By: Jerry Efremides
My father emigrated to the United States in 1955 with the goal of making enough money to return overseas and finish law school. Months turned to years though and eventually his dream of getting a law degree faded away. He worked hard in the restaurant business for nearly a decade; a far cry from his professional dreams and aspirations. One day, a frequent patron passionate about the markets convinced my father to take classes at the New York Institute of Finance, and apply for jobs at the major investment banks. It wasn’t long before he was hired at Merrill Lynch, where he had a fulfilling career, and was able to live the American dream. So, naturally, the idea of Wall Street represented a very romantic ideal for me growing up.
Like many first-generation children of immigrants, I grew up in a home where many family conversations involved a longing for a return to the motherland, and at the ripe age of six, my parents finally realized their dream of returning home, and we flew off to begin a new life in Greece.
Learning to speak a new language was hard, but having to spell in it was a whole different ball game. My anchor to retaining a semblance of sanity throughout this alphabetic upending was arithmetic; the addition and subtraction signs were the same on both sides of the pond, and the numbers all looked the same. I found comfort in that, and with the introduction of the clean, structured, problem-solving world of Algebra, I fell in love with mathematics.
My passion for problem-solving carried into college where I majored in finance and started a minor in mathematics. A career in finance seemed the most natural choice at the turn of the century as an unprecedented era of technological innovation had ushered in the greatest bull market in American history. Economics professors spoke about “The new economy” with wide-eyed excitement, while IPOs birthed on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq doubled on their first opening ticks. I readied myself for the promise of a successful career just in time for a most extreme reality check.
I remember the date explicitly — April 14th, 2000. Wet behind the ears, just barely having been in the business a few months, I watched the brokers on my floor stare at their screens in disbelief. The Nasdaq composite had capped off an unprecedented week — its worst ever — falling 25% by that Friday. As it seems to every ten years or so, the bear had come out of its hibernation in a bloody rage to paint the streets of downtown New York red.
Six years later I found myself on the credit derivatives desk at Merrill Lynch, the firm I grew up revering. My data skills had just started to bloom, having then cut my teeth on Microsoft Excel for a few years. I quoted prices on illiquid instruments and crossed bonds for institutional clients and private bankers. However, the bear had emerged from hibernation once again, laying waste to another infamous economic colloquialism: “this time is different.”
In a country economically shattered, I decided to take my destiny into my own hands and became an equities trader. A job that offered independence and constant cerebral stimulation for a student of the markets. A job where “you’re only as good as your last trade” sparked a fire to be good all the time, and better the next.
Data had now become the front and center of my livelihood. My first foray into trading was building a grey box strategy based on a combination of analyst recommendations, fundamental, and technical data. Finding, cleaning, and readying data for analysis became an intense passion. Corporate actions became the cornerstone of my trading strategy, and eventually, primary and secondary stock issuance became my niche focus.
Dynamics were changing in the trading world though. Quant traders and algorithmic trading began to dominate the headlines and action. Volumes started to matter more than relationships. Spreads narrowed and spoofed bid/offers came and went at the speed of light. After a flash crash, another debt crisis in Europe, and subsequent spikes in volatility, I realized it was time for a career pivot. Leaving the buy-side for an investment banking startup focused on emerging technologies was an exciting opportunity. Data technology was exploding, and as the Emergents data lead, I decided to further my skills by studying data science at General Assembly.
I now work with like-minded individuals that stay abreast of the latest technological innovations and look at the world in a unique way. I raise private capital for emerging technology issuers and help the world’s boldest entrepreneurs and brightest minds take their innovations from mere ideas to actual reality. More importantly, though, I work with a team that is governed by a strong moral code; a code that stretches well beyond fear and greed.