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November 17, 2011

Act II

By Gregory Bresiger

Jennifer Setzenfand, a senior equity trader at Federated Investments, is a second-generation trader. Her father, Dennis Green, spent 38 years in the Nasdaq/OTC world, running desks in Cleveland, Chicago and Baltimore.

Jennifer Setzenfand

The father-daughter act also shares one other career similarity: Setzenfand is slated to be the next chairman of the Security Traders Association. Her father held that distinction in 1990.
"When she was growing up, I had no idea she was going to get into trading," said Green, the former STA chairman, now retired in Fort Myers, Fla. Setzenfand says trading wasn't exactly the focus of their discussions when she was growing up.

However, maybe he influenced her in ways she didn't realize. An initial interest in photography at college soon gave way to an affinity for economics and business. Setzenfand graduated in 1995 with a degree in finance from Ohio University.

After an internship as a runner on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Setzenfand confided to her father that she was interested in trading and wanted to take the next step. She decided to look for a job in trading after graduation.

Even today, that fascination for trading early on still holds true. "I love the excitement of trading," she said. "There are so many different challenges." Indeed, one of those challenges has been keeping ahead of the curve of change, as her career has spanned the end of the high-touch era to today's low-touch electronic trading environment.

Setzenfand's first job out of college was at Nasdaq market maker Mayer & Schweitzer in Chicago. There, she worked as a desk assistant for veteran trader Tom DeCarlo. She would learn trading from the ground up-most importantly, the meaning of the bid-ask spread. Her mentor Allison Stifel showed her the ropes. And when Stifel went out on maternity leave, Setzenfand took over her pad. "I traded all her stocks, although it was a narrow list. I learned a lot," said Setzenfand, who learned not only the meaning of bids and offers, but also profit and loss.

Setzenfand has heeded her father's advice throughout her career, and one particular bit of counsel helped bring her to Federated Investors. "My dad told me that I should look to go to the buyside," she explained, because it would allow her to trade more instruments.

She continues to seek his insights after the day is done and will sometimes look back with him on how she handled difficult trades. "It's nice to be able to call someone who understands the language of trading," she said.

Besides equities, Setzenfand now trades structured notes, convertibles, options and futures. She finds that diversity stimulating. "Coming to work is always interesting," she said.

Adaptability is what makes a good trader, she points out, and knowing when to use an electronic tool or human intervention can be crucial. "Sometimes you just have to pick up that phone and learn more about the person, because the relationship can make the difference in a successful trade," she said. "You need to know your partners."

After nearly 15 years at Federated, Setzenfand has seen the firm grow. Today, it has about 134 funds with $340 billion in assets. And Setzenfand has seen her family grow along with it: She and her husband live in a Pittsburgh suburb with their two daughters.

 

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