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February 18, 2010

Home Is Where ...

By Michael Scotti

Madison, Wis., has its benefits, says David Meyer, the head trader at the State of Wisconsin Investment Board. Meyer, a 14-year trading veteran, joined SWIB in July--after an interesting career path that has taken him from Austin, Texas, to Baltimore, to Denver, to New York, to Chicago.

David Meyer

"I never expected to move so much, but the volatility of the business was more than I expected," said the former bank consultant, who joined the Teachers Retirement System of Texas as a trader in 1996. Now he's back working for a state pension fund, which he describes as "the perfect fit."

After three years at hedge fund Magnetar Capital, near Chicago, Meyer won last year's bake-off for the open head trading position at SWIB. He replaced Valata Butler, who retired. Meyer is hopeful that he's finally found a place he and his family can call home--his wife, Heather, is a Madison native and is in research sales at KeyBanc Capital Markets.

"The position allows me to be close to family and to continue to work on Wall Street" without the grind associated with a big city, Meyer says. And work he has, primarily in the area of connectivity. The SWIB desk has just settled on adding two new execution management systems. The winners? ITG and Goldman Sachs. The systems should be installed by midyear, he adds.

Besides the addition of the EMSs, Meyer has been busy setting up a global trading desk. That is in response to SWIB's new investment strategy, which now takes more of a global perspective. As of this year, the pension fund's new benchmark is MSCI Global. As a result, the roughly eight sector funds now have international exposure. That has forced both portfolio managers and traders to expand their investment and trading horizons.

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That also means that traders Nancy McCartan and Kathy Sanford are "always on call." The good news is that they have new technology that allows them to trade from home in those off hours, when the U.S. markets are asleep. That initiative also began this year, and has been well received by the traders, Meyer says.

He has also found that his earlier work as a consultant "doing flowcharts for planning and development" has helped him in his current role. "I think that's good background for a head trader," he adds. Meyer's group trades for the active managers, who comprise about $7 billion of the roughly $15 billion that is internally managed (about $8 billion is indexed). Outside managers oversee the balance of the $30 billion in total equities at SWIB.

Even though the investment mantra at SWIB is to think globally, it is understandable if one 42-year-old trader is just as happy to think locally when it comes to putting down roots and raising a family. Meyer and his wife have a new four-month-old addition named Lauren. "It's going great," he says about the move. "This was a very attractive position and where I want to be long-term."

 

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