Bernadette Bartels Murphy, Pioneering Wall Street Trader, Dies at 86

Bernadette Bartels Murphy, a rare woman on Wall Street in the 1950s whose work as a trader helped legitimize a once-derided approach to anticipating market trends, making her a respected voice in the financial world and giving her a platform on television, died on March 3 in Nyack, N.Y. She was 86.

Her death was confirmed by her niece Mary Ann Bartels. Ms. Murphy died at her niece’s home.

Ms. Murphy began her career at the investment bank Ladenburg Thalmann & Company as a secretary — one of the few roles then available to women in the financial industry. But over time she became a trader and analyst and found a national audience as a regular panelist on Louis Rukeyser’s long-running “Wall Street Week,” a public television side gig of hers for 25 years.

Toiling as a secretary, Ms. Murphy found that it was the work of the traders on her desk that interested her more. She began studying the movements of stocks and the overall market as a way to anticipate future trends, an approach known as technical analysis.

At the time, that method of anticipating market movements was looked down on by traditionalists, who favored an approach called fundamental analysis: forecasting a shift in a stock price by gleaning the intrinsic value of a company and its shares. They referred, often derisively, to technical analysts as “chartists,” for the graphs and data tables they pored over to make their forecasts.

“I had to keep my charts in the bottom drawer of my desk,” Ms. Murphy recalled in a 1992 interview with an industry magazine. “In those days, technical analysis was not considered an acceptable discipline, not in a conservative firm.”

To learn more about the business, she took classes at the New York Institute of Finance and began creating her own charts. She used the trading floor around her as her training ground, soaking up information on the interactions between the various markets her firm worked in, like corporate and municipal bonds, equities and trade orders from overseas. (After leaving Ladenburg, she went on to work for two more Wall Street firms.)

She also started sharing her ideas with co-workers and industry contacts in a newsletter, This Is What I Think, which became her calling card, prompting clients of her firm to ask her bosses for her views on trades they were considering. By the early 1970s, she was monitoring stock portfolios for customers and sharing her forecasts with them.

Her breakout moment came in 1973, when a market crash and global economic crisis sent stocks tumbling in a 21-month-long swoon.

“My readings were very accurate,” Ms. Murphy said in “Women of the Street: Making It on Wall Street — The World’s Toughest Business” (1998), by Sue Herera. She anticipated, for example, a sharp plunge in a popular group of stocks known as the “nifty 50,” which included household names like Coca-Cola and Polaroid.

“My timing was right, my anticipation of what was going to happen to stocks was on the money, so I started getting phone calls from institutions and invitations to lunch,” Ms. Murphy said in the book. “And that’s how my business began to build.”

Credit…via Murphy family

In 1979 she started appearing on “Wall Street Week,” which aired on Friday evenings.

Within the industry, Ms. Murphy was known for her contributions to trade groups and civic organizations. She was, at various times, the president of the Chartered Market Technicians Association, the New York Society of Security Analysts and the Financial Women’s Association. She was a founding member and governor of the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, a trustee of Pace University and a board member of the American Lung Association of New York City.

“Everyone who belonged to an organization always tried to get Bernadette to join, which she often did, being a social bee,” said Sheila Baird, a founding partner of the investment firm Kimelman & Baird, where Ms. Murphy worked as the chief market analyst for many years.

Bernadette Bartels was born on April 9, 1934, on City Island in the Bronx to Joseph Francis Bartels, a stationary engineer (maintaining industrial machinery and systems), and Julia (Flynn) Bartels, a nurse. She was the youngest of four children. She is survived by her sister, Julia Campbell.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Our Lady of Good Counsel (now part of Pace University) in White Plains, N.Y. She credited her father with urging her to use her education to pursue a career.

“I certainly knew that before I married I was going to accomplish something. That was my driving force,” she told Ms. Herera. “I wanted to be a fulfilled person, confident in myself.”

In 1982 she married Eugene Francis Murphy, whom she had met on Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays, N.Y., after he rescued her from a riptide. Dr. Murphy, an orthodontist, died in 1997.

Ms. Murphy, who retired from Kimelman & Baird in 2015, encouraged women to pursue Wall Street careers, whether she was speaking at high schools or colleges or informally among friends and family members. One of them was Mary Ann Bartels, her niece, who became a managing director at Bank of America.

Ms. Bartels recalled a story Ms. Murphy often told. As a child, she said, she stopped at a waterside arcade on City Island and put a coin in a vending machine to get her horoscope. “It said her element was fire, her color was red and that ‘you are an Aries, the ram — a trailblazer and pioneer,’” Ms. Bartels said. “She told us that story so many times, and she really lived by that every day.”

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

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