Surviving Sandy: A Hedge Fund Perspective

Hurricane Sandy impacted everyone who found themselves in its destructive path last month. Young, old, rich poor, black, white, man and animal at the mercy of this terrible force of nature are still coping and rebuilding in the aftermath.

The superstorm that struck the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, and much of the eastern United States from Oct. 22 - 31 is responsible so far for 185 deaths, and an estimated $52 billion in damage that included flooding of homes and loss of electric power.

Those in the hedge fund industry, from fund managers to administrators, had to figure how to help their clients as well as keep their own businesses working during this difficult time.

Howard Eisen, managing director for the Conifer Group, a fund services firm with offices in New York and San Francisco, told eVestment|HFN earlier this week that it had a “business continuity plan” in place for operations on the East Coast days before the storm hit that region.

“We’re glad that we are a bi-coastal firm as our human and technological resources are both in New York and San Francisco,” Eisen said. “Although the equity markets didn’t open on Monday and Tuesday [last week], if they had, even if our traders couldn’t have physically gotten into the building in New York, we would have been able to continue to replicate all their resources in San Francisco.”

Jayesh Punater, the founder and CEO of hedge fund technology provider Gravitas, said to eVestment|HFN in a recent interview that most of his clients had already transitioned to a cloud computing system, set up by Gravitas way before the storm struck, that enabled them to maintain their daily operations without missing a beat.

“Our entire business model … is to free up a client so they can focus on their business because we handle the technology and operational infrastructure for them,” Punater said. “We have multiple offices worldwide – in Chicago, New York, Greenwich and Mumbai – so we reinforced our seven-by-24 support teams and we could proactively reassure the clients in dealing with the situation.”

GoldenTree Asset Management was at least one hedge fund that managed to handle the tumultuous situation smoothly. The $16.6 billion firm posted on its website that when the financial markets were up and running last Wednesday, it was able to “resume business operations without enacting any contingency plans, such as disaster recovery or backup facilities” due to staff in New York and London communicating with one another before and during the storm to address any potential obstacles.

And while much of the hedge fund industry was focused on the business aspect, some in the field also addressed the personal side of this still-unfolding tragedy. eVestment|HFN reported earlier this week that the Robin Hood Foundation, the charity founded by hedge fund veteran Paul Tudor Jones, has raised over $8 million since the beginning of this month to help Hurricane Sandy victims.

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