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December 1, 1999

Buy-Side Snapshot: Breaking the Old Mold

By John A. Byrne

John J. Rendinaro, a senior vice president at United States Trust Company of New York and head of U.S. Trust's Equity Trading Division, apparently likes a challenge.

Born into a Staten Island family of brokers, with his father owning a brokerage in Manhattan, Rendinaro knew he wanted to work in the investment world. So he majored in economics at Fordham University and worked summers with his father.

He might have seemed destined to work with his father or brothers. "Somehow it didn't happen that way," he laughed.

He joined U.S. Trust in 1983 as a senior account assistant in the Investment Division. Soon after that Rendinaro caught the trading bug and moved into trading, a job he loves so much that he continues to trade along with his executive duties.

Trading, and its manifold parts, became Rendinaro's love. He didn't want to go into brokerage. He didn't want to run a small firm. He wanted to trade. Then in June 1998, he was put in charge of U.S. Trust's desk, which has seven traders.

"I like the pace. There's always something different to do," he said. Rendinaro likes it so much that he continues to trade even though he is now an executive.

"It's a challenge to do both things. When you are trading, one must be able to act on information quickly and do it right," he added. And there is more and more to act on. U.S. Trust's desk generates $8 billion in transaction volume a year. About 65 percent of the business is listed and the rest is Nasdaq. The business should continue to grow because the company is in an acquisition mode. It has bought numerous asset management firms in the past few years and that should continue.

"We have been working on centralizing trading in New York," Rendinaro said.

The challenge of the desk these days is to blend these different cultures into one efficient operating unit. Rendinaro's unit trades for U.S. Trust offices in twenty locations in eight states around the country.

U.S. Trust has dozens of funds, including the 26 Excelsior retail funds. Redinaro is confident that these different cultures will not clash; that U.S Trust's acquisitions will not wreak havoc with the trading operations. But he says the changes are an illustration of how the trader's job has changed dramatically in his 13 years in the business. Trading, he says, now must be part of an overall investment process.

"Traders must know more than when I came into the business. I don't think there was as much interaction with managers," he said. "There is a dramatically different level of interaction today."

First and foremost, Redinaro explained, "a trader must know a manager's style. He must know his objectives before entering into a transaction. He must know if a manager's goals are time or price sensitive."

The difficulties of knowing the customer probably are just beginning for Redinaro. U.S.Trust's trading business is expanding. More challenges are ahead. But Redinaro, who likes his work and is hard pressed to cite many hobbies, should like that. There are many challenges ahead for him and his firm.