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March 1, 1999

The Sta's New Superman: For 32 years, he was a versatile trading professional at Merrill Lynch &

By Michael L. O'Reilly

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  • The Sta's New Superman: For 32 years, he was a versatile trading professional at Merrill Lynch &
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Lee Korins has an old Superman outfit, tucked away somewhere in a closet in his Philadelphia home.

The outfit was a parting gift from his friends at Merrill Lynch & Co. before he left the firm to become chairman and chief executive of the Pacific Exchange (PCX) in 1989.

Korins was a versatile superman of sorts at Merrill Lynch in Boston and in New York. During his 32 years with the firm, he worked variously as an account executive, a floor broker, a fund manager, an upstairs trader, a regional manager and a clearing manager.

"I was the person who could step into any position and get the job done. That's why they gave me the Superman outfit," Korins said. "Superman was leaving."

In 1989, Korins took his superpowers to the troubled PCX, which had struggled for most of the previous decade.

"The exchange had gone through some chaos in the 1980s, and Lee had a real calming effect," said Dale Carlson, vice president of corporate communications at the PCX, whose service at the exchange predated Korins' arrival in 1989. "Having done so many things at Merrill Lynch, he knew things about all parts of the industry. He turned the exchange around."

Under his leadership, the PCX posted record profits and volume from 1992 through his departure in 1996. Korins maintains that his tenure at the PCX was the greatest challenge of his Wall Street career.

"At the [PCX], you could envision what had to be done, and you had to push to get there," Korins said. "No position was more challenging, frustrating or rewarding."

Last month Korins the Superman began his newest challenge, taking over as president and chief executive of the Security Traders Association.

The hiring of Korins is quite a departure for the STA. The organization which represents more than 7,500 trading professionals has traditionally been headed by former Nasdaq market makers. It was Korins' versatility and extensive background which attracted the STA.

"Looking at Lee's credentials, he had a broader knowledge of markets than most candidates," said 1999 STA Chairman Art Kearney. "He has a lot of experience with exchanges and the listed side. And look at his 32 years at Merrill Lynch. He ran capital markets, institutional sales, equity trading. He knows trading."

Korins takes over the STA at a critical juncture in its 64-year history, succeeding John Tognino as just the fourth full-time president of the organization.

Tognino recently joined the newly-created National Association of Securities Dealers subsidiary, the Nasdaq-AMEX Market Group, as an executive vice president. Interestingly, Tognino reported to Korins in the 1980s when the two were at Merrill Lynch.

Tognino's two-year tenure at the STA was relatively short. His two predecessors Morton N. Weiss and John Watson together headed the STA for 21 years.

During Tognino's two years, the STA became more active in Washington, founding a political-action committee and pushing for breaks on transaction fees.

But a provision to reduce the amount collected by so-called Section 31 transaction fees failed to pass in Congress, though the STA did encourage the National Association of Securities Dealers to file its proposal to eliminate double-counting on riskless principal trades. The move would marginally reduce the amount collected by Section 31 fees.