|Focus on Finance|
On the front lines trading Boeing stock
Meet specialist Damien Valentino, a key person in the trading of Boeing stock
BY Junu Kim
You may not know Damien Valentino, but he knows Boeing.
Valentino, a vice president at Spear, Leeds & Kellogg, the largest of the seven main specialist firms that work within the New York Stock Exchange, and the specialist that trades Boeing, is literally the guy who gets Boeing stock trades done on the NYSE floor. He ensures that Boeing shareholders can buy and sell stock virtually on demand.
Amid the tumult of the exchange floor, Valentino stands stoically at his post, fixated at an eye-level screen with a spread-sheet-like display. On it are rapidly changing entries depicting buyers and sellers of Boeing stock, along with the prices they’re seeking. With a stunningly fast sequence of keystrokes, he makes the entries disappear—meaning a stock trade’s been made—and new entries replace them. Meanwhile, a broker in a blue coat stops by to place a customer’s order. Valentino takes the order slip, wishes the broker well and returns to the keyboard, ready to continue his job as an auctioneer.
As a specialist, Valentino’s primary role is to maintain a fair and orderly market for Boeing stock, regardless of market conditions. If you want to buy stock and there are no sellers, Valentino steps in as a seller. The same is true if you want to sell when buyers are absent. As a result, Valentino and his Spear, Leeds & Kellogg colleagues play a major role in ensuring that buyers and sellers can trade Boeing stock continuously.
The other main element of maintaining a fair and orderly market is price continuity. The specialist helps mitigate sharp, sudden price swings and allows the marketplace to absorb information in a more orderly fashion. For example, if a large difference exists between the price a seller is asking and what a buyer will pay, the specialist will step in and buy and sell from his or her own inventory of stock to bring the price to a point where buyers and sellers once again begin matching up. As Valentino said, “I’m the oil that keeps the engine greased.” Valentino and the Spear, Leeds, & Kellogg corporate relations team work closely with the Boeing Investor Relations team on keeping abreast of market movements and conditions.
So what skills does a specialist on the NYSE need? Dexterity and the ability to multitask are crucial, but so is having people skills. “You can’t be moody. You have to stay up and focused,” Valentino said. That’s not the easiest of tasks, especially if a specialist is watching his or her personal inventory of stock lose value in order to maintain a fair and orderly market. Said Valentino: “If your position’s going down and someone comes in with an order, you don’t want to bite their head off. It’s not his fault.”
Sept. 17, 2001, the day the market reopened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was a prime example of Valentino’s ability to stay focused. The stock exchange is located a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, and Valentino will tell you the 11th and the 17th were the worst days of his life. On the 11th, he was on a ferry heading home when he witnessed the first tower fall. And on the 17th, he left his wife and two young children at home and returned to lower Manhattan to find barricades and armed soldiers surrounding his workplace. And in the midst of this radically altered environment, he maintained a fair and orderly market in Boeing stock as the marketplace absorbed the initial shock of Sept. 11.
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