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Wall Street Decathlon Gives Executives Their Own Competition

Wall Street Decathlon
Eric Bachmann of Hutchin Hill Capital LP, competes in the 40 yard dash event during the 2010 Wall Street Decathlon in Uniondale, Long Island. Photographer: Jeff Zelevansky/The Decathlon via Bloomberg

Eric Bachmann, the chief administrative officer for New York hedge fund Hutchin Hill Capital LP, runs ultramarathons, plays lacrosse and works out regularly. Even so, he couldn’t beat a 24-year-old Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst for the title of Wall Street’s best athlete in 2010.

The 46-year-old Bachmann has a new goal this year -- being named Wall Street’s most athletic executive.

For the first time, the 3-year-old Wall Street Decathlon will crown a top executive and winners in three age groups (under 30, 30-39 and over 40) as well as the overall champion. The change has given older competitors like Bachmann added incentive with about three weeks to train for the Oct. 22 charity event at Columbia University’s Wien Stadium in New York.

“The guy who won it last year was an absolute stud,” Bachmann, who ran in his first 50-mile race in May, said in a telephone interview. “I can’t imagine I could have beat that guy with any amount of training and preparation, but I knew I was competitive with guys my age. So I’m really excited about the age breaks.”

Bachmann, who continued his training regimen during a summer vacation with his wife and two kids in Ocean City, New Jersey, isn’t alone. Gerald Donini, the head of equities, Americas, for Barclays Capital in New York, said he was initially discouraged by the prospect of facing competitors half his age.

“I don’t think it would be fair if I was going against guys who are 23, 24 years old,” said the 47-year-old Donini, who was an Ivy League shot put champion at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “But I said if you’re going to do an age-group division, I’d be happy to compete, raise money and recruit other guys.”

10 Events

The Wall Street Decathlon consists of 10 events that test speed, endurance, strength and agility. While it features track staples such as sprints at three distances, it also has events like rowing, a football throw for distance and accuracy, pull-ups, vertical jump, an agility drill and bench press.

The competition was founded in 2009 to determine the best all-around athlete within the financial services industry and raise money for charity. Donations this year support research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. There are currently about 110 participants set for this year.

This is the first year the decathlon is affiliated with Sloan Kettering, after benefiting Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong foundation for cancer research previously. The event raised $225,000 last year.

Prospective competitors must work in the financial services industry and raise a minimum of $3,000 in donations.

Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, is among the event’s 11 corporate sponsors, a group that includes RBC Capital Markets, luxury Swiss watchmaker IWC, and private jet charter service XOJET.

NCAA, Circa 1986

At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Donini still has an athlete’s build, even though he says the last competition he participated in was the National Collegiate Athletic Association indoor track and field championships in 1986. He’s stayed in shape with a strength-and-conditioning program that’s used by professional athletes, police academies and the military, though he acknowledges finding time between work obligations can be difficult.

“I was in Asia for business and was able to exercise during the trip,” Donini said in an interview. “Then I got back and was a bit jet-lagged and had a hectic period at the office. My workouts suffered. The demands of work took over.”

20-Something Winners

Last year’s Decathlon winner was Chris Schlack, who spent time as a personal trainer and kick-boxing teacher at a gym in Hoboken, New Jersey, when he wasn’t working as a second-year analyst in the alternate investments group for Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit in New York. Kyle Peterson, an associate at Sageview Capital LP in Greenwich, Connecticut, was also 24 when he won the inaugural Decathlon competition in 2009.

“The Decathlon’s athlete demographic is as varied as the 10 events themselves,” co-founder Marc Hodulich said in an interview. “We added an executive level competition, along with age group divisions, to meet the growing demand from the executive and senior management ranks.”

Hodulich, 31, a management consultant, got involved in the event because his mother is a breast cancer survivor. He said the Decathlon benefits New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering because organizers wanted to make it locally focused.

“The Memorial Sloan-Kettering community couldn’t be more grateful,” Richard K. Naum, vice president of development at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said in an e-mail. “Not only for the support the Decathlon contributes but for the invaluable leadership these professionals provide in their own community.”

Training vs Work

Tom McGuirk, the managing director of HighTower Advisors in Menlo Park, California, is another competitor in the executive division who spent the summer balancing his training with the demands of work and family.

The 40-year-old McGuirk is a two-time Olympian, having competed in the 400-meter hurdles for Ireland in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Games. Now married with a 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, McGuirk manages $300 million for HighTower. He said he’s getting close to his “fighting weight” after dropping more than 15 pounds in training for the Decathlon.

“My wife actually said to me, ‘Is this what you were like when you were training for the Olympics?’” McGuirk, who will travel to New York from California for the event, said by telephone. “It’s tough. I work long hours and have a young family at home, so it’s getting up an hour earlier or staying up an hour later to fit it all in. But it’s all worth it.”

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