Traders Magazine featured the work of more than two dozen individuals and charities in its recent Spring 2011 STANY issue. In the coming weeks, more stories chronicled in "From the Heart" will appear here.
The trading industry cares deeply about worthy causes, and its narrative on giving to charities is as diverse as it can be unconventional. These causes range from helping kids with serious diseases, to trying to restore an African nation after a civil war, to remembering former colleagues who were killed in combat or at the World Trade Center or from ALS, to working for schools that help disabled children.
Trading industry pros have done everything from raising money and working in Ronald McDonald houses to helping build a village for orphans in Rwanda. One trading pro has even provided a weekly meal for poor people in Chicago.
"Almost everyone on Wall Street cares. And I think everyone should," says Tom Kane of Rosenblatt Securities, who is based in Boston, where the local Security Traders Association affiliate has supported the Cotting School for some 30 years. But Kane also praises fellow professionals who are giving back. He emphasizes that participation has come from all across the industry.
"Half the people who do it on our board are from the buyside, and half are from the sellside. It wasn’t designed that way," Kane says. "It just happened that way."
Why do it?
Lisa Utasi, a veteran of the trading industry of 25 years, says it is part of an enduring tradition that was passed down to her and many others.
"From those who have much, much is expected to be given back," says Utasi, who has been active in literally dozens of charities. She was honored for her work a few years ago by Wings Over Wall Street. Wings is one of the favorite charities of traders, in part because the disease it works to wipe out-the dreaded ALS-has struck so many people, many of them young and strong, from their ranks. These are men and women who have worked just as hard on humanitarian issues as they have on those related to trading. These hundreds, or possibly thousands, of trading professionals have established or nurtured innumerable charities.
Sometimes they are created by a veteran who never forgot the sacrifices of his former comrades, as was the case with the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation. The foundation was started by David Kim, a trading pro and U.S. Army veteran. He worries about what happens to the children of those who die in military training or in combat.
Other Wall Street-supported charities can be as traditional as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a legendary hospital that needs more than half a billion dollars a year to find miracles for sick children.
"You want to help when you see friends hurt by a disease. You are also inspired to help when you see so many people doing so much," says Ray Tierney of Bloomberg Tradebook. Adds Michael Lynch of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, "You want to help because you are lucky and because you have a healthy family."
Most traders, says Ohio STA affiliate president Geoff Gioia, want to give something back. "They have been blessed."
"People have been put in the position where they can give something back to the community. It’s easier for me to marshal resources," adds Tierney, who has been active in Wings Over Wall Street at the same time he has worked on his own charities.
Why do many traders give back? And why do many of them work on a number of charities? Sometimes it is a personal story that leads to tremendous efforts on behalf of charity, the sickness of a relative or a friend.
Whatever the reason for these remarkable acts of generosity-which often mean personal participation as well as contributing money-traders do get involved. It can mean the willingness to write a big check on the spot, no questions asked. But sometimes, besides the desire to be compassionate, there is actually another factor in operation. It is, says one trading pro, a basic drive.
"Traders like to compete in anything. I’ve seen plenty of traders who like to compete to see who can raise the most money," says Gioia, with Longbow Research. He has been in the business about 20 years.
Traders working on charity projects have also been moved. They have been inspired to act by the depth of tragedy. For instance, Liquidnet CEO Seth Merrin says he and his wife, Anne Heyman, were motivated to act when they heard a talk about the horrors of the Rwandan civil war. Yes, they wanted to give money. But Merrin, in a sentiment common to many of the traders quoted in these pages, also wanted to help people in need directly.
Indeed, Merrin says he is "not interested in checkbook philanthropy." He wants to compete as fiercely in doing good works as he does in the trading marketplace. But he also wants Liquidnet to set the standard for charity in the securities industry.
"One of the criteria we have for hiring someone is also that person’s desire to give back," Merrin says. "We really want people who want to change the world."
These charities, and the people listed here in a series of mini profiles, are indeed helping to change the world. They are making it a better, less cruel place, a place with more hope.
Our coverage of charities will be a continuing one throughout the year. If you are involved in a charity that was not featured recently by Traders Magazine, please contact Ken Heath, publisher at 212-803-8273 or write to Kenneth.firstname.lastname@example.org. Same applies if you know of others in the Wall Street trading community throughout North America involved in a charity. We look forward to writing more of these stories.