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The 2016 Hedge Fund Rising Stars: Jonathan Levin
Portfolio manager Levin of Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers had planned to become a computer scientist before his brother turned him on to finance.
Jonathan Levin has had no shortage of mentors throughout his career. As a computer science major at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the early 2000s, Levin was set to follow the armies of programmers toward Silicon Valley until his older brother and fellow Hedge Fund Rising Star, Brandon, found work as a trader with investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co. The two started talking about finance, and Jonathan became so interested that he changed his major to economics.
After graduation Levin, 34, who grew up in Potomac, Maryland, as the son of a surgeon and the head of a high school English department, began training to be an accountant with professional services firm KPMG. But like many college graduates, he found accounting boring. With help from his brother, Levin started sitting in on the equity trading desks at several banks. Enjoying the energy of trading, he decided that this was what he wanted to do. In 2006, George Weiss Associates, now $6.4 billion Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers, hired Levin as a junior trader in New York.
On his first day he sat next to Jordi Visser, the firm’s president and CIO, and opposite chairman and CEO George Weiss. From Weiss and Visser he learned the arts of investing as well as trading, and how to view the world against a macroeconomic backdrop while also focusing on fundamentals and the markets. He had to be a quick study: Within a year, with the U.S. economy heading for turmoil, the senior trader on his team left. Levin managed on his own for four months, handling not only equities but Weiss’s largest options portfolio until a new trader arrived. A couple of years later, he was promoted to the team’s top job. In 2012 the firm let him spin out and gave him his own portfolio, on which he joins forces with a cyclicals analyst. The next year he made partner. Life in the hedge fund salt mines is no Silicon Valley, but Levin’s knowledge of computer programming has come in handy, especially during his early years at Weiss, when he built his own options risk management system.
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