Meet some of money management’s leading lights: Battling markets, taking profits and shattering stereotypes, they’re the 10 top female fund managers on earth.
by Leah McGrath Goodman
Books about the origins of humanity tell us that men hunted and women gathered. The women you’re about to meet, however, do both, and every bit as aggressively as their male counterparts.
Having conferred with the best and the brightest of the trading world and pursued dozens of recommendations from top traders and portfolio managers across all continents, we offer a Top 10 list of those we believe are the single largest female hedge-fund managers alive today.
We’ve ranked them by assets under management, and while we can’t say for certain that we haven’t missed someone, we specifically sought out traders procuring the most impressive returns.
Among the common themes we encountered while studying the industry’s underappreciated subspecies: creativity and flexibility. Women, it seems, make use of a highly enlightened, all-encompassing methodology to master the money-management game.
Such a holistic approach is the hallmark of female-run hedge funds, as well as of women entrepreneurs in general, says Linda Livingstone, the first female dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University. “Women often create their own frameworks in the business world,” she says, “because it gives them control and flexibility in a professional setting while not necessarily forcing them to sacrifice the rest of their lives.”
That’s all well and good, but what about those returns? They’re remarkable, as it happens.
Susan Shaffer Solovay, the president and founder of the New York-based fund of funds Pomegranate Capital, invests only in alternative-investment firms run by women. Nimble and efficient, “they tend to outperform,” Solovay says. “It’s a lot like putting your money into an emerging-market investment strategy.” While Solovay wouldn’t reveal exact figures, she says her fund has raked in formidable returns since its launch in late 2007 — and that the bulk of her investors are men.
Wall Street is increasingly making room for female hedge-funders, no matter where they might be based. That includes former Bear Stearns emerging-markets pro Melissa Ko, who recently launched the hedge fund Covepoint Capital in New York, and Seonaid Mackenzie, managing partner of London hedge-fund incubator and investment firm Sturgeon Ventures. Mackenzie hands out hot-pink business cards and is starting a “wellness fund” that will invest in health care?related companies. “I own 99 percent of the partnership,” Mackenzie says. “My husband, who’s an entrepreneur, owns 1 percent. I know all about equality.”
Though many women running their own hedge funds say capital-raising can still be something of a challenge, most acknowledge that it’s getting easier — steadily, if slowly — to snag the attention of the investors who write the really big checks. “There’s an old German saying: ‘Money smells,'” says Nicola Horlick, founder of London-based Bramdean Asset Management. “If you’ve done well, people know it and will throw money at you.”
1. Leda Braga
Firm: BlueCrest Capital Management
Estimated AUM: $8 billion
Braga, whose $8 billion BlueTrend Fund is a momentum-based, trend-following fund, stands alone as the world’s top female portfolio manager in terms of assets under management. Although she prefers to fly under the radar, fellow hedge-fund managers swoon over her knowledge of FX/interest-rate hybrids, equity derivatives and interest-rate exotics, offering praise composed of equal parts shock and awe. As one multibillion-dollar hedgie puts it: “I met her at a Tokyo conference, and if there were ever a quant strategy I would invest in, it’s hers. She’s constantly stressing the need to upgrade and refine trading systems, that you can’t just walk away and expect them to perform with markets shifting so quickly. She’s a dynamo.” Braga heads BlueTrend’s quant strategies. She’s also the president of BlueCrest Capital.
Braga, 42, attended Imperial College in the U.K., where she earned a Ph.D. in engineering and worked for three years after graduation as a lecturer and a research-project manager. She is reportedly the largest staff equity holder in parent company BlueCrest, after legendary cofounders Bill Reeves and Michael Platt. Chances are this might have something to do with the massive returns she has bagged since her fund?s inception in 2004, not to mention her flawless handling of the subprime crisis, which has flummoxed many of her competitors. “Last year, the BlueTrend fund returned approximately 28 percent, net of fees, and this year it was up about 13 percent on the same basis by the end of July,” notes BlueCrest CFO Andrew Dodd.
A former JPMorgan colleague of Reeves and Platt, who quit their jobs as proprietary traders in 2000 to found BlueCrest, Braga worked for nearly seven years as a vice president and quant analyst on the bank’s London derivatives-research team before joining the spin-off and derivatives risk-management firm Cygnifi Derivatives Services in 2000. BlueCrest snared her in October 2001, deciding its successful maiden voyage into fixed-income and currency markets should be encored with some black-box strategies. Braga’s fund launched in 2002. A year later, Man Group snapped up a minority stake in BlueCrest, and the rest is trading history.
Despite all the fanfare, Braga is strikingly modest. Attempting to reach her, Trader Monthly received an e-mail in which she beseeched her assistant to ward us off. “Aaaarghhh!” she lamented. “Only the misinformed can possibly be interested in me.” Genius, it seems, doesn’t always take to the spotlight.
2. Renee Haugerud
Firm: Galtere Ltd.
City: New York
Estimated AUM: $2.5 billion
Haugerud is the chief investment officer, majority owner and founder of Galtere, investment adviser to a global macro fund. She trades pretty much everything — global commodities, currencies, fixed-income and, occasionally, equities.
Just two years ago, when Trader Monthly first came across this 53-year-old powerhouse, she had $689 million under management. Since then, her assets have increased more than threefold. “We’ve had a lot of growth, but I’m only now getting back to the size I’m used to,” says the queen of commodities, without a trace of irony. “It’s great, because now we have the space to expand into a broader multistrategy fund.”
Cyclical vicissitudes notwithstanding, it’s not so much luck on Haugerud’s side as three decades of experience. The oldest of four children of a Minnesota farmer and sheriff (the town jail abutted her house), Haugerud wisely maintains a 700-acre Minnesota farm with her husband as a way to keep an eye on market fundamentals. Indeed, she can often be found knee-deep in corn stalks, assessing the season’s crop. “You learn to see things from a different perspective, growing up in jail,” she cracks.
Having earned her B.S. in forest-resource management from the University of Montana, Missoula, Haugerud parlayed a temp job she landed at Cargill as a student into a trading position after graduation. Starting in 1981, she traded every major asset class in the world for Cargill from outposts in Geneva, London and Australia before moving to Minnesota’s Genesis Capital in 1994 and then becoming a manager of NatWest’s proprietary-trading desk in Hong Kong in 1996.
Raising $5 million in seed money, she struck out on her own at age 43 — and says she wouldn’t necessarily recommend such a daring maneuver now. “At one point, I went into more than $1 million in personal debt,” she says. “You may know how to make money, but a lot of investors want at least a three-year track record before they’ll start investing in you.”
These days, with institutional investors beating a path to her door, she has few worries about that. With annualized average net returns of 17.75 percent since she launched the fund in March 1999, Haugerud has never had a down year. As of early August, her trailing 12-month net return was an outstanding 27 percent, and she was up 16.9 percent as of July. How has she managed to stay on top? By being pragmatic, she says: “We think portfolio managers tend to overanalyze quantitative historical data — it’s like trying to drive while looking only in the rear-view. Therefore, trades are often far too complicated; we think simple is smart.”
3. Meridee Moore
Firm: Watershed Asset Management
City: San Francisco
Estimated AUM: $2 billion
It’s no secret that the credit crisis has made many traders of weaker spleen quake in their wingtip shoes. Not so Moore, the 50-year-old majority owner and founder of Watershed, a credit-focused fund investing in distressed and bank debt, bonds, securities and equities.
She has no qualms about diving headlong into deeply complex credit-related instruments anywhere in the capital structure. Nailing impressively consistent absolute returns in what we can only call a fully rigged market minefield, Moore — who holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado and a law degree from Yale — got her big break in 2002, when she launched Watershed with the financial backing of her former boss and mentor, Thomas Steyer, co-managing partner of San Francisco multistrategy fund Farallon Capital Management, which remains an investor to this day.
Moore’s specialty has come naturally to her after she spent time as a senior vice president in the corporate-finance and new financial products departments of Lehman Brothers from 1985 to 1991. Prior to that, she did a stint as a corporate lawyer at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York. She spent nearly a decade at Farallon, where she learned the ropes of event-driven trading under Steyer, before hanging out her own shingle. Moore invests in situations undergoing change, making direct debt and equity investments in the U.S. and developed international markets. She also manages discretionary capital for institutional investors, primarily endowments and foundations.
4. Caryn Seidman-Becker
Firm: Arience Capital Management
City: New York
Estimated AUM: $1.5 billion
Formed in 2002, Arience, a long/short equity fund whose investors include legendary S&P slayer Bill Miller, has enjoyed a nice run of returns under Seidman-Becker’s capable stewardship.
This 36-year-old University of Michigan graduate and former partner at Glenview Capital Management got her start as an analyst at Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder. After that, prior to joining Glenview, Seidman-Becker was senior analyst at Iridian Asset Management covering just about everything, including media, aerospace and consumer products. In 2006, she launched a more concentrated version of her flagship Arience Capital Partners I, in which Miller’s Opportunity Trust Fund invested $50 million back in 2003. A recent hedge of hers outside her portfolio: Seidman-Becker contributed to both Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.
5. Nicola Horlick
Firm: Bramdean Asset Management
Estimated AUM: $1.4 billion
You could say Horlick’s breakthrough moment came while she was growing up in Nottingham, England, when she realized early on that she could sell more animal feed products (millions of dollars’ worth, in fact) to local farmers via her father’s family business than could the competition. Or you could say that being recruited to a coveted spot reading jurisprudence at Oxford’s Balliol College, and later a position as a trader in London for S.G. Warburg, made her current stint as a high-ranking money manager more or less inevitable.
But this 47-year-old mother of five reckons her destiny might actually have hinged on something far more mundane: a routine errand. One day in 1983, when Warburg’s top fund manager, Leonard Licht, asked Horlick, a mere graduate trainee, to get him something from the supply closet, she impressed him in a way neither expected. “When I returned,” she recalls, “he said, ‘No one has fetched me anything that fast, ever. You, my dear, will work for me.'” Under Licht’s tutelage, Horlick rose swiftly through the ranks. By 28, she was a company director, one of the few under 30. By 1989, she had nabbed a post as director of Mercury Asset Management’s U.K. pension-fund business, and from 1991 to 1997, she worked as chief investment officer, then CEO, for Morgan Grenfell Investment Management (now part of Aberdeen Asset Management).
For the next several years, she was CEO of SG Asset Management in England before launching Bramdean, a boutique asset-management firm investing in the alternatives marketplace, in 2005. (She named it after the village in Hampshire where she was living while setting it up.) While Licht remains a big influence, Horlick says leaving him behind at Warburg was the hardest thing she ever did. “When you work for someone iconic, you have to get out of their shadow or you’ll never make a name for yourself,” she says. “But leaving him was like a divorce; I cried for days.”
Having started with just $60 million of seed money, Horlick now manages and advises on more than $1.4 billion on behalf of institutional clients and high-net-worth individuals. The money is invested exclusively in alternative assets, which include private-equity funds, hedge funds and various specialist investment vehicles created by Bramdean.
A year ago, Bramdean made it easier for smaller investors to get exposure to these types of investments by floating Bramdean Alternatives Limited on the London Stock Exchange. Reflecting the success of her investment strategy, this investment company saw its net asset value rise by more than 5 percent during its first year, while equity markets fell sharply around the world over the same period.
6. Pamela Lawrence
Firm: Restoration Capital Management
City: New York
Estimated AUM: $670 million
Heading up this long/short fund that capitalizes on distressed situations, Lawrence, 56, has been a member of the vulture club since the early ’80s. She ran a portfolio of troubled and bankrupt companies for Tribeca Investments, previously a division of Citigroup, from 1999 to 2000, and managed $600 million of distressed and bankrupt securities as principal at New York?based hedge fund Whippoorwill from 1992 to 1999.
She cut her teeth the prior four years presiding over distressed and high-yield securities as managing director at New York-based Magten Asset Management after earning her business degree from Marymount College and, in 1980, an MBA from Pace University. She founded Restoration in 2001 with trading partner and principal Ivona Smith; since then, the fund has hauled in returns at an average annualized compounded rate of more than 12 percent. Not too shabby, considering the high-stakes terrain it traverses. As its name indicates, Restoration’s bread and butter is small to midsize companies that have fallen on hard times. With so much blood on Wall Street these days, business is good for this dynamic duo. According to sources inside the firm, the pair are currently cleaning up by shorting a mess of ailing assets for maximum profit.
7. Karen Finerman
Firm: Metropolitan Capital Advisors
City: New York
Estimated AUM: $350 million
While growing up in Beverly Hills in the mid-’80s, Finerman one day came across an article about the fast times of Ivan Boesky. It fired her imagination. Boesky, of course, ended up busted for insider trading, but by 1987 Finerman had a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wharton and a job as a risk arbitrageur for New York’s First City Capital, a firm bankrolled by the Belzberg family. There, she worked with Jeffrey Schwarz, whose comradeship made it possible for her, incredibly, to start a hedge fund at just 27 years of age.
Following a 1990 gig as a risk arbitrageur for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (now part of Credit Suisse), Finerman teamed up with Schwarz, and in 1992, Metropolitan, a long/short equity special-situations fund exploiting arbitrage opportunities primarily in U.S. equities and options, was born. Finerman, now 43, is the firm’s CEO and co-PM — and a regular on CNBC’s Fast Money.
Her partnership with Schwarz, Metropolitan’s cofounder and co-PM, is no bruising battle of the sexes. “Jeffrey and I have been together longer than I’ve been married, and we’ve really learned to play off each other’s strengths,” she says. “He’s singularly focused on value, so he’s much better in a down market and knows how to stay positive. I’m much more the upmarket person, knowing when to cut the losers and let the winners run.” With two sets of twins (ages 7 and 11), Finerman says having a right-hand man also eases her schedule pressures. “Goldman recently had an investor day, and I just did not have the energy for it, so Jeff went. It’s great to have someone to bounce your ideas off and who makes sure you don’t have to do everything.”
The approach seems to be working: Metropolitan has posted annualized average net returns of 14.4 percent since inception, while its hypercharged Select Fund, launched in 2006 and representing the best of its eponymous flagship entity, has handily surmounted even that figure.
8. Jane Siebels
Firm: Green Cay Asset Management
City: Nassau, The Bahamas
Estimated AUM: $250 million
Seeded by smart-money legends Julian Robertson, of New York’s famed Tiger Fund, and the late mutual-fund pioneer Sir John Templeton, Siebels is CEO, chief investment officer, owner and founder of this global emerging-market fund.
She had planned to become a doctor, but trading was in her blood. “I grew up on a farm in Anamosa, Iowa, and my father was a grain dealer, so I was taking soybean prices over the phone for him by age 5,” the 48-year-old says with a laugh. “The traders were always so disgusted to have to read the prices to a preschooler, and I took my time writing them down.”
Ever since, however, Siebels has been moving at breakneck speed. Not long after setting up Green Cay in 1997 (the firm is named for Hetty Green, the Wall Street contrarian speculator who died in 1916 with a greater fortune than J.P. Morgan), she began turning billionaires? heads. Since inception, her flagship emerging-markets fund has delivered annualized net returns of 16.33 percent, while the Siebels Hard Asset Fund, which has invested in market anomalies since 2003, has yielded annualized net returns of 21.36 percent.
Siebels’s trading instincts have been burnished by her worldly career. Between 1984 and 1996, she learned German, Norwegian, Spanish and French while head of institutional equity management for UBS in Zurich; manager of global equity and bond assets for Storebrand International in Oslo, Norway; charter director managing funds for Genesis Emerging Markets in London; and portfolio manager for Templeton, Galbraith & Hansberger in the Bahamas. She earned a Ph.D. in international economics from Hochschule St. Gallen, Switzerland, a master’s in international management from the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) and a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Iowa. “We may not be a huge hedge-fund complex,” she says, “but I would rather be driving a Ferrari than a bus.”
9. Anne Dias Griffin
Firm: Aragon Global Management
Estimated AUM: $160 million
Even before she met and married the king of the Citadel, Kenneth Griffin, Dias Griffin, 37, had already established herself as one of the trading world’s youngest rising stars — on two continents. Fresh from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in 1992, Dias Griffin, who is French, landed a job with Goldman Sachs as a financial analyst, working in London and New York. She later attended Harvard Business School, from which she graduated summa cum laude in 1997.
From there, she landed a position as an analyst and portfolio manager at Soros Fund Management and, in 1999, went to work for hedge fund Viking Global Investors. She started Aragon in 2001, scoring seed money from none other than Julian Robertson — also one of her husband’s benefactors — with whom she once shared office space.
As one of Robertson’s few female “Tiger cubs,” Dias Griffin has drawn a great deal of attention for her smarts. Robertson is known to give his protégés a grueling four-hour psychological test before considering funding them (Jane Siebels, who has taken the test, confirms this). What, exactly, does this fearsome examination entail? Dr. Aaron Stern, the psychiatrist in charge of it, had only this to say: “What we look for in a trader falls under the heading of the types of things that we like to keep confidential at Tiger.”
Others were not so circumspect when sizing up Dias Griffin’s attributes. Says a fellow Chicago hedge-funder, “She’s focused, grounded and very, very smart.” Adds a New York hedgie: “She is definitely one of the more determined, intense and intelligent managers I’ve met.” Last year, Dias Griffin trounced her competition, posting gains of 40 percent at Aragon, a value-investing fund specializing in U.S. and international equities. This year, she was down about 5 percent as of June, but with annualized average returns of 18 percent since 2004, she’ll no doubt be back in the black before long.
10. Jessica McCarroll
Firm: Lynx Arbitrage
City: Hong Kong
Estimated AUM: $100 million
Imagine a world in which John Q. Public is a ravenous day trader in both the stock and futures markets. Now you’re beginning to understand why a savvy portfolio manager might want to cross oceans just to show Mr. Public how it’s really done. (And maybe clean out his pockets at the same time.) “In Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, people don’t use their extra cash to gear up their cars or houses,” says McCarroll, 43, a Nashville native. “Instead, they like to gamble.”
That’s where she comes in. Hooking up with CEO Lesley-Ann Murray, the fund’s other co-owner and cofounder, this University of Virginia math graduate runs one of the world’s only investment firms whose management and staff is dominated by women. The two met in 1995, when McCarroll, a fund manager for IPM in the firm’s Hong Kong office, became a client of Murray’s, who was at the time head of exchange-traded derivatives at UBS. In 2001, the duo quit their jobs and joined forces, hatching a fund that would take advantage of Asia’s notoriously volatile market swings so well that in 2003, its maiden year, it gained 27 percent.
Lynx, a macro short-term volatility fund, has cashed in on Asian and Australian exchange-traded derivatives and notched returns of 13 percent since the fourth quarter of last year. “We really started to shine when a lot of other funds began to falter,” McCarroll says. “Over here, you can’t run a billion-dollar hedge fund; the market’s way too small for that. But if you’re compact and the disposable income in the region remains strong, it’s going to be good for trade.”