Sean Banerjee is bringing the same confidence to the Wall Street Decathlon that helped him become a successful investment banker, having co-founded RedBrook Capital Partners in 2010 at the age of 24.
It also helps that he’s bringing some serious talent from his hometown of Seattle, assembling a team featuring three USA Rugby members. Banerjee’s WAC Decathlon team is among 45 competing this week in New York in the annual charity event to crown the financial community’s best athletes.
“We thought this would be something cool to come out to New York -- rather than for a work trip or a leisure trip -- why not come out and compete,” the 29-year-old Banerjee, a former competitive swimmer, said by phone. “We decided it would be fun to come and win it. I don’t think we really have any competition. It will be interesting to see.”
The team competition is scheduled for Saturday at St. John’s University’s DaSilva Memorial Field. The individual competition is Sunday, when former Penn State safety Mark Rubin of ICAP will be gunning for a fourth straight title.
In addition to the overall and team winners, there’s also a women’s champion, prizes for the top three finishers and awards for the top executives and in several age groups.
The winning JP Morgan Chase team from last year’s Wall Street Decathlon won’t be back to defend its title after two of its three members left the company. Yet there will still be plenty of challengers for Banerjee’s team in an event that tests fundraising skills in addition to speed, strength and agility. In a twist to the team competition this year, the amount of money raised for Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York accounts for a third of the overall score.
The Wall Street Decathlon has raised more than $5 million for cancer research since it was started in 2009.
“The opportunity to raise money for such a great cause and to compete on the field once again is a remarkable thing,” said Tom Tesauro, a former Villanova University pitcher who now works in credit sales at Goldman Sachs.
Tesauro, 25, heads Team Athlete, which includes Goldman Sachs colleague Melvis Langyintuo, who played basketball at Skidmore College. Also on the team are his former Villanova baseball teammate Andrew Geenen of Citigroup Inc., and Dallas Ouano, a former Villanova basketball captain now at SumRidge Partners. Geenen competed last year in the individual event and said he reached out to his former college teammate afterward.
“We thought it might be fun to get some friends together and see what type of numbers we could put up as a team,” Geenen said in an e-mail. “Every year the Decathlon brings in better athletes so our primary focus has been bringing in as many donations as possible. We will let the proverbial chips fall where they may athletically.”
Tesauro’s group already is off to a strong start, leading all teams with more than $40,000 in donations.
Banerjee said his team, which also includes rugby players Miles Craigwell, Mike Palefau and Kevin Swiryn, is up to the challenge and recognizes that raising money will be of “pinnacle importance.” Banerjee met his teammates, all of whom work in sales for insurance broker Kibble & Prentice, at the Washington Athletic Club as they were training for the Olympic rugby trials. Craigwell, 29, is a former Brown University football player who turned to rugby after failing to land a job in the National Football League.
“If we lose this thing, I’m sure it will be my fault,” said Banerjee, who in his teens trained under former U.S. National Team coach Rick Benner before “ballooning up” when he opted to focus more on finance and less on swimming. “I’m bringing three absolute monsters to New York. These guys train their butts off. I’m not too shabby myself, but I got into this to make sure I didn’t get a heart attack. These guys got into it because they want to win gold medals.”
Teams can include two to four competitors -- male or female -- and captains were able to invite colleagues, clients, vendors, partners or friends. The competitors can choose to participate in any of the 10 events, with only the top two scores per team recorded.
There are three running events, at distances of 40 yards, 400 meters and 800 meters. Other events include pull-ups, a football throw, an agility drill, a 500-meter stationary row, vertical jump, bench press and dips -- a triceps exercise where competitors lift their own body weight.
One team, ’Cacletes, is comprised of four former college football players from different financial institutions. Three went to Amherst College in Massachusetts: Citi’s Kevin Ferber, Morgan Stanley’s Brian McMahon and Sequoia Capital’s Andrew Reed. The fourth member, Morgan Stanley’s Ted Finan, played football at Hamilton College in New York.
Blue Ridge Capital’s team includes Grant Bowman, a former Michigan football captain. Bowman in 2006 took a two-week leave of absence from a former job at Lehman Brothers after being signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad during Super Bowl week. Bowman is just the latest in a list of Wall Street Decathlon competitors with NFL experience.
Rugby now joins the mix this year.
“This is a really cool event for guys who have really demanding jobs to compete in,” Banerjee said. “It’s a great intersection between lifestyle, camaraderie and philanthropy. It’s really cool knowing that you’re raising money for kids and at the same time it brings together this entire community that’s very close-knit to begin with.”