Simon English: What next for the Wizard of Oz who might struggle to learn new tricks?
Friday 19 October 2012
Outlook Greg Coffey was the Wizard of Oz, a magician who had an extraordinary way with money, making astonishing amounts of it for clients and barely less amazing amounts for himself.
When City traders get jealous – which is often – it tends to be about people like Mr Coffey.
They wink and nudge and make remarks that are based on no evidence whatsoever. Can't be legit, they say, you can't buck the market so consistently...
He proved for a long time that you can with a style of trading it seems fair to call obsessive. His trading terminals would fly with him on holiday as he built a near-unmatched reputation in the hedge fund world.
In 2008, he was offered a £250m "golden handcuffs" deal to stay with GLG Partners — the sort of gesture he himself might have recognised as a clear top-of-the-market signal. He turned it down to join Louis Bacon at Moore Capital Management, but things quickly began to go wrong, or at least go not as well as they had before.
Now it turns out he has quit to spend – wait for it – "more time with his family". He has no plans to return to asset management, we read.
At the age of 41 and with $700m to play with, that's an alluring prospect for anyone.
But perhaps we can speculate – he did that for a living after all – that this may not be the whole story.
The rumour is that he fell out with management that had grown weary of his "my way or the highway" stance, especially given that returns were less than stellar and that investors were pulling money out by the ton.
I'm going to bet that after a couple of years smelling the roses, the lure of something he loves and at which he excelled for so long will be too strong to resist.
He'll return in an attempt to relive past glories to show everyone that he's still got it where it matters. There could even be talk of charity work, of making money for the greater good this time around.
The thing is, the trading game changes quickly. Trends shift. Strategies that worked for ages suddenly come unstuck. It's a young man's game, mostly.
Some say the world had already turned in ways that Mr Coffey was struggling to interpret. The rise and rise of high-frequency trading computers mean that it is almost impossible for a human to quickly move in and out of stocks in profitable ways – the easy money has gone.
Perhaps this really is the last we'll see of him. But some traders don't quit – they can't.
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