Profile: Jennifer Ancker Whelen

Managing Director, Graham Capital Management, L.P.

Originally published in the March 2014 issue

One of The Hedge Fund Journal’s Leading 50 Women in Hedge Funds in the 2013 survey, Jennifer Ancker Whelen was already making her mark in the 1990s as a student at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. The departmental head of economics, in which she majored in 1995, was sufficiently impressed to give her his imprimatur for a job with a firm in his niche – advising state and foreign governments on economic and environmental policy. Dr Tom Tietenberg put Whelen forward for a role with economic and environmental consulting firm ICF Kaiser International, in the Washington DC area. Whelen became a junior analyst assisting with analytics for a high-profile project – the Clinton administration’s decision to divest the Department of Energy’s Elk Hills Oil Field in California, which was then the Naval Petroleum Reserve No 1, and boasted California’s biggest natural gas reserves along with some of its largest oil reserves. Whelen ferreted out the data inputs needed by the ICF team that assessed the economic and environmental impact of the deal. The eventual sale to Occidental Petroleum for $3.65 billion proved to be one of the largest privatisations of federal property in US history.

When Whelen herself resolved to move on from government consulting and make tracks for the financial industry, she initially explored opportunities in investment banking but later decided that asset management offered a better work/life balance. New York’s Atalanta/Sosnoff provided her first taste of the buy side, and the boutique firm was dynamic enough to offer Whelen a steeply growing remit that retained her for seven years. What started as a quantitative analyst role expanded into fundamental equity research after Atlanta/Sosnoff launched a long/short equity fund in 1997, and later on Whelen branched out into business development, on top of her analyst duties.

When some of the team spun out into their own long/short equity fund, Stadia Capital, Whelen soon became head of investor relations and business development, a post she held for several years before Stadia joined the Frontpoint platform. Whilst at Stadia, Whelen’s interest in Graham Capital was piqued when she met its chairman and founder, Ken Tropin, at a charity function. Whelen kept an eye on Graham Capital and her affinity for the firm intensified. She was impressed both by the performance track record, and by the reputation for strong client service. In 2007, a few months after reconnecting with Tropin, Whelen joined Graham, in Rowayton Connecticut, which then ran $5.6 billion of assets in both systematic macro and discretionary global macro strategies.

Graham Capital today runs more than $7 billion, including $750 million of proprietary capital, and is one of The Hedge Fund Journal’s US50 hedge funds, which are the largest 50 US-based hedge funds by assets under management. Graham’s systematic macro fund is also one of the world’s largest 50 and is a constituent of indices including the Newedge CTA index.

Graham’s 20-year track record back to 1994 makes it one of the longest surviving macro hedge fund managers. It is also renowned, Whelen says, for “depth of trading expertise, significant resources and proprietary capital, advanced infrastructure and technology, and a rigorous risk management process.”

Whelen, who is managing director and a senior member of the investor relations team, explains how Graham’s Investment Committee has full oversight of all firm portfolios, while the firm’s Risk Committee – comprised of senior members of its management team – conducts daily meetings that drill all the way down to position-level data and related risks for each of the firm’s strategies. Reflecting on the 230 staff, of which 115 are investment professionals, Whelen says, “Graham is not only well staffed with talented personnel in both our Rowayton [Connecticut] and London offices, but some of the most elite and demanding institutional investors have told us that our risk systems and operational processes are best of breed.”

In fact, Whelen argues that the operational infrastructure – including technology, research, risk management and compliance – is not just “essential in order to effectively support our investment strategies”; this infrastructure also provides the foundations for client communications and meeting regulatory requirements.

Yet investor relations is about much more than the infrastructure – the human touch is also crucial. Colleagues observe that “Jen’s focus and dedication to clients is unwavering, filled with late-night conference calls with Australian and Asian clients and trips both across the US as well as to Australia and Asia.” Says Whelen, “The keys for me have been: to love doing what I do, to be organised and prepared, and to really work to build relationships with people over time. I constantly strive to learn as much as possible about the clients we work with and then seek to earn the trust and respect that is needed to help them manage a portion of their portfolios.”  

Outside the office, Whelen has always been actively involved in giving back to the community and inspiring young women in the industry. She co-founded the Hedge Funds Care Committee of Hope in New York, which supports Hedge Funds Care/Help for Children’s global mission to prevent and treat child abuse. This charity is supported by EY, who sponsor The Hedge Fund Journal’s biannual 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds survey, as well as by a wide range of other service providers that have also won awards in The Hedge Fund Journal’s Service Provider Awards. Whelen is also a member and Sustaining Angel of 100 Women in Hedge Funds, noting that “there were about 30 of us at the first cocktail gathering – the growth and success of 100 Women has been tremendous.”

Say colleagues, ”As a mother to her 2-year-old son, Henry, Jen has brilliantly mastered the art of balancing a demanding and rewarding career with motherhood and marriage. Ultimately, Jen lives her life to the fullest, values her family and truly inspires her friends, clients and colleagues.”

Jennifer Ancker Whelen

Managing Director of Graham Capital Management, LP
Principal and Director of Marketing and Investor Relations at Stadia Capital, LLC
Quantitative Research Analyst, Fundamental Research Analyst, Director of Marketing – Alternative Investments at Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital Corporation
Research Analyst Economic and Resources Consulting Group’s Oil and Gas Division at ICF Kaiser International.
B.A. in Economics and minor in Sociology cum laude from Colby College