Still Trading After All These Years
BofA Merrill's Sylvia Rocco reaches 40 ... and still counting
Traders Magazine Online News, March 1, 2011
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 being flexible.
"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.
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.
Calculators weren't really used, she said. Neither were computers or email, let alone algorithms, dark pools or actionable IOIs. Everything was done by hand. Every order was tele-typed or phoned to the floor of the exchange. There were listed-trading desks and OTC trading desks. And company earnings releases were printed and mailed. An analyst's report on a stock often took five days to arrive.
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 that Rocco can recall when she did not love her job.
"It's been a lot of fun, and a constant learning experience," Rocco 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, 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 a complete evolution, Rocco said, almost an industrial revolution.
"It's harder today," she said. "Traders really need to think more. But it's more intellectually stimulating."
Learning aside, nurturing relationships--with her clients, her position traders and her other colleagues--is her favorite part of the job. Her boss, Henry Mulholland, head of Americas cash equity trading, has been known to seat young sales traders next to Rocco so they can watch and learn from her skills at managing relationships.
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