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March 1, 1998

Getting an Early Start

By Michael L. O'Reilly

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  • Getting an Early Start
  • Page 2

On Monday morning, Beverly York was tired. She had spent the weekend trying to keep up with her spirited two-year-old granddaughter. While most of Seattle slept early that March Monday, she awoke in the dark at 4 a.m. and then walked her two dogs before the 20-mile drive to work.

"These early hours still bother me," York sighed. "I've tried for 30 years, and I'm still not used to getting up so early." But with heavy volume York can't afford to be sleepy-eyed.

York is the head equity trader at Safeco Asset Management Company in Seattle, a subsidiary of Safeco Corporation. Her three-person desk arrives by 6 a.m. each day, ready for the stock market openings a half hour later.

Since the year began, her desk York, a second trader and an assistant has clocked orders with 89 broker dealers. The desk averages 50 trades each day, and may log up to 90 trades during busy sessions. "This desk has gradually gotten busier, and the firm has grown rapidly because people are still investing in mutual funds," she said.

York takes advantage of many technological tools. Her desk uses Instinet for small orders, AutEx for trade reporting and indications of interest and a Bloomberg terminal for information and quotes.

York is also interested in the heavily-marketed OptiMark trading system. "I'm waiting to see what it's all about. I'm optimistically cautious about OptiMark," York said.

"A lot of new systems stir interest in the beginning, but they're really like new offerings," she added. "They all start out with a lot of excitement, but only a few stick around."

York trades for six portfolio managers handling the ten Safeco Asset Management mutual funds. Two recently topped $1 billion in assets each. The equity desk also trades for the firm's managed accounts.

Safeco Corporation is one of the largest diversified financial corporations in the U.S., with 1997 assets exceeding $29 billion. Based in Seattle, the company's 7,500 employees work in a variety of product areas, including property and casualty insurance, life and health insurance, surety, real-estate investment, commercial credit and asset management.

Safeco Asset Management, established in 1967, is the investment adviser for Safeco's mutual funds, and manages investment portfolios for Safeco Life Insurance Company's variable annuity products and pension accounts for other businesses. Safeco Asset Management has $28 billion in assets under management, $5 billion in equities.

York was hired at Safeco in 1968, after she moved to Seattle with her husband they have since divorced and young son from rustic Oroville. In Oroville, her quiet Washington hometown, she had a much different job working at an apple orchard, packing apples for shipping.

At Safeco, work at first was quite ordinary compared to packing apples. "When I arrived in Seattle, Safeco was just a job," York said. "It certainly wasn't like apple packing."

At Safeco, York first worked in the investment department, learning the business and working wherever she was needed. "I was lucky. I had a lot of fun as I learned the business," York said. "It really got my interest once I started."