Commentary

Tim Quast
Traders Magazine Online News

We're All HFTs Now

In this guest commentary, author Tim Quast looks back at the history of HFT and how the market has evolved to where many firms now fit the definition of high-frequency trader.

Traders Poll

Are you in favor of a pilot program and examination of the rebate system by the SEC?




Free Site Registration

January 1, 2004

From Sheep Farming to Wall Street

By Peter Chapman

Ed Nicoll sure knows discount brokerages.

In his 28 years on Wall Street, he has run three of them.

First came Waterhouse Investor Services, where he was co-founder and president. Then came Datek Online, where he was chairman and CEO. Now he's running Instinet, Wall Street's largest institutional discounter.

Nicoll became Instinet's chief executive in 2002, following its acquisition of the Island ECN. Nicoll was chairman of Island, formerly part of Datek, which was sold to Ameritrade in 2002.

Nicoll bought into Datek in 1998 after graduating, at age 45, from Yale Law School. At Yale he was the first student in the modern era to enter without an undergraduate degree.

The 50-year-old Nicoll got his start in the business of low-cost trades in 1978 - three years after fixed commissions were abolished - when he co-founded Waterhouse with Larry Waterhouse.

Nicoll was not always a wealthy man. He was raised by a single mother in modest circumstances in Paterson, New Jersey. After high school, he skipped college to try his hand at sheep farming in rural Pennsylvania. However, he soon abandoned his career with livestock for another kind of stock. He took a job at a Pittsburgh brokerage and eventually made his way to New York.