Commentary

John D'Antona Jr.
Traders Magazine Online News

CEO CHAT: Tina Byles Williams, FIS Group

Investment veteran is on the lookout for talented, lesser known managers in frontier and emerging markets.

Traders Poll

Are you concerned about foreign ownership of a U.S. stock exchange?



Free Site Registration

September 30, 2000

The Born Trader: The trading world, seared by divisions between the buyside and sellside, is wait

By Sanford Wexler

Also in this article

  • The Born Trader: The trading world, seared by divisions between the buyside and sellside, is wait

Stephen W. O'Neil was born with trading in his genes. His father, Don, was an over-the-counter trader, and both of his uncles were also traders. As a youngster and later as a college student he was fascinated with Wall Street and trading equities.

"I'd be in the office and watching them trade," O'Neil recalled. "It always seemed like a very exciting business with a lot of action and a lot of money being thrown around. That always made it real interesting to me."

O'Neil's family tree also has strong roots in the Security Traders Association. His uncle Bert was the founder and first president of the STA of Los Angeles (STALA) when it began in 1935. His other uncle, Dick, was STALA president in the mid-1950s. Today, his son, Tim, is keeping up the O'Neil family tradition. He is a sales trader at Jones & Associates in Fort Worth, Texas.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen O'Neil, head trader at Mitchell Hutchins Asset Management and the incoming chairman of the Security Traders Association, is a tall, thin and handsome figure who could easily be cast as a leading man in a Hollywood movie.

Early Career

O'Neil started his trading career while attending the University of Southern California. In 1964, he took off a year from college to work at Blyth & Co. in Los Angeles, which at the time was one of the largest OTC trading firms.

Like many aspiring OTC traders, O'Neil learned the ropes of the business by doing basic chores. Back in the 1960s, OTC trading desks were far from computerized like they are today. Stock quotes were listed on chalk boards. O'Neil's job was to mark up the boards with the latest quotes.

"In those days they used telegraph machines," O'Neil recalled. "Most of the markets were made in New York, but they would telegraph the quote changes during the day and you would mark the board."

After spending a year soaking in the OTC trading environment, O'Neil knew exactly what he was going to do after graduation - follow in his father's footsteps and become a full-fledged trader. Upon earning a degree in business administration from USC in 1969, he returned to the OTC trading desk at Blyth & Co. This time he was no longer marking up the chalk board, but buying and selling OTC stocks.

Shortly after Nasdaq was created in 1971, O'Neil moved over to the institutional sales side after Blyth & Co. became Blyth Eastman Dillon & Co. through a merger. "I thought moving into the institutional area would be a good move," O'Neil said. "It turned out to be a good move because that was when institutions were really starting to take hold."

Then in 1975, O'Neil made another big switch. He became a buy-side equity and bond trader in the trust department at Lloyds Bank in Los Angeles. "It was an interesting spot," O'Neil said. "I was not only trading equities, but I was also trading municipal bonds and cash [money market funds]."