Top trader under 30 - Ref: Trader Monthly September 2008
Firm: Nanes Delorme Partners
City: New York
Trades: Equity (activist)
In a year that has closed many hedge funds down, Balkany launched one, successfully. He opened in January with around $30 million; the fund was up 40 percent through the end of June.
Positioned as an activist investor, Nanes Delorme targets publicly traded, small-cap oil-and-gas firms viewed as undervalued and in need of a growth catalyst. "We don't fight for the sake of fighting," Balkany explains of his firm's approach. "Fighting is not always the best way to create alpha. Compromise is."
Balkany, a native of Paris, says he's inspired by Warren Lichtenstein ("he's never lost a proxy fight") and developed his investing style while working at Pierson Capital, a private-equity shop. Balkany completed his undergraduate studies at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris and has a master's in finance from Berkeley. He worked at Bear Stearns in Latin American Debt Capital Markets in New York prior to Pierson Capital. He's the managing partner and CIO and owns 50 percent of the management company. These days, he's also a managing director at Nanes Delorme Capital Management, a New York–based broker-dealer/financial-advisory firm.
"This is a good market for us," he says -- the oil-and-gas sector is wide-open right now, he notes, and underperforming companies litter the space.
Despite his desire for peaceful prodding, Balkany has locked horns with his biggest *holding, Vaalco Energy, which sued him to preempt a proxy battle. The case has since been settled, and Nanes Delorme has reduced its stake in the firm. The stock is up 40 percent this year.
Trades: European equities
One of the youngest partners (out of more than a dozen) in activist/philanthropist Christopher Hohn's $15 billion–plus hedge fund, Baring is already something of a storied name in the securities industry, thanks to his lineage -- he's a direct descendant of famed eighteenth-century merchant banker Francis Baring and his eponymous banking empire.
One might assume he has simply feasted on the benefits of his fortuitous ancestry, but Baring, we understand, has worked hard, putting himself through all necessary paces to reach the top of the hedgerow. After graduating from Bristol University in southwest England with a master's degree in *physics and philosophy -- studying metaphysics, normativ*ity, epistemology and the usual mind-*numbing crush of core physics -- he worked at JPMorgan Cazenove as a pan-European sell-side analyst from 2001–2006. Baring declined to comment for this article; a TCI spokesman confirmed that he is a partner at the firm, though he refused to reveal the size of his stake.
Firm: Balyasny Asset Management
City: New York
A Minneapolis native who waited tables in Hell's Kitchen (and interned at MD Sass) before landing at BAM in September 2004, Bassin has quickly forged a reputation as a steely industrials trader. Bassin, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2002 with a degree in finance, is a true two-tool player, technically astute at reading the markets but also a budding analyst who can ferret out fundamentals crucial to decision-making. Says one peer who nominated him: "Gabe is a rising star."
Firm: First New York Securities
City: New York
David Bender is not your typical 28-year-old. At an age when many of his contemporaries are fortunate to find any job at all on Wall Street, he has already made partner at First New York Securities. And he's no junior partner, either. Bender is one of the best traders at his firm, which counts a handful of former SAC standouts among its ranks.
Bender, who grew up in Great Neck, New York, spends his days stalking event-driven U.S. equity opportunities, eating what he kills, particularly during earnings season. In 2007, Bender's P&L flirted with eight figures, of which the Emory University graduate -- he was a triple major -- took home half. Call him exceptional (he's said to be a scratch golfer), call him confident (he actually acknowledges that he is, indeed, a scratch golfer), but don't dare call him a day trader. The term implies a certain unwashed recklessness, and that's not his way.
"My style has proven consistent," he says. "Last year I had 240 trading days. I think I lost money on five of them."
Hordes of equity traders such as Bender -- young, self-assured, flush with employer-sponsored capital, free to chase daily stock gyrations aggressively -- once roamed the financial landscape, until the bursting of the tech bubble at the turn of the century treated day traders the way asteroids treated the dinosaurs. Those who survived (the traders, not the dinosaurs) have reinvented the space, a maturation that has brought more focus and technical savvy, more disciplined risk control and the trading of more instruments and markets beyond tech stocks -- though don't think some of the new breed haven't made money long GOOG and short MSFT.
Firm: Magnetar Capital Management
City: New York
Trades: Equities (distressed/special situations)
Working in the New York office of Alec Litowitz's Chicago-based firm, Bryan is swiftly moving up the industry ranks. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvaia in 2004, he got his start trading at Goldman Sachs, then joined Cyrus Capital Partners, a derivative of Och-Ziff. Upon establishing himself as a top young trader in the distressed/special-situations space in U.S. equities, he landed at $8 billion–in-assets Magnetar this January. "He is extremely bright and responsible with his capital," says someone familiar with Bryan's trading. "I've always known him to make intelligent investment decisions."
City: New York
Trades: Equity index derivatives
Just two months into a Citigroup training program following his graduation from Penn in 2001, Chiang endured the unthinkable: His father, Alex, was working in IT at insurance broker Marsh & McLennan in the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. From just blocks away, Chiang did his best to stay calm while fielding calls from his distraught mother in California. He charged down Chambers Street, but was forced to turn back when the first tower fell. He would eventually learn that his dad was among the many lost. "Only recently have I come to grips with the whole thing," Chiang says. "It really has shaped who I am, how I approach life. It was a grounding moment" -- because these days, he has the perspective not to get rattled or upset by everyday ups and downs.
Chiang took two months off to mourn but then returned to Citi, transitioning in 2003 to equity index options and eventually becoming a VP. Trading $1 billion–plus, notional, of principal, Chiang makes markets and takes prop *positions in all the major indices. "Huge size," an industry peer confirms.
Mona El Isa
Firm: Goldman Sachs
Trades: Cash *equities (prop)
A chorus of voices from all across the globe clamored for El Isa's inclusion ("She is the best at what she does, hands down," one admirer gushed), and while Goldman Sachs gatekeepers kept their curiously named prized prop star under wraps, we were able to tap a few City sources who helped us fill out a portrait. Having started her career in September 2004 as a trainee in London, she now trades prop on Goldman's Pan-European cash desk, as well as client money. More recently, she secured her current position, which we hear involves some impressive size.
El Isa is smiling coyly in one of the world's hottest sectors right now, making markets for natural resources–linked equities and taking no prisoners. Born in the U.K. and raised in Greece, she didn't even wait until she had graduated from University College London (with a degree in economics and statistics) before embarking on what would soon become a stellar trading career. In the summer of 2003, a year before she graduated, she landed an internship at Goldman with an eye toward getting an education as a market maven. From there, she swiftly moved into pole position, clinching a job at the bank in August 2004, trading financials. In 2005, she won a coveted post in the mining sector, developing the risk-management skills that would later prompt her admirers to brand her a star. Impressing *clients and superiors alike, she nailed a promotion in 2007 as an associate, making markets on Goldman's London-based cash equities desk. Sums up one ad*mirer: "You can't have a 30 Under 30 list without her."
City: New York
Trades: Equity *derivatives/technology
Touted by some Wall Street insiders as being among the top traders at his firm, this Yale graduate (class of 2004, a physics major) entered the JPMorgan equity-analyst program right out of school before migrating into the Equity Derivatives Group with a focus on such big technology names as MSFT and GOOG. "He's trading hundreds of millions," says one source at JPMorgan. "Very disciplined, but a real old-school, from-the-gut trader."
Forman, who grew up in Westchester County, New York, reports to David Long, an MD and head of the Equity Derivatives Group. Whether the rise in popularity of his asset class continues remains to be seen, of course, but Forman is going about making a name for himself (and his firm) by making markets in this vast, often volatile sector. Says one industry participant: "Drew is trading the biggest book on the EDG desk."
Firm: Alden Global Capital
City: New York
Trades: International *equities, bonds
Like many of his industry peers, Freeman boasts a proud pedigree. The son of Carl Icahn's go-to investment banker, the late Brian Freeman, this former Duke University football player (he was captain of its special teams) appears to be well on his way to cementing his own securities-industry legacy.
After graduating from college, Freeman took a job as an analyst at boutique banking firm Peter J. Solomon. Now backed by famous investor Randy Smith, the Short Hills, New Jersey, native is currently the portfolio manager of the $100 million–plus Alden Global Canada Fund, part of Alden Global Capital, a subsidiary of Smith's *family office, Smith Management. Freeman doubles as an analyst for Alden's Frontier Fund, which invests in fast-growing emerging markets such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Says someone who regularly transacts with him, "To be *mentored and seeded by Randy Smith speaks to his ability. He is one of the most talented young guys I've seen in a while."
Firm: Casa Energy
Trades: Crude oil, natural gas
Something of a prodigy and seemingly *destined for a life in the markets, Graham spent his childhood relocating from place to place on account of his father's job as a manufacturing consultant. Having skipped the sixth grade, Graham (born in Color*ado, he has lived in Texas, Australia and New Zealand) studied economics and finance at the University of Illinois. After three years in school, he began trading oil and gas at Chicago-based Allston Trading. Before long, at just 22 years old, he was running the firm's entire energy-trading operation.
"His trading prowess is unprecedented for someone his age," says one crude-oil broker. "He's a brilliant trader and a tremendous risk taker, but at the same time he knows how to calculate risk well."
Graham's precocious skills soon caught the eye of Frank Carbon*ara, owner of Dubai-based Casa Trading. Despite Graham's youth, Carbonara recently hired him to be Casa's director of energy trading.
Graham's best trade yet? "I bought the gas crack spread back in February and March when it was closing in on being negative," he says. "From there, it soared."
Says Robert Barry, the boy wonder's former boss at Allston, "We are sad to see him go."
We're glad to see him come aboard.
Firm: Tudor Investment Corp.
City: Greenwich, Connecticut
Trades: Global macro (currencies, metals, interest rates, futures, swaps, International Equities)
Only five years out of college, this Scarsdale, New York, native has already worked for four employers, though he has always carried his weight and appears to have found a happy home at Tudor. A 30 Under 30 member two years ago who fell off our radar in 2007, Grunfeld attended Stanford and started his career at Goldman. From there, he jumped to Balyasny Asset Management before leaving to help start up London-based Comac Capital in 2006. He briefly returned to Balyasny last year before moving to Tudor in February. Like his boss, he trades everything across the board. Says one sales trader who covers him, "Great trader, very smart -- a baller."