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August 31, 2001

No Apologies, Please: Michael Bird, is a country boy with intelligence and determination. He's the

By Sanford Wexler

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  • No Apologies, Please: Michael Bird, is a country boy with intelligence and determination. He's the
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Michael Bird thinks equity traders have taken enough abuse from the securities industry. Bird, a smart country boy now working as a director of Nasdaq trading at Merrill Lynch & Co. in the Big Apple, thinks equity traders do not need to apologize. He blames their tendency to do so on the reverberation from the investigations of alleged price collusion in the trading industry by the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The memory of those events, although fading, is not easily erased.

It cast a long, dark shadow and made traders look untrustworthy as a group.

On the contrary, Bird pointed out, traders play a vital, underappreciated role in raising capital in domestic and foreign markets. And most of them are decent, hardworking folk like himself.

"We should take pride in our role in the capital formation process," Bird said. "We don't take enough credit for how important we are to the success of the free-enterprise system. The U.S. markets are great because of the liquidity we provide. Our oral agreements can reach into the billions of dollars."

Bird quoted the motto of the STA - Dictum Menum Pactum (Our Word Is Our Bond) - to illustrate the credibility of traders. "We need to promote our integrity and honesty, internally and externally," he said.

Heartland of America

The new STA chairman hails from the heartland of America. He was born in the small town of Morrison, Ill., and was raised in Watseka, Ill., a rural community located about 100 miles south of Chicago. Bird, who is 40, and one of the younger chairmen in STA history, earned a B.S. degree in investment finance from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Bird understood trading before he landed his first job on the Street. While in college he traded options. Bird managed to make enough money to pay off his student loans. "I was fortunate and I made some money," he recalled. "And I've been hooked on trading ever since."

Bird started out as an assistant trader and quickly climbed to the top. He joined the Milwaukee-based firm Robert W. Baird upon graduating from college in 1986. In 1992 he was tapped as head of the firm's Nasdaq trading desk. Four years later, he moved to Minneapolis and joined Dain Bosworth, now Dain Rauscher Wessels, as a managing director of equity trading. Last year he headed East and joined Merrill Lynch as a market maker.

Bird has been active in the STA for about a decade. He was elected to the board of governors in 1993 and is currently chairman of the trading issues committee. Bird is also a member of the STA's executive committee and once served two terms as president of the STA's Wisconsin affiliate.

Bird believes it is important that the industry is overseen by its practitioners as well as by the regulators.

"Traders have not spent enough time studying the market structure issues and being proactive," he said. "I think a more active role by the industry's practitioners will help shape the market and benefit all types of clients."

Still, Bird said it is essential that the STA reach out to the regulators.