These are not halcyon days for hedge funds, but as good
investors know, thats when the best opportunities come
along. London-based Squarepoint Capital, in a highly
anticipated launch, was spun out from Barclays at the end of
2014. Pierre-Adrien Nicolas, the firms CIO for Europe,
the Middle East and Africa, is still just 32, but he already
knows a thing or two about the fickleness of markets.
Nicolas grew up in Normandy, France, the son of a lawyer and
a speech therapist. He studied mathematics and physics,
receiving a masters degree in applied math from
Frances École Polytechnique before earning an MS
in financial engineering at Columbia University in New York.
Upon graduating from Columbia in 2007, he joined Lehman
Brothers Holdings as a proprietary trader. In hindsight, the
quants entry into finance could look like bad timing.
Nicolas had planned to join Lehman Brothers in New York, but he
was hired in London, where he became part of a quantitative
trading business started at the bank by Olivier Durantel and
Gregoire Schneider in 2000.
The year after Nicolas arrived at Lehman, bad bets on U.S.
subprime mortgages and a highly leveraged balance sheet forced
it to declare bankruptcy in September. When Barclays bought the
Wall Street firm out of Chapter 11, Nicolas and his colleagues
found themselves doing proprietary trading for the British
bank. Owing to regulatory changes in recent years, banks have
been dismantling their prop trading businesses, so it was
inevitable that nQuants, as the team was known, would have to
spin out of Barclays or otherwise be disbanded. In 2014 news
broke that nQuants was leaving. Nicolas was one of a team of
about 65 that departed to launch Squarepoint, which began
trading in early 2015.
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