Who Gets Picked To Ring The Opening Bell At The New York Stock Exchange?

To mark the opening of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the opening bell rings out each weekday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, with the exception of holidays. The stock exchange's closing bell, meanwhile, rings at 4 p.m. and is followed by three raps of the gavel on the sounding block. As for who gets the privilege of ringing the New York Stock Exchange's opening bell, it is primarily reserved for companies listed on the NYSE, though political figures, celebrities, and athletes also ring the bell on occasion (and draw a lot of attention when they do).

Though famous names, like the band Foreigner, tennis great Serena Williams, and TV star Miss Piggy, get a lot of coverage when they open the NYSE, those who most often ring the bell are, as said, typically representatives of listed companies, like a business's founder. These occasions are always timed with an announcement, like an initial public offering (e.g., Uber's IPO in 2019), an anniversary (e.g., Coherent Corp. in 2023), or other major transaction (i.e., a merger or acquisition) or milestone. Viewers can watch every opening bell ceremony live on CNBC, as well as browse through past videos posted by the NYSE.

When the NYSE started to welcome guest bell ringers

The tradition of ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange dates back to the 19th century, but it's only been an actual bell since 1903 when the NYSE started to use a brass bell. Prior to this, the bell was actually a gong, which was struck at the start of the trading day, then again in the afternoon to mark the end of trading. As the NYSE notes, these bells have always served to ensure order when it comes to trading on the exchange, which while in the past was done on the trading floor, today mainly is done electronically.

As for the bell ringers, famous individuals only started to ring the opening (and closing) bell of the New York Stock Exchange in the mid-1990s. Since that time, it's become normal to see a politician, celebrity, or athlete appear to ring the bell and promote something, like a movie or business venture. However, it was 1956 when the actual first guest was invited to open trading. Who was the famous individual? A 10-year-old TV quiz winner named Leonard Ross.

As for when political figures and celebrities started to seek out ringing the NYSE opening bell, it began with Ronald Reagan in 1985. On March 28, 1985, President Ronald Reagan opened the New York Stock Exchange and used the occasion to speak directly to congressional members about his economic program. When he did, he put it in trading terms: "We're going to turn the bull loose."

Requests to ring the New York Stock Exchange bell

Prior to the mid-1990s, ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange was simply done by someone from the exchange, such as a floor manager. When this was the case, there surely wasn't the need to ensure the bell was rung correctly. However, today, a lot needs to happen before a guest bell ringer can actually ring the opening bell (on the dot) to signal the start of trading at the NYSE.

The entire ceremony/program takes about 30 minutes, but planning happens well in advance. And, according to Farrell Kramer, head of NYSE communications, an NYSE executive stands next to the guest bell ringer so they can step in quickly should something go wrong. The opening bell, which is today a button, needs to be pressed for 10 full seconds before the start of the trading day (and not a second sooner).

For this privilege, like former President Ronald Reagan, your people need to reach out to the New York Stock Exchange to make the request. As noted, the majority of bell ringers are from companies listed on the exchange, but, as the NYSE notes in its request form, it's possible for a nonprofit to ring the bell as well: "From time to time, opportunities arise on a last minute basis, at which point we are able to extend a Bell ringing opportunity to deserving Non-Profit organizations." To find out who's next to ring the New York Stock Exchange opening bell, check out the exchange's bell calendar.