In the world of ‘juniorisation’ of the trading floor, it’s the under-30s in investment banks who hold all the power. But what if, despite all the rapid promotions and increased responsibility, they decide to leave anyway?
So it is with Jonathan Birnbaum at Morgan Stanley. Birnbaum was named last year in Forbes’ 30 under 30 in finance. At 29, he was COO of the its U.S. credit trading group, leading a team of 100 people across investment grade, high yield and distressed debt trading, despite only holding a VP level position.
Birnbaum has just started a new real estate focused fintech firm called Vistia, which allows homeowners to access future equity in their property today by receiving cash in exchange for sharing any future appreciation in its value. He teamed up with Steven Coulis, who was formerly an emerging markets trader at Pharo Management.
Birnhaum was the epitome of the tech-savvy traders that investment banks are trying to keep hold of. He not only worked as an emerging markets fixed income trader, but also grew the banks’ electronic trading business by working on IT projects to improve its platform and workflow.
When he moved across to his COO role, he led a project to use flow data to algorithmically match bond sellers and buyers in real-time. A degree in computer science from MIT – in addition to a management degree with a finance focus – will have almost certainly have given him an edge over less tech-savvy traders.
However, last year he also completed an MBA from Columbia Business School, which involved Friday and Saturday study. This clearly gave him the necessary skills to launch his own business.
Birnhaum was named by Forbes alongside some other fast-tracked young traders like Darren Dixon, the 29-year-old Goldman Sachs managing director who focused on Latin America credit trading. Other Goldman traders to move up the ranks quickly include Dan Avery, a 28-year-old index trader and Sam Berberian, a high yield credit trader, both of whom were promoted to managing director last year.
Goldman Sachs is promoting more Millennials up the ranks faster than ever. In a recent LinkedIn post, its global head of human capital, Edith Cooper, said “our workforce is nearly 70% millennial—even our latest partner class is composed of 11% millennials, and of course, that number will only increase as the years go by.” In other words, it probably helps to have an exit plan even if you’re a hot young thing.
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