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Curatia Analysis for Thu, Apr 18

News Dirt: Identity

Friends, traders, technologists — lend us your eyeballs! Ahead of Friday’s market holiday, this Thursday edition of News Dirt will trace the contours of identity in the gilded arena of finance.

Imposters, Rogues & Rivalries

We begin with the scintillating yarn of an Instagram imposter posing as Morgan Creek Capital Management founder and crypto evangelist Mark Yusko (63 popularity).

As of last month, the shameless charlatan had lured nearly 6,000 followers with timeless images of stacks of cash and a gold Bentley bound to draw any Wall Street high-roller like Spanish doubloons tempting a metal-detecting, pot-bellied beachcomber.

Institutional Investor invited the mountebank to a call with the real Mark Yusko which, shockingly, Fake Mark Yusko was too busy to attend (a fact that leaves open the possibility that Fake Mark Yusko is the real Mark Yusko).

What’s in a name? Private equity firm J.W. Childs Associates aims to find out, electing to rebrand itself Prospect Hill Growth Partners after co-founder and namesake John Childs was charged with soliciting prostitution last month as part of a six-month investigation into massage parlors (41 popularity).

But while some Wall Street identities are crumbling, other titans of the financial realm continue to vie for primacy.

Two weeks ago, Business Insider reported that billionaire Citadel founder Ken Griffin is waging a Chicago “turf war” with crosstown hedge-fund rival Dmitry Balyasny. The feud has escalated since Citadel poached former Balyasny business-development head Matt Giannini last year (99 popularity), BI says.

The piece plays up numerous instances of employee poaching and calls to mind Chicago’s Capone-style mob wars of the 1930s with its colorful language.

From Spotlight To Shadows

Other financiers have meanwhile been content to toil in relative obscurity.

David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of S&P Global's index committee, is retiring this August after acquiring the badass epithet “The Most Powerful Man on Wall Street You’ve Never Heard Of” courtesy of ThinkAdvisor (99 popularity). Mr. Blitzer oversees the index governance function for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

But, alas, even obscurity is competitive these days. Business Insider recently described Goldman Sachs banker Rich Friedman as a man who’s “built a private investing empire” even though “you’ve probably never heard of him” (56 popularity).

Goldman’s longest-tenured partner, who advocates say belongs in the “pantheon of buyout greats” alongside names like Schwarzman, Kravis, and Rubenstein, may garner a more public role at Goldman as the bank looks to raise the profile of its alternative-investing activities.

Elevated Profiles

Still others have relied on a blend of innovative thinking and media exposure to forge their financial identities. Business Insider published a list of “10 people transforming investing” Monday that includes “the godfather of smart-beta investing, a millennial running the research operation at [Citadel],” and the strategist who took volatility trading mainstream (90 popularity).

While such rankings have long been a boon to financiers’ egos as well as their personal brands, a newfangled alternative approach to identity-making has also emerged.

Bankers including Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and David Solomon have taken to social media in a bid to trade post-crisis portraits of the “arrogantly aloof” banker for a “more cuddly” and “cool” persona (51 popularity) — a mission they hope will help rehabilitate the industry’s reputation.

Identity Investments...and Risks

Financial firms have also taken to investing in individuals’ identities, extending income-sharing agreements (ISAs) to college students in lieu of loans (38 popularity). By securing a share of recipients’ future earnings, ISAs create “‘a whole new equity market for higher education in the next five years where today there’s only debt,’” says one hedge-fund investor.

One set of identities financial firms can’t seem to gain a share of is, ironically, those of its own employees. Wall Street legal and compliance departments have increasingly lost visibility into employee communications as encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Signal proliferate (90 popularity). The trend leaves firms more vulnerable to transgressions for which regulators could hold them liable.

Happy long weekend, folks!