Brian Splitt, senior commodities broker and market analyst with Allendale Inc., took an unusual route to get to the world of commodity trading. Splitt is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Iraq. On April 3, 2003, Splitt was seriously injured in a vehicle accident near Ash Shahin, Iraq, that claimed the life of a fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Chad Bales. Splitt returned home and began the journey that took him to Allendale and the world of commodity trading and analysis.
Brian Splitt, senior commodities broker and market analyst with Allendale Inc., took an unusual route to get to the world of commodity trading. Splitt is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Iraq. On April 3, 2003, Splitt was seriously injured in a vehicle accident near Ash Shahin, Iraq, that claimed the life of a fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Chad Bales. Splitt returned home and began the journey that took him to Allendale and the world of commodity trading and analysis.
CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — Brian Splitt doesn’t have to look far to see down the long path that has brought him back home again.

There’s the tattoo on his forearm. It’s not unusual to have a tattoo these days, but not too many grain traders can claim the one that Splitt has — the tattoo of a Marine Corps veteran.

There’s also the souvenir of his active-duty deployment to Iraq during the Iraq War. Splitt, who was formerly an energy and metals trader at Allendale, has a wealth of titanium in his leg, the result of a nonhostile vehicle accident in Iraq that sent him home from war.

“Really the last thing on my mind at that point was being in finance or trading,” Splitt said of the first steps of his journey.

He is originally from Arlington Heights. His dad, Walter Splitt, and grandfather, Joseph Burke, are both Marine veterans.

Splitt was 19 and had finished a semester at Harper Community College, but wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. His dad and grandpa suggested the Corps.

“I was still in the stages of trying to figure out what I wanted to be. I needed the discipline,” Splitt said.

He enlisted in 1999, went through basic training in San Diego, went through communications and electronics training and was stationed at Camp Pendleton.

A master gunnery sergeant noticed Splitt’s affinity for swimming and the water during training at Pendleton. Splitt was sent to become a water survival and safety instructor. He was on his way to one of his first days of training on Sept. 11, 2001.

In March 2003, the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.

Splitt was four years into his eight-year enlistment and was with the first Marines to cross the border into Iraq.

“We left California on Feb. 9, and we crossed the border into Iraq on March 19, 2003,” Splitt said.

Deadly Accident

He had been in country and in the war for two weeks when, on April 3, 2003, the vehicle he and several other Marines were riding in was involved in what the Department of Defense termed a “nonhostile vehicle accident.”

“We were driving, and then we weren’t,” Splitt said. “I honestly can’t tell you what happened.”

Splitt’s femur was broken. A friend and fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Chad Bales, 20, of Coahoma, Texas, was killed in the accident, the only fatality. More than a dozen other Marines were injured.

Splitt was medevaced to two separate combat support hospitals and eventually made his way to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

By July, he was on crutches and by the side of a pool, back working as a water survival instructor.

“For the majority of the Marine force, it was about how to keep yourself alive in your combat gear. For some of the more advanced swimmers, it was how to keep yourself alive and save your buddy,” Splitt said.

He also trained special forces in aquatic confidence and underwater survival and escape.

Splitt finished with his active duty in June 2004 and had a decision to make, to stay in California — he was back poolside, on crutches, training Marines in water safety by July 2003 — and take a job with a civilian company training Marines or to head back home and start a new life and new career. He and his first wife were expecting daughter Sophia, so that made the decision easier.

“I knew the cost of living was cheaper, and my family was here. It was an opportunity to come home and maybe have a little bump in income, so I took that step,” Splitt said.

New Career

He started his financial career selling life insurance and moved to a financial advisory firm. It was at that firm that Splitt first heard about Allendale Inc. He called Paul Georgy, CEO and cofounder of Allendale.

“He said come in and I’d like to talk to you. We probably talked for about an hour,” Splitt said.

It was then that he had his first introduction to the split-second pace of the commodity trading business.

“He said I’d like you to start tomorrow. I said shouldn’t I give my other employer two weeks’ notice? He said in this job, you have to make up your mind. If you want to do it, you need to do it. So I said I’ll see you tomorrow,” Splitt said.

He said that his introduction to the world of agricultural commodities and how they’re bought and sold was a learning curve.

“I have no agricultural background at all. I remember the first time I actually picked up the phone and somebody asked where is corn trading, and I had no idea how to quote it. I think back in 2007, we were trading corn with a 3 in front of the price. I probably said something like 38.84, and it was probably 3.88 and a half. I remember as I said that, Bill Biederman (co-founder and senior vice president of Allendale) poked his head up from his desk and shook his head. When I was done, he came over and said this is how we quote grains,” Splitt said.

He started learning a new language, taught by the farmers who grew the commodities and Splitt’s fellow traders.

“I had to throw myself out there and start talking to producers. By just having conversations with producers and being honest, saying hey, I’m new at this, I learned a lot,” Splitt said.

There isn’t much of his water survival training that Splitt brought from his Marine days and his service in Iraq. But there are other values, learned in the Corps, that always are a part of him and how he conducts business.

“I think one of the big things I learned in the Marine Corps is integrity. I think that goes a long way in our industry. We’ve seen the collapse of MF Global and (Peregrine Financial Group). I think at the heart of each of those was a lack of integrity and a lack of honesty and not staying true to what you’re supposed to be doing,” Splitt said.

He moved from being trusted with the lives of his fellow Marines to being trusted with what may be peoples’ life savings or their incomes.

“It’s very important when you work with clients and you’re working with their money that you be honest with them, you keep them informed of where they are and you really can’t hold anything back,” Splitt said. “I really think honesty and integrity are two main hallmarks that go a long way in this industry.”

Keeping Calm

Splitt’s ability, learned in the Corps, to handle multiple tasks and to stay calm and make decisions in an instant also serves him well.

Instead of bullets and mortars, it’s corn and soybean and wheat prices taking unexpected jumps followed by breathtaking tumbles, many times in the space of a few hours.

“I think the one thing that combat veterans, as a whole, have that a lot of people don’t is that you can very well prove that you can make a decision in normal circumstances, but who can keep their calm and make the same decisions when bullets are flying? Who can make that decision to tell you what to do with 100,000 bushels of corn when you’ve got a USDA report and the markets are flying around?” Splitt said.

The Marine Corps tattoo on his forearm isn’t the only souvenir from his service. He still has the titanium in his leg.

He has a photo of himself taken at Bethesda when then-President George W. Bush and Laura Bush came to visit wounded troops.

And he had a cameo on the ABC News show Primetime in 2003.

“Primetime did a documentary on the 47th Combat Support Hospital. They had two Marines that they showcased,” Splitt said.

One of the Marines interviewed took shrapnel to his face, but was conscious and able to be interviewed.

“The other Marine they showed in surgery, and there was a big drill bit going into his leg. That was me,” Splitt said. “My family has a tape of it somewhere. It’s really weird being able to see it.”

He also has the memories of his service, from the dung beetles in Kuwait that were waiting to make use of every bit of waste left by the Americans — often as soon as they left it — to the attitude of the Iraqi people.

“One of the things that stuck out was just how truly happy the majority of the civilian populace really seemed to be that we were there,” Splitt said.

In June 2010, he and his family were reminded that finishing up a deployment isn’t always the end of danger.

His half-brother, Justin Cloe, 29, a Marine with a tour of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan under his belt, died in an accident on June 5, 2010.

“We just weren’t prepared for that because he was done. He had done his deployments, and he was about to get out, so that was really tough,” Splitt said.

Less than a month ago, Splitt and second wife Lauren, already the parents of his daughter Sophia and their son Justin Joseph, “JJ,” received one of the best reminders that life goes on.

Their second son, Brody James, was born on May 16, 2014. The date had a special significance for Splitt.

“The last day that our family saw Justin alive was May 16, 2010,” he said.