69 episodes

The Alpha Exchange is a podcast series launched by Dean Curnutt to explore topics in financial markets, risk management and capital allocation in the alternatives industry. Our in depth discussions with highly established industry professionals seek to uncover the nuanced and complex interactions between economic, monetary, financial, regulatory and geopolitical sources of risk. We aim to learn from the perspective our guests can bring with respect to the history of financial and business cycles, promoting a better understanding among listeners as to how prior periods provide important context to present day dynamics. The “price of risk” is an important topic. Here we engage experts in their assessment of risk premium levels in the context of uncertainty. Is the level of compensation attractive? Because Central Banks have played so important a role in markets post crisis, our discussions sometimes aim to better understand the evolution of monetary policy and the degree to which the real and financial economy will be impacted. An especially important area of focus is on derivative products and how they interact with risk taking and carry dynamics. Our conversations seek to enlighten listeners, for example, as to the factors that promoted the February melt-down of the VIX complex. We do NOT ask our guests for their political opinions. We seek a better understanding of the market impact of regulatory change, election outcomes and events of geopolitical consequence. Our discussions cover markets from a macro perspective with an assessment of risk and opportunity across asset classes. Within equity markets, we may explore the relative attractiveness of sectors but will NOT discuss single stocks.

Alpha Exchange Dean Curnutt

    • Business

The Alpha Exchange is a podcast series launched by Dean Curnutt to explore topics in financial markets, risk management and capital allocation in the alternatives industry. Our in depth discussions with highly established industry professionals seek to uncover the nuanced and complex interactions between economic, monetary, financial, regulatory and geopolitical sources of risk. We aim to learn from the perspective our guests can bring with respect to the history of financial and business cycles, promoting a better understanding among listeners as to how prior periods provide important context to present day dynamics. The “price of risk” is an important topic. Here we engage experts in their assessment of risk premium levels in the context of uncertainty. Is the level of compensation attractive? Because Central Banks have played so important a role in markets post crisis, our discussions sometimes aim to better understand the evolution of monetary policy and the degree to which the real and financial economy will be impacted. An especially important area of focus is on derivative products and how they interact with risk taking and carry dynamics. Our conversations seek to enlighten listeners, for example, as to the factors that promoted the February melt-down of the VIX complex. We do NOT ask our guests for their political opinions. We seek a better understanding of the market impact of regulatory change, election outcomes and events of geopolitical consequence. Our discussions cover markets from a macro perspective with an assessment of risk and opportunity across asset classes. Within equity markets, we may explore the relative attractiveness of sectors but will NOT discuss single stocks.

    Simon Ho, Founder and CEO, T3 Index

    Simon Ho, Founder and CEO, T3 Index

    With many years experience trading and risk managing derivative exposures, Simon Ho is now the founder and CEO of T3 Index, a financial research and technology firm doing some interesting work in the arena of complex index and product construction. An avid user of VIX products during his time on the buy-side, Simon loved everything about the CBOE suite of vol products but the cost to use them. He set out to create a similar, but more economical product that could compete for the growing user base of investors who sought direct exposure to volatility. With this, SPIKES was born and so too began the journey for Simon and his team to bring a new volatility option and futures product to the market. Next, we explore the newest creation from T3, the BitVol index. Recognizing the interest from investors in trading volatility directly, Simon sees promise in an index that gives end users direct access to implied volatility in Bitcoin. While exploring this, we discuss the characteristics of vol surfaces for assets like Bitcoin, drawing similarity to gold and volatility itself. Lastly, Simon is excited about T3’s work on interest rate volatility, having developed an index he hopes will become a leading instrument to manage risk in this important asset class. I hope you enjoy this episode of the Alpha Exchange, my conversation with Simon Ho.

    • 49 min
    Colin Lancaster, Global Head of Macro, Schonfeld Strategic Advisors

    Colin Lancaster, Global Head of Macro, Schonfeld Strategic Advisors

    Now the Global Head of Macro at Schonfeld Strategic Advisors, Colin Lancaster has always found top-down investing a fascinating discipline. Trained as a lawyer but finding his way to the buy-side in the 1990’s, Colin has spent the last 25 years in markets, allocating capital and building teams focused on macro. Over his long career, he’s traded through his share of vol events, each a challenging experience but also formative from a risk philosophy standpoint. Our conversation is a retrospective on the nature of risks that investors are forced to confront, how discontinuities in asset prices materialize and that ever elusive search for the positive carry hedge. Exploring seismic episodes of risk-off, we also spend time on the need to anticipate the inevitable and typically overwhelming response from the Central Bank and how, post both the GFC and now Pandemic, the Fed’s interventions have increasingly crowded out the integrity of market price signals. Lastly, we spend time on Colin’s fast paced and insightful book, “FED UP!”, a project he undertook in 2020. In it, Colin brings to life the frenetic, all-consuming world of global macro investing in which an unwelcome portfolio move is always a bad tweet away and decisions must be made quickly and based on a vastly incomplete information set. Weaved into “FED UP!” is a statement of concern about the widening gap of wealth inequality in the US. In a world in which asset prices are increasingly the outcome of Central Banks who mean well but whose actions vastly benefit some versus others, a certain rethink may be in order. I hope you enjoy this episode of the Alpha Exchange, my conversation with Colin Lancaster.
    DISCLAIMER: This e-mail and any attachments are for the confidential use of the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient of this message you are hereby notified that any review, dissemination, distribution or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. This communication is for information purposes only and should not be regarded as an offer to sell or as a solicitation of an offer to buy any investment product, an official confirmation of any transaction or an official statement of Macro Risk Advisors, LLC. E-mail transmissions cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free. Therefore, we do not represent that this information is complete or accurate and it should not be relied upon as such. All information is subject to change without notice.Macro Risk Advisors may, at its discretion, monitor and review the content of all e-mail communications.

    • 46 min
    Paul Kim, Co-Founder and CEO, Simplify Asset Management

    Paul Kim, Co-Founder and CEO, Simplify Asset Management

    From a young age and learning from his humble and hardworking parents who immigrated from South Korea, Paul Kim developed an appreciation for the value of capitalism and the pursuit of the American dream. Finding his way into the investment industry first in an investment banking seat at Lazard where he learned by fire, Paul would ultimately spend time at PIMCO and then at Principal Global Investors where he launched and built the firm’s ETF business. More recently, Paul co-founded Simplify Asset Management, a firm committed to delivering innovative products in the exchange traded landscape. Our conversation is focused on how derivatives can be used within an ETF to augment the purely linear exposures provided by traditional instruments like the SPY. By overlaying a put option, for instance, an investor can protect against extreme downside risk in equities like that which materialized in March of 2020. We discuss as well important and exciting new developments in the ETF industry, one of which allows for the utilization of OTC derivatives. In this context, Simplify has created a ground-breaking product that seeks to hedge interest rate risk for end users, work developed by derivatives pioneer Harley Bassman. In an environment in which fiscal and monetary policy are acting powerfully in tandem, such a product can easily prove critical to defending the potential inflation that may already be surfacing. Lastly, Paul and I touch on the fast moving world of cryptocurrencies and how his firm is thinking about giving investors access to this new asset class and the potentially diversifying role it may serve in a portfolio. I hope you enjoy this episode of the Alpha Exchange, my conversation with Paul Kim.

    • 53 min
    Samara Cohen, Managing Director and Co-Head of EII Markets and Investments, BlackRock

    Samara Cohen, Managing Director and Co-Head of EII Markets and Investments, BlackRock

    In the investment world, few if any products have experienced as much growth as the exchange traded fund. And within the ETF business, no firm is as large and as important as BlackRock. In this context, it was great to welcome Samara Cohen, Managing Director and Co-Head of EII Markets and Investments at BlackRock to the Alpha Exchange. Through our discussion, we learn of Samara’s start in the industry as employee 134 at BlackRock before attending business school and then spending 16 years in fixed income at Goldman Sachs. Here she developed a keen understanding of bond market plumbing and the implications of post GFC regulatory reforms for the design of future products.

    This focus on bond market structure strategy paved the way for her return to BlackRock in 2015. Samara shares with us some of the key milestones in the ETF business, including the electronification of bond market trading that came from the first fixed income ETF in 2002. Important as well for the ETF industry has been has been episodes of significant volatility during which investor demand for liquid and transparent macro assets surged. Our conversation next considers the business coordination required among Samara’s team members to support the roughly 800 ETFs offered by BlackRock. Central to running a business at such scale has been substantial investment in technology and automation and these proved especially critical during the market crisis of 2020. It was during this incredible surge in volatility – both in the stock market and bond market – that investors utilized ETFs for price discovery and risk transfer in tremendous size.

    Lastly, we spend time on the people aspect of the business, a topic on which Samara is particularly passionate. She is proud that her team of investment managers within the engine is mostly women and plays an active role in the discussion among leadership around BlackRock’s commitment to a broadening the racial and ethnic make-up of the firm. In addition to being strongly motivated by efforts to increase inclusion, Samara looks forward and is genuinely excited about the prospect of bringing hundreds of millions more people into the markets and investing.  I hope you enjoy this episode of the Alpha Exchange, my discussion with Samara Cohen.

    • 55 min
    Robert Bogucki, Co-Head of Global Trading and Head of Derivatives Trading, Galaxy Digital Holdings

    Robert Bogucki, Co-Head of Global Trading and Head of Derivatives Trading, Galaxy Digital Holdings

    If “theta is the rent on gamma,” for Robert Bogucki, trading options from the long side has always been worth the inevitable pain from carrying positions during benign periods in markets. Trained in mechanical and aerospace engineering, Rob made his way to Goldman Sachs at a time when the Street was just starting to take on individuals with math and physics background. Starting on the currency options desk at Goldman, Rob would spend time at Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch before ultimately leading the global macro trading desk at Barclays, running a large customer and proprietary FX options book. Musing that a “bachelor’s degree in crowd psychology is worth more than a PhD in economics”, Rob stresses that modeling architecture like Black Scholes is important as a starting point for valuation, but we need to appreciate the limitations of models.



    We review a few fascinating risk events in FX derivatives that Rob traded through. Remembering how disrespected risk premium was in the early summer of 2007, for example, Rob bought vol on the Brazil Yen cross, a pair in which hedge funds had piled into in order to earn the sizable interest rate differential. While difficult to carry, the market ruptures that materialized late summer as the Quant Quake went into full sway made this trade highly profitable.  We speak as well about taking in as many data points across the asset classes for clues as to what might sponsor the next risk event, a strategy Rob executed by roaming on different floors to get a feel for what colleagues were up to.



    Today, Rob is co-head of global trading and head of derivatives trading at Galaxy Digital, a firm focused on various businesses in the crypto landscape. In his role of pricing options on digital assets such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, Rob has plenty to say about these interesting vol surfaces and the interaction of various actors who are net sellers or net buyers of volatility. In his view, derivatives market liquidity is steadily increasing and a virtuous cycle is in place. These products will become more important as the extraordinary thrust of Central Bank actions are creating a broad rethink of the fiat monetary system.  I really enjoyed this episode of the Alpha Exchange and hope you do as well.

    • 56 min
    Andrew Scott, Partner, Head of Client Solutions Bach Option Ltd.

    Andrew Scott, Partner, Head of Client Solutions Bach Option Ltd.

    After a 6 week hiatus during which I was recovering from a serious jet ski accident, I am excited to bring you a fresh episode of the Alpha Exchange. And it was wonderful to spend time with Andrew Scott, a Partner and Head of Client Solutions at Bach Option. Our conversation is an exploration into the complex factors that drive the clearing price for volatility in equity markets. In this context, we spend no time on the economic cycle or corporate profits or the latest missive from the Fed. Instead, Andrew explains how the vast industry of Asian structured products leaves banks with complex exposures to optionality, correlation and dividends. These trades, designed to create income in countries like South Korean that have seen interest rates in secular decline, leave banks with substantial long vol positions.



    Through our conversation, we learn of the concept of “peak vega”, an industry estimate for the level of the underlying index where bank’s are most long vega. Andrew also lays out in great detail the risk recycling that has long operated alongside the structured products universe. Here, depressed levels of index vol and skew in Asia encouraged hedge funds and asset managers to implement volatility relative value trades versus the S&P 500. Lastly, we touch on Andrew’s new position at Bach Option, joining founder Miao-Dan Wu in building out a firm dedicated to understanding and trading volatility at a time of great change in markets and plenty of catalysts for the next volatility event. I hope you enjoy my discussion with Andrew Scott.

    DISCLAIMER: This e-mail and any attachments are for the confidential use of the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient of this message you are hereby notified that any review, dissemination, distribution or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. This communication is for information purposes only and should not be regarded as an offer to sell or as a solicitation of an offer to buy any investment product, an official confirmation of any transaction or an official statement of Macro Risk Advisors, LLC. E-mail transmissions cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free. Therefore, we do not represent that this information is complete or accurate and it should not be relied upon as such. All information is subject to change without notice.Macro Risk Advisors may, at its discretion, monitor and review the content of all e-mail communications.

    • 50 min

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