We might all think that one day we'll make a difference. One day after this or that, we will put aside our personal needs and do something that will be a step---big or small--toward making the world a better place. Most of us never do it, but Gerry Mastrianni, head of trading at Empire Financial Group, a Longwood, Florida-based firm is an exception.One day a year, Mastrianni, a Hodgkins survivor, closes his trading desk to internal profits and opens them to charity. Tomorrow is that day. All proceeds made on his 16-person desk will be donated to The Florida Hospital Walt Disney Cancer Institute to benefit bone marrow transplant and pediatric oncology programs. He calls the event "Trading for a Cure." In total during five one-day events since 2003, Trading for a Cure has raised $500,000, but Mastrianni, a man with a mission, believes that this year---tomorrow---his desk can surpass that figure during one day of trading.
As a market maker, Empire trades with other broker-dealers and institutions, and in the past, he says, his trading counterparties have made an effort to send his desk more business during this charitable day. "This year, we are making a concerted effort to let people know what we are doing." He has been on CNBC and FOX Business Network talking up his charity event, in addition to sitting down with Advanced Trading. "If we got one transaction from every financial institution in the country-imagine that? That's uncountable. Someday hopefully that's what will happen."
Mastrianni has reason to be dedicated to this cause. Doctors at the Florida hospital saved his life. While in his 30s, he found himself with a persistent cough. He thought nothing of it and went to the doctor hoping for some antibiotics. He returned with a diagnosis of Hodgkins disease after a chest x-ray exposed a tumor the size of a football in his chest.
Mastrianni had the tumor removed and thought he was in remission. Unfortunately, the disease came back very aggressively and Mastrianni was in need of a bone marrow transplant, in addition to more chemotherapy and radiation. "Because the chemo not only kills the cancer, but it kills your immune system as well, I had to be sequestered for a month," as most bone marrow transplant patients are, he explains. "It's a horrible process," he recalls.
During the treatment, he encountered many children also getting bone marrow transplants. "When you're given chemo, you're in a room full of people also getting the treatment. Here I am, a 30-something odd man bitching and moaning and I look to my right and there's an eight-year old getting the same treatment that's ripping me to shreds." That's why he chose to also focus his donations toward the pediatric unit.
A trader at heart, one of his first thoughts when finding out he would be spending a lot of time in the hospital was "How can I get a Bloomberg terminal in my hospital room?" Never having spoken with Michael Bloomberg in his life, he e-mailed him, explaining his plight. "This was before he was Mike the president-to-be or Mike the Mayor," Mastrianni says. "He emailed me back in five minutes and asked me to give him the hospital IT contact. He wired my room for me...and this was before Bloomberg Anywhere, etc." Mastrianni jokes that he believes he received better health care because doctors could stop by his room to check their stock quotes.
It is clear that Mastrianni has the utmost respect for Bloomberg. After regaining his health, he called Bloomberg saying, "I don't know what a guy like me can do for a guy like you, but can I buy you lunch?" Bloomberg turned down the offer, but instead invited Mastrianni to his office where they ordered sandwiches. "You can't find a guy more real than this. As I was leaving, he wrote me a $10,000 check for the Foundation."
Mastrianni explains that the money he raises is put directly to use. For example, he explains, some of the lab work that is needed for bone marrow transplants is needed immediately. However, the doctor often has to wait 70-80 minutes for the results from a different unit. "We bought a machine that the doctors can use right in the BMT unit and they get the results in 11 minutes," he says. He laughs, "They call it the Gerry machine." He wants to make a direct impact that will change patient care, particularly when it comes to the pediatric center, keeping kids as comfortable as they can possibly be during the very difficult treatment.
Mastrianni is quick to deflect much of the credit for event. "It's not just me, it's my guys, I love my guys," he says, referring to his traders. "My traders sacrifice the revenues, their compensation, that day without question. When I told them about the idea, their answer wasn't just yes, it was how can we help grow it." He adds, "They've seen me at my worst."
Dec 13, is Empire Financial's 2008 Trading for a Cure Charity Day. We're rooting for you, Gerry!
Reported by Penny Crosman, Wall Street & Technology, Written by Kerry Massaro, Advanced TradingWe might all think that one day we'll make a difference. One day after this or that, we will put aside our personal needs and do something that will make a dent---no matter how small--toward helpign others. Most of us never do it, but Gerry Mastrianni, head of trading at Empire Financial Group, a Longwood, Florida-based firm is an exception.