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November 1, 2003

Passing up the Big Shot: No regrets for one traderwho once came close to becoming a golf pro.

By Gregory Bresiger

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  • Passing up the Big Shot: No regrets for one traderwho once came close to becoming a golf pro.

Golf exerts a tremendous attraction for trading industry pros. Golf outings are probably the most popular social event at securities firms.

"You'd be surprised by how many people in this business are playing golf now and who never played it growing it up. It's become a game for the masses," said Peter Coleman, a sales trading executive with Bank of New York Brokerage.

Coleman is part of those masses. That's even though he passed up the challenges of the links for the challenges of the desk.

Coleman began in the trading industry in the fall of 1990, as a clerk on the international desk of a small firm. Later he moved on to the domestic desk as a junior sales trader, covering the trust bank market. Coleman was promoted to working on the bigger accounts.

Several more promotions and a merger later, he now is a managing director at BNY Brokerage and co-head of its institutional desk, supervising about 20 professionals.

Out to Lunch

Coleman, with the exception of some difficult days when he never sees the sun and never goes out to lunch, says he doesn't regret the decision to walk away from a very promising career in golf.

"It often gets stressful here," said Coleman, 36. He and his wife, Bennett, have a young daughter Caroline. "But at the end of the day, I know I made the right decision, especially with a family."

Nevertheless, golf is a game he still loves to play and does as often as he can. (He has a six handicap and, he explains, a strong short game).

"Being outside for four and half hours on a Saturday afternoon, golf really is a release for many of us in the business," said Coleman, who almost decided to spend his life in the game. And how did that happen?

At the crossroads of his life in the early 1990s, Coleman faced a dilemma. He had just recently graduated from Washington and Lee University. He was a promising golfer with just a two handicap. Coleman was an all-conference golfer in college. Coleman once shot a 68, a three under par score, fuelling dreams of golfing glory. He seemed to have a promising career on the links and a job was already available.

A golf pro's job beckoned in Florida. Coleman, who grew up in Monmouth County, New Jersey, was ready to do what so many people in the Northeast have done over the past 30 years. Pack his bags and head south to Florida.

But his father, a fine golfer, a veteran of the securities industry and an NYSE floor broker, asked him to interview at ESI. A friend at that firm, which was later acquired by BNY, might have a beginning position for him, his father said.

"That was a pretty tough time in the business. But my father told me that I would be crazy to pass up an interview," Coleman said. "I was offered a job the same afternoon as the interview so I had to re-think my priorities at that point."