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July 31, 1998

The Toughest Grind In The Business?Trading Around-The-Clock for a Global Buy-Side Giant

By Maureen Nevin Duffy

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  • The Toughest Grind In The Business?Trading Around-The-Clock for a Global Buy-Side Giant

Meltdowns in Asia. Currency swings in Europe. Foreign equity traders in the U.S. have faced these horrendous challenges. Not always in the eye-of-the-storm, trading desks regularly take positions in foreign stocks buying and selling American Depository Receipts and ordinary shares of overseas companies listed on U.S. exchanges

Some desks trade non-U.S. stocks in their primary markets. Scudder Kemper Investment, a financial-services and mutual-fund behemoth with more than $200 billion in assets under management, is a leading example. Maureen Nevin Duffy joined Bellaro and his team one morning on the pre-dawn opening of the European trading session at Scudder's offices on 345 Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

Who said Mike Bellaro's life is glamorous? He's 36, living in the New Jersey suburbs and he has a high-powered job running one of the largest 24-hour global trading desks on Wall Street.

Glamorous? Not so fast.This may be one of the toughest buy-side grinds in the business.

Consider Bellaro's schedule. At 1:45 a.m., his wife Evelyn and two young sons, Christopher, seven, and Thomas, four, sleep soundly, but Bellaro is already wide awake ready to telephone his German broker from home in 30 minutes. The coffee is brewing and Bellaro's next telephone call will be to Jennifer Gaulrapp, who runs his Asian and Far East session out of New York.

At 2:45 a.m., Bellaro, the senior vice president of international equity trading at Scudder Kemper Investments, is travelling a lonely highway on his way to work in New York.

The evening before, this reporter called Bellaro at home to check out the arrangements for Traders Magazine's visit to his desk. His voice rose above the din of his two rambunctious boys in the background. He was about to hit the sack. "Don't call me back after 7:30 [p.m.] tonight."

Early Bird

At 4 a.m., making my own way by car, the aroma of freshy-brewed coffee clings strangely to the air on the New Jersey Turnpike. Later, in midtown Manhattan, I pull into a parking garage, too early for the early-bird special and am socked for $30.

The main Park Avenue entrance to Scudder is closed, so entry is made from Lexington Avenue, where an elevator brings me to the 25th-floor trading room.

There are no windows in this long, narrow room. Day and night seem inseperable. Time seems suspended. "We are now living in trading time," says Bellaro, convincingly.

Arriving at the office in the predawn hours may not be every traders notion of the good life, but this is Bellaro's routine five days a week. Besides running the global desk, Bellaro shares the European beat with Erin St. John. He is responsible for Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Scandinavia, Global Depositary Receipts and international convertible bonds.

On Saturdays, Bellaro, a dedicated family man, relaxes at home. There's a catch, however. "No matter where you are in the international arena today," Bellaro says, "it is a 24-hour job every day of the week. There isn't a moment when you're not on call."

The desk reopens Sunday evenings at about 6 p.m.