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A 99-Year-Old Wall Street Veteran Reveals the Secrets of Her Success

1200x-1Bloomberg Business

As she nears 100, Irene Bergman has some advice for enjoying a long career on Wall Street: Don’t do anything stupid.

Consider investment returns, the financial adviser at Stralem & Co. said in an interview at her New York apartment, where, surrounded by paintings from Dutch masters, she telephones her clients. While many investors nowadays obsess over quick profits, it’s best to wait at least three years, or better yet, many more, before evaluating holdings. But don’t be afraid of revising your thesis, she said. If thorough research favors a portfolio shift, have courage and make changes.

“The longer you’re in the business, the more pessimistic you get,” Bergman said in her soft voice, noting she currently thinks shares are too expensive. Still, “I’m able to get bullish, because when I look at a stock, I can imagine where it was 40 years ago.”

As one of the oldest working professionals in an industry run by men half her age, Bergman offers a rare perspective. She recalls the small private firms founded by German Jews of the 19th century that came to define Wall Street before their partnership model gave way to public listings, and honor succumbed to an ever-fiercer push for profit.

“The way of doing business has changed,” she said. “It’s much more competitive, much more knives-in-the-back.”

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