Veteran-Owned Firm Enlists Street
Traders Magazine, May 2012
Academy Securities, a veteran-owned brokerage, has a vision of how the three-year-old company will expand its fledgling equities trading business. Academy's mandate is to give U.S. military veterans a shot at a Wall Street career.
Its game plan is to marry two types of veterans: those who have served their country and are hungry to learn the trading business, and longtime Street professionals willing to share their knowledge and be mentors.
San Diego-based Academy's objectives are to give back to the men and women who served the country after Sept. 11, 2001, and create a firm that has a 50/50 split between Wall Street pros and combat vets, said director of trading Jamie Atwell. Military veterans, he added, have one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States. Agency broker Academy is a certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business.
"We are definitely in a hiring mode," Atwell said. "We're looking at opening offices in San Francisco, Chicago-wherever there's a fit and a need. There's a lot of Wall Street talent out there, and we're in a fortunate time period. We're also looking to recruit and hire more post-9/11 vets."
There's been a huge push of late among U.S. corporations to hire war vets. And hiring disabled military veterans for second careers in finance is not limited to Academy. Drexel Hamilton, a full-service institutional broker-dealer, is also a certified SDVOB. It also looks to create a 50/50 split between financial veterans and combat vets.
According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate for combat veterans overall is around 7.5 percent. It is worse for those recently returning from service-10.3 percent.
Most of the Wall Street candidates Academy has been interviewing and hiring have 20 or more years of experience in trading. Many have bulge bracket experience. The firm recently opened a midtown Manhattan office, staffed by three sales traders. The New York City trading desk is run by Michael Naidrich.
Naidrich, a trading veteran of more than 20 years, joined Academy from Nerus Partners, where he was chief operating officer. Prior to that, he was a founding and managing partner at agency broker-dealer Nova Capital Markets. He also was a senior vice president at Moors & Cabot, where he created an NYSE direct access desk focused on trade execution for buyside and sellside desks.
Atwell hopes to double the size of the New York office's trading staff by year-end, to six. All told, Academy employs six military veterans, four of whom are sales traders in San Diego. Also, Atwell is recruiting military veterans to work out of the newly opened New York office. The overall goal is hire 10 veterans over the next year.
The firm's president, Phil McConkey, has 15 years' Wall Street experience, including working for G.G.E.T., an institutional broker-dealer. McConkey, a Naval Academy graduate, is best known for snagging passes from Phil Simms on the New York Giants-one such pass was in Super Bowl XXI.
Atwell himself is no stranger to the business. He joined the firm last summer from Stuart Frankel & Co.; he ran that firm's West Coast trading office. Prior to that, the 18-year trading veteran was a partner and head of global equities at Nicholas Investment Partners and head of trading at American Express Asset Management. He was also a partner and head of global equity trading at Nicholas Applegate Capital Management and head of over-the-counter trading at AIM Investments.
There are several ways to execute trades with Academy. It offers algorithms that it white labels. It declined to disclose the provider. There's also the traditional routing of orders via FIX or over the phone. Academy clears through Wedbush Securities.
The firm also offers third-party research from Washington, D.C.-based Opportunities Development Group, a veteran-run consultancy. It also offers commission recapture and sharing programs.
In California, where Academy is domiciled, legislation promotes the hiring of veterans and the use of SDVOBs through incentives. California also directs 3 percent of all state business contracts to disabled veteran-owned firms. In addition to providing best execution and research to its clients, Academy hopes to capitalize on its SDVOB status, said its founder, chairman and chief executive Chance Mims.
"We are looking to hire more and are actively recruiting post-9/11 veterans," Mims said, noting the firm's expansion. "Over the last few weeks, we had two more come on board."
Mims served as a naval officer from May 1997 to October 2001, on board the U.S.S. Sentry and U.S.S. John Paul Jones. The latter, a guided missile destroyer, was involved in enforcing U.N. sanctions against Iraq and taking part in the initial strikes into Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
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