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July 31, 1999

Turnaround at USCC Trading How Former Drexel Traders Helped Pull Off a Triple Play

By Michael L. O'Reilly

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  • Turnaround at USCC Trading How Former Drexel Traders Helped Pull Off a Triple Play
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They say never to mix friendship with business. But Neil C. Feldman wouldn't have it any other way.

When Feldman was hired to run USCC Trading, the market-making division of Boston's Fleet Financial Group, he knew he wanted his friends James J. Welsh and William J. Black to help him turn the firm around. The three have a long history together, as friends and in business.

Welsh and Black were boyhood neighbors in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, and went to elementary school together.

When Welsh and Feldman, also a Brooklyn native, were co-managing the over-the-counter trading desk at the now defunct Drexel Burnham Lambert in New York 20 years ago, Feldman hired Black, giving him his first job on Wall Street.

Welsh is the godfather of one of Black's and one of Feldman's kids. Black is the godfather of one of Welsh's kids.

"We just don't work together, we're good friends," Feldman said of the relationship between himself, Welsh and Black. "We're three guys who enjoy what we're doing, and are trying to make this place better. Everything with this game doesn't always have to be about business."

But Feldman and Black - as the firm's president and chief executive, respectively - together with Welsh, have helped more than triple Jersey City-based USCC Trading's daily Nasdaq trade volume over the past year. Although Welsh is no longer at the helm, his past contributions at USCC Trading are recalled glowingly by Feldman and Black. (Welsh remains as a consultant to USCC Trading.)

Feldman and Welsh joined the

Nasdaq wholesaler - then named Nash, Weiss & Co. - in April 1998. Feldman came aboard as its president and Welsh as its chief executive. Black joined in the spring, having previously been a special limited partner at New York's Spear, Leeds & Kellog.

When Feldman and Welsh joined the firm, Nash Weiss was languishing as a mid-sized Nasdaq market maker. In fact, in the April 1998 volume rankings by AutEx, a Thomson Financial company based in Boston, Nash Weiss was the 16th largest Nasdaq broker dealer, advertising 345 million shares for the month.

After Black replaced Welsh as chief executive earlier this year - and Welsh became a consultant - the renamed USCC Trading had leapfrogged into seventh place in the July 1999 AutEx rankings. The firm advertised 839 million shares for the month, more than such well-known competitors as Bear, Stearns & Co. and Goldman, Sachs & Co.

In his 16 months with the firm, Feldman said the trading department headcount has grown by 25 percent to 40 market makers, six institutional sales traders, ten retail sales traders and 30 trading assistants. Overall, the firm has 150 employees and makes markets in 4,400 Nasdaq and OTC stocks.

Twelve months ago, Feldman said the firm executed 14,000 trades a day. The firm is currently handling up to 50,000 trades a day, with 20,000 trades coming from New York-based discount broker Quick & Reilly, an affiliate under Fleet Financial Group.

"Our customer base is getting larger, and our customers are giving us larger orders," Feldman said. "It's been hard work, focusing on the right way to transact business for our clients."