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Top Female Trend Follower: Leda Braga of BlueCrest

A fund manager (and client) writes me from Brazil:

Hi Michael. you ever heard about Leda Braga? She is a Brazilian trend follower with more than $1B USD in assets. She runs BlueCrest and Man has been allocating in her fund for a long time now. Interesting that she is a women, Brazilian, a trend follower and few people know her.

Very quiet firm…more:

Braga, whose $8 billion Blue­Trend Fund is a momentum-based, trend-­following fund, stands alone as the world’s top female portfolio manager in terms of assets under management. Although she prefers to fly under the radar, fellow hedge-fund mana­gers swoon over her knowledge of FX/interest-rate hybrids, equity derivatives and interest-rate exotics, offering praise composed of equal parts shock and awe. As one multibillion-dollar hedgie puts it: “I met her at a Tokyo conference, and if there were ever a quant strategy I would invest in, it’s hers. She’s constantly stressing the need to upgrade and refine trading systems, that you can’t just walk away and expect them to perform with markets shifting so quickly. She’s a dynamo.” Braga heads BlueTrend’s quant strategies. She’s also the president of BlueCrest Capital.

Braga, 42, attended Imperial College in the U.K., where she earned a Ph.D. in engineering and worked for three years after graduation as a lecturer and a research-project manager. She is reportedly the largest staff equity holder in parent company BlueCrest, after legendary cofounders Bill Reeves and Michael Platt. Chances are this might have something to do with the massive returns she has bagged since her fund’s inception in 2004, not to mention her flawless handling of the subprime crisis, which has flummoxed many of her competitors. “Last year, the BlueTrend fund returned approximately 28 percent, net of fees, and this year it was up about 13 percent on the same basis by the end of July,” notes BlueCrest CFO Andrew Dodd.

A former JPMorgan colleague of Reeves and Platt, who quit their jobs as proprietary traders in 2000 to found BlueCrest, ­Braga worked for nearly seven years as a vice president and quant analyst on the bank’s London derivatives-research team before joining the spin-off and derivatives risk-management firm Cygnifi Derivatives Services in 2000. BlueCrest snared her in October 2001, deciding its successful maiden voyage into fixed-income and currency markets should be encored with some black-box strategies. Braga’s fund launched in 2002. A year later, Man Group snapped up a minority stake in BlueCrest, and the rest is trading history.

Despite all the fanfare, Braga is strikingly modest. Attempting to reach her, Trader Monthly ­received an e-mail in which she beseeched her assistant to ward us off. “Aaaarghhh!” she lamen­ted. “Only the misinformed can possibly be interested in me.” Genius, it seems, doesn’t always take to the spotlight.


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