【英语财经】光环褪去的高盛自营交易员 Goldman investing stars fall back to earth

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2014-6-11 07:02

小艾摘要: Of all the Wall Street tribes rendered extinct by the financial crisis, few were as symbolic as the Goldman Sachs proprietary trader.While many financial institutions employed traders to make bets usi ...
Goldman investing stars fall back to earth
Of all the Wall Street tribes rendered extinct by the financial crisis, few were as symbolic as the Goldman Sachs proprietary trader.

While many financial institutions employed traders to make bets using their own capital, the prop traders of Goldman managed to attain a near-mythological status for their ability to make the bank, and themselves, vast amounts of money.

Goldman traders seemed close to that modern-day financial archetype, “Masters of the Universe”. They were revered inside the bank for the billions of dollars in profits they generated, and eyed suspiciously by outsiders for their pay packets and their potential to generate conflicts of interest with the bank’s regular clients.

But the party was brought to an end by the post-crisis “Volcker rule” in the US, which in effect banned banks from speculating using their own capital. Scores of these residents of the prop desk – often young, predominantly male – were shown the door.

The logical next career step was to continue trading by launching their own hedge funds. Helped by the legend, many of the highest-earning former Goldman prop traders raised billions in capital from investors who were confident they could replicate their success at the bank.

A few years on, several of the highest-profile hedge fund launches of the alumni of the Goldman prop desk, referred to inside the bank as its principal strategies unit, have not gone to plan, however.

Last week KKR, the private equity group, shut a $510m internal hedge fund that Bob Howard, ex-head of Goldman’s US equities and credit prop unit, was hired to run in 2010 along with a team of traders from the bank.

Industry observers are asking why traders who managed to make consistent returns while at Goldman have struggled when operating in their own hedge funds.

There is a long tradition of bank traders graduating to become fund managers in their own right, but investors in hedge funds are quick to point out that running an investment business requires very different skills from working on a prop desk.

“When you are prop trading you only have one client: your boss at the bank. That is very different to running a hedge fund where investors will scrutinise everything you do,” says Troy Gayeski, partner and senior portfolio manager at SkyBridge Capital, a $10.5bn fund of hedge funds investor.

“When you add in regulatory and compliance, and the need to raise money, it is a daunting task.”

Mr Howard’s KKR hedge fund was the latest in a string of post-crisis hedge fund ventures by esteemed former Goldman traders to have closed.

Edoma Partners, which was founded in 2010 by Pierre-Henri Flamand, a former co-head of Goldman’s prop desk, closed just two years after raising $2bn in one of the most hyped hedge fund launches to date. Mr Flamand, who lost his investors 7 per cent of their capital, cited “unprecedented market conditions” as a reason for the closure.

Four months later Benros, a fund in London co-founded by Daniele Benatoff and Ariel Roskis, both ex-Goldman prop traders, closed after its largest investor pulled out its money.

According to hedge fund investors, one potential disadvantage for former prop traders who go it alone is the absence of the same quality of information as when they were working in large banks. Although so-called Chinese walls are in place to stop a bank trader receiving non-public information, more general information relating to trading flows can give them a good idea of the direction of markets.

“We always ask them if they will be as ‘in the flow’ as they used to be when running proprietary capital,” says Alper Ince, managing director at Paamco, a California fund of hedge funds that selects emerging managers.

Similarly, when they were bank prop traders they were allowed to run books with high leverage multiples – which means small profits or losses were vastly amplified – but few investors in hedge funds will permit their managers to borrow at a similar level.

According to a veteran hedge fund manager in London who has never worked on a bank prop desk, this difference means traders may be unable to make the same returns once they are on their own.

However, most investors agree that the struggles of prop traders who set up hedge funds simply reflect a brutally competitive industry where any mistake is quickly made public and few stay in business long. “Whether a new hedge fund will work well is idiosyncratic to each manager,” says Mr Ince. “There are many examples of very successful prop desk spin-offs which have strong track records.”

Not all of Goldman’s post-Volcker generation of former prop traders have failed at launching hedge funds.

Morgan Sze, another former co-head of the principal strategies group, raised $1bn in the launch of his Azentus fund in Hong Kong in 2011 and has increased its assets since.

Yet investors argue that the main difference that has worked against the last generation of graduates of Goldman’s famous prop desk is a perception that they may have launched hedge funds out of necessity as much as desire.

Mr Gayeski, of SkyBridge, says: “What else are they going to do? What are their options? Stay in a dying business or set up on their own.”

金融危机“灭绝”了一大批华尔街的金融人才,但最有代表性的莫过于高盛(Goldman Sachs)的自营交易员

虽然金融机构聘请交易员、利用机构本身的资本在市场上押注的情况不在少数,但高盛的自营交易员凭借着为公司和自己大笔挣钱的能力,赢得了近乎神话般的地位。

高盛交易员看上去颇为符合对当今金融人士的典型描述——“宇宙主宰者”。他们因为赚取数十亿美元利润被银行同事所景仰,而他们的高额报酬和与银行普通客户产生利益冲突的可能性,则招致了外界怀疑的目光。

但危机过后,美国实施“沃尔克规则”(Volcker rule),事实上禁止了银行利用自有资本投机,狂欢走到了尽头。大量的自营交易员——通常很年轻,主要是男性——被扫地出门。

道理上,他们职业生涯的下一步是成立自己的对冲基金,继续进行交易。在传奇人物的帮助下,许多收入在高盛名列前茅的前自营交易员从投资者手中募得数十亿美元的资本,后者相信他们能复制在高盛的成功。

但几年后,高盛自营交易部门(内部称为“Principal Strategies”部门)前员工成立的几家知名对冲基金却遭遇挫折。

上周,私人股本集团KKR关闭了旗下规模5.1亿美元的对冲基金。2010年,高盛美国股票和信贷自营交易部门前主管鲍勃?霍华德(Bob Howard)受聘加入,与一群高盛前交易员一同经营这只基金。

行业观察人士疑惑,既然交易员在高盛时能够获得稳定回报,为何经营不好自己成立的对冲基金?

银行交易员自立门户改当基金经理的传统早已有之,但对冲基金投资者敏锐地指出,经营投资业务与从事银行自营交易所要求的技能截然不同。

“自营交易只有一个客户:银行上司。这与经营对冲基金不同,投资者会检视你的一举一动,”SkyBridge Capital合伙人兼高级投资组合经理特罗伊?加耶斯基(Troy Gayeski)表示。SkyBridge Capital是一家拥有105亿美元资产、投资于对冲基金的基金。

“再考虑到监管和合规因素,以及募资的需要,经营对冲基金的难度令人生畏。”

备受景仰的高盛前交易员在金融危机后纷纷创立对冲基金,但一些基金接连关闭,KKR旗下由霍华德经营的基金便是最新一例。

曾任高盛自营交易部门联席主管的皮埃尔-亨利?弗拉蒙(Pierre-Henri Flamand)于2010年成立了Edoma Partners,募资20亿美元,声势之浩大迄今罕见,但仅仅两年后就关闭。弗拉蒙亏损掉投资者7%的资本,称关闭原因是“前所未有的市场状况”。

四个月之后,高盛前自营交易员达尼埃莱?贝纳托夫(Daniele Benatoff)和阿里埃尔?罗斯基斯(Ariel Roskis)在伦敦创立的Benros基金关闭,之前该基金最大的投资者撤资。

对冲基金投资者表示,前自营交易员“单干”可能有一点劣势:比起在大银行工作,单干难以获得同样质量的信息。虽然银行会设置所谓的“长城”,阻止交易员获得非公开信息,但他们可以获得更多关于交易流的一般性信息,这可以让他们有效了解市场动向。

“我们常常问他们是否能像经营自营业务那样‘身处流动的信息之中’,”Paamco执行董事阿尔珀?因斯(Alper Ince)表示。Paamco是加利福尼亚州一家投资对冲基金的基金,挑选新兴基金进行投资。

同样,自营交易员可以运用高倍数杠杆进行交易——这意味着小笔盈亏会被显著放大——但很少有对冲基金投资者会允许基金经理借入相同水平的资金。

伦敦一位从未在银行自营交易部门工作过的资深对冲基金经理表示,这种差异意味着交易员可能难以在单干之后获得相同的回报率。

但多数投资者认同,自营交易员创立对冲基金后的艰难,只是行业竞争残酷的体现——任何一个错误都会很快公之于众,经营长久者寥寥无几。“一只新的对冲基金能否获得优秀业绩,要看各个经理的本事,”因斯表示,“自营交易员离职创办对冲基金取得成功、业绩出色的例子不在少数。”

高盛前交易员在沃尔克规则实施后成立对冲基金,并非都以失败告终。

同样曾任高盛Principal Strategies部门联席主管的施家文(Morgan Sze) 2011年在香港成立了Azentus基金,募得10亿美元,之后基金资产还在增加。

但投资者指出,最新一批离开高盛著名自营交易部门的员工受到一项不利因素的制约:他们成立对冲基金不仅是出于理想,也是因为形势所迫。

SkyBridge的加耶斯基表示:“他们还能去干什么?他们有什么选择?要么留在一个濒死的行业,要么自立门户。”

译者/徐天辰

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