Brandon Levin
Jana Partners

Brandon Levin fell in love with trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The Potomac, Maryland, native started out as a premed student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, thinking he would follow in the footsteps of his dad, a thoracic and cardiac surgeon. But his heart wasn’t in it. So, having always been good at math, Levin switched his major to economics. His uncle, who headed the trading desk at investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, set him up with a summer internship at the NYSE. Levin, now 39, had found his calling.

In 1999 he joined the Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst training program in New York. Levin requested to go into, and was picked by, the equities business, which returned him to the NYSE’s trading floor for a year. He enjoyed his work so much that he even convinced his younger brother (and fellow Hedge Fund Rising Star), Jonathan, to go into the industry.

After four years in equity trading with Merrill Lynch, Levin was ready for a bigger challenge. Keen to be more than a sector-focused execution trader, he wanted to expand his range and contribute to a profit-and-loss bottom line. He found a job at Och-Ziff Capital Management, where as the hedge fund firm’s No. 2 trader in the U.S. he spanned every equities sector and learned the syndication business. When former SAC Capital Advisors star trader Matthew Grossman launched his own firm, Plural Investments, in 2008, he tapped Levin. Within a few months Levin was running the trading desk at Plural; he got his own tactical trading allocation and built up a syndication franchise.

In 2012, Levin moved to event-driven hedge fund firm JANA Partners, which manages approximately $10 billion, as head of trading and syndicate. Over the past four years at New York–based JANA, he has operationally restructured and greatly improved the efficiency of the trading desk.

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