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Our 2014 Hedge Fund Rising Stars Prove the Value of Hard Work

The hedge fund industry shows an egalitarian streak by rewarding talented professionals from modest backgrounds.

Jack Yuen’s father gave up a career as a cargo ship captain and moved his family from Hong Kong to Long Island, New York, in 1991 to start a new life. Yuen received an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, entering the hedge fund industry as a junior analyst with Citigroup’s fund-of-funds business. Maria Vassalou’s family were small-business owners in Greece; she earned a Ph.D. in economics from London Business School and spent more than a decade in academia before becoming a hedge fund manager at Soros Fund Management. Today Vassalou runs a global macro fund for Perella Weinberg Partners in New York. Gray Smith grew up near Atlanta; his father worked in home construction, and his mother was an artist. There wasn’t much talk of money management around the kitchen table, but today the Harvard University economics graduate is a portfolio manager for New York–based Caxton Associates, one of the world’s top hedge funds.

No one would accuse the hedge fund industry of being diverse. But judging from the variety of stories behind Institutional Investor’s 2014 Hedge Fund Rising Stars, it’s been remarkably egalitarian in giving people that first lucky break. Besides hard work, the one prerequisite is a good education. Many of the Rising Stars attended top-tier institutions such as Harvard, Wharton and Stanford University; most of them have an MBA.

Hedge Fund Rising Stars

For our fifth annual list, we’ve identified 30 of the brightest up-and-coming professionals in hedge funds, with help from readers and industry participants. It includes men and women launching their own funds, top talent at existing money management firms and hedge fund investors, as well as managers. From George Soros to Alfred Winslow Jones, the first modern hedge fund manager, many of the best investors have been outsiders. This year’s Rising Stars are helping to keep that tradition alive. They dare to think differently — Eli Combs, for example, is setting new standards for corporate governance at his Greenwich, Connecticut–based hedge fund firm, MeehanCombs.

Given the demise of Lehman Brothers Holdings and other institutions that gave many on this list their starts, and the rising cost of a college education, hedge funds will probably become more homogeneous and elitist. The industry should remember that it flourishes by rewarding independence.

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