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April 1, 2011

Keeps Going...

BofA Merrill's Sylvia Rocco reaches 40 years in the business ... and still counting

By James Ramage

How has Sylvia Rocco, a sales trader at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, managed to cover accounts for 40 years, all at the same firm? She chalks up her longevity to her love of the business, the thrill of competition, loyalty, a willingness to keep learning and flexibility.

"I love what I do so much," Rocco said. "I'm having so much fun now, more than ever." Indeed, Rocco has witnessed the evolution of an industry-from the rise of institutional trading to the electronic trading revolution.

Sylvia Rocco

She recalls her first year as a sales trader in 1970 as a less complicated time to be a trader. That year the Dow Jones Industrials Average closed at 838.92 points, about the time when Watergate, the scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon, was just a building about to open.

Everything was done by hand when she started. Every order was teletyped or phoned to the floor of the exchange. There were listed-trading desks and over-the-counter trading desks. And company earnings releases were printed and mailed. An analyst's report on a stock often took five days to arrive.


Learning Experience

For sales traders, the business was a phone call to the floor. And the job involved paper-lots of paper. "It was almost clerical, in a way, because you were dealing with so much paper," Rocco said.

In 1970, she started as an institutional sales trader in single stocks at Merrill Lynch. Today, 40 years later, she's an institutional sales trader in single stocks at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. And during all those years on the cash desk, there are few days Rocco can recall when she has not loved her job.

"It's been a lot of fun, and a constant learning experience," she said. "I like that I can come into the office early in the morning and when it looks like nothing's going on and, unexpectedly, I can have a great day trading. I never know what's going to happen; my job is never boring. It's what I make it."

Her position as a sales trader has been a constant learning experience during her career, as the job has changed dramatically. It's evolved to where Rocco said she must be a relationship manager, a student of the U.S. and global markets, and a fount of information on all of BofA Merrill's products, as well as the capabilities and limits of the firm's systems. In short, sales trading has undergone almost an industrial revolution, Rocco said.

"It's harder today," she said. "Traders really need to think more. But it's more intellectually stimulating."