Sarah Berner
Aristeia Capital

A career in hedge funds wasn’t part of Sarah Berner’s postcollege plan. In fact, there was very little plan at all. After graduating in 2002 with a BA in political science from McGill University in Montreal, Berner, who grew up near Philadelphia, took a gap year in Paris. With no firm path in mind, she started working for a Belgium-based business publisher that creates media products to sell in emerging-markets countries. Part marketer, part journalist, Berner soon found herself developing an expertise, clients and contacts in Middle Eastern markets.

The years after 9/11 were dramatic and exciting times to be working in the region. Keen to become a foreign correspondent, Berner was working for Nima Abu-Wardeh, a British Broadcasting Corp. business newscaster based in the United Arab Emirates, in 2006 when her parents asked her to come back to the U.S. because they were increasingly concerned about instability in the Middle East. Berner already knew that her sales skills and her contacts in the Arab world could be an asset for a hedge fund. The asset management industry was starting to recognize the value of sovereign wealth funds, common throughout the oil-rich region, and of Middle Eastern investors as clients. On trips home Berner had begun talking with investment managers; she soon landed a business development job with New York–headquartered hedge fund firm AM Investment Partners. In 2012 she joined Aristeia Capital, a $2.5 billion credit-focused hedge fund firm based in New York and Greenwich, Connecticut, where last year she was promoted to head of business development.

Berner, 35, has long been interested in the good that capitalism and investors can do. One thing that attracted her to the hedge fund industry was reading about the Robin Hood Foundation, the not-for-profit founded by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones that tackles poverty in New York City. In January, Berner joined the board of Gratitude Railroad, a new investor network focused on using the tools of capitalism to confront social and environmental problems.

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