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July 31, 2002

Wings Over Wall Street: One man's stubborn battle against a fatal disease

By Gregory Bresiger

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  • Wings Over Wall Street: One man's stubborn battle against a fatal disease

He is a trader and he is competitive. He is an inspiration to his fellow professionals and not because he trades technology stocks, which is a very trying business these days.

He is a director in the OTC trading department at Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) in New York, despite physical limitations that would stop almost any other man. He comes to work in a special wheelchair. He spends a good part of his dwindling number of days trying to remind people of the scourges of a disease that reduces healthy people to helplessness; that causes limbs, speech and breath to fail.

He suffers from this disease, but still loves his life, especially his wife and children. He goes on with his trading and his relentless battle against Amyotrophic Lateral Schlerosis (ALS), which is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, even though the relentless disease will, sooner rather than later, win despite his remarkable courage.

He is Michael Patrick Beier, a 39-year old market maker. He has been married for seven years and has a girl who is five and a boy who is three. He has spent almost all of his adult life in the trading business. He began with E.F. Hutton some 18 years ago. He relishes the life of a trader. He has continued with his professional life since he was diagnosed with the disease after complaining of a limp almost two years ago.

Grim Reality

"It was a grim reality that I had to face, but I wasn't going to sit home and sulk. That's not my style," Beier said. His style is the love of trading.

"I love the competitive atmosphere, the volatility in the market and the camaraderie that Credit Suisse provides," Beier said. "Being at work helps me keep my sanity, even though it is a crazy environment. It keeps me sharp and it keeps my head on straight."

Tough times - whether in business or in life - are the norm for Beier. His advice for fellow traders - who face a much easier battle than he does since they are only trying to survive in the marketplace - is to be ready to adapt to changing business conditions.

"You have to be ready to do more homework today," he said. "You have to know your stocks better than you did before. You have to be more in touch with the analysts and do a better job of anticipating what this market is going to bring. You have to know your clients better than you did before."

Beier, like most traders, has to work harder than ever to survive in the business. But he is also simultaneously fighting a second battle, a battle for survival, a battle that can only have one outcome.

"Anybody that gets ALS really doesn't have a fighting chance. Only one out of eight women who gets breast cancer is going to die. They've gotten so good with breast cancer and so good with other diseases. But everyone who has ALS will die," he said.