had to get for it was Technical Analysis of the Financial Markets by the teacher, John Murphy. When I read that book in that course, I was like, “This is it for me.” It changed my life; it gave me confidence that I could actually do it. He wrote it in a way that I could understand. For me, that was a light bulb moment.

Who is the Fordham grad or professor you admire most?
I’m going to say economics professor Dominick Salvatore. Not only is the man brilliant, and not only does he write great textbooks, he teaches in a way that makes economics exciting. It completely lights up, and he has this magnetism that comes through in his teaching. He’s great at taking concepts and explaining them so any student can understand. And that’s an important part of what I have to do in my work now, take the most complex situation or topics and be able to explain them to any audience.


Alexandra Loizzo-Desai can be reached at [email protected] or 212-636-6536.