A new financial elite is emerging on Wall Street. And if you're not part of it, the next best thing is to sell to it.
Jens Nordvig, one of the hottest prognosticators in finance, will sell anyone his secret sauce for winning trades for $30,000 a year.
But if you want unfettered access to his best ideas and personal touch—the kind that the deep-pocketed hedge funds covet—be prepared to shell out about 20 times more.
That two-pronged approach to research, off-limits (at least officially) at Wall Street banks, captures one of the most striking shifts in finance today: the rise of a class system where entire businesses cater to only the highest-paying clients. Of course, haves and have-nots have long existed in the world of finance. But the widening gap within Wall Street itself, between what the privileged few and most others get, is creating a new financial elite—what amounts to the 1 percent of the 1 percent.
And if you’re not part of the 0.01 percent, the next best thing is to sell to it.
“Investors either get personalized advice from someone they really trust, or it’s the data tools, good robots—and the price of those two things are different,” the 42-year-old Dane explained from his WeWork office in Manhattan’s Flatiron district one recent afternoon.
For Nordvig, who left Nomura Holdings Inc. in January after five years as Wall Street’s top-ranked currency strategist, it meant leveraging that standing to build his firm, Exante Data, around a rarefied group of the brightest hedge-fund names— and the money they dole out.
Exante counts Key Square, founded by George Soros protege Scott Bessent, and Adam Levinson’s Graticule, a Singapore-based firm spun out of Fortress Investment Group, among its clients, according to conversations with investors and people familiar with the matter. Graticule didn’t reply to requests for comment.
Nordvig declined to identify specific firms, but says there are just “five to seven” large institutions, whose fees covered most of his startup costs. And by design, he isn’t accepting any new business. That’s because while Exante’s six employees are focused on its analytics rollout, Nordvig devotes the majority of his time advising his marquee customers.
He’s in touch with them on an almost daily basis and is just a phone call or instant message away—any time, 24/7. His research is tailor-made to suit each one’s needs and Nordvig says he’ll often spend hours at a time with a single firm debating macroeconomic policy and trade strategies.
In late July, Nordvig was up until midnight defending his high-stakes call to a hedge-fund client in Asia that the Bank of Japan would stand pat, rather than announce a new set of aggressive stimulus measures as everyone expected. (He dissuaded the firm from shorting the yen, which proved to be prescient as the Japanese currency surged following the non-event.)HT: I think Reformed Broker pointed it out first.
So far, his backers like what they see.
“Jens is one of the great thinkers in the market,” said Key Square’s Bessent, who oversaw Soros’ personal fortune before starting his own billion-dollar macro fund this year. “Part of what we did was we got him to control his number of clients. At banks, it’s mass production. It’s Target versus Hermès.”
Nordvig isn’t shy about what he brings to the table. Prior to his years at Nomura, he spent almost a decade at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where he rose to become co-head of global currency research and made his name with bold calls and savvy analysis. In between, he did a brief stint at Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates. And Nordvig brushes off the perception among both admirers and critics that he can, at times, be just a bit too brazen in promoting himself. To him, it’s just part of the cutthroat nature of finance.
“I have a track record of being quite detail-oriented, precise in my analysis and also able to develop new frameworks for thinking about things, and at the same time being quite pragmatic,” he said. “I’ve set up the advisory business so that the people I deal with are some of the biggest macro investors in the world, and I know their interests fit with how I think.”
Whatever the case, there is little doubt the appetite for bespoke research like Nordvig’s is growing. Banks are slashing costs, cutting jobs and abandoning their ambitions to be all things to all customers in the face of a slew of regulations over issues like selective access and excessive risk-taking. An industry-wide slump in revenue since the financial crisis has also prompted bank executives to rethink the value of the commission-based model, where investment research is offered for free in return for trade orders....MORE