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Top Traders: Where Are They Now?


We catch up with some of the now-defunct Trader Monthly's 30-under-30.

The magazine Trader Monthly shut down in February - a victim of Wall Street's implosion. Over its 4-year lifespan, the glossy publication -- and its Gordon Gekko-meets-Julius Caesar motto, "See it, make it, spend it" -- gaudily portrayed the trader lifestyle as one of cheerful rapaciousness. It was the perfect foil for an unchecked bull market.

Not surprisingly, its fall as been regarded by some as poetic justice for the excesses of Wall Street during the boom. Sifting through the wreckage, however, one feature seems worth recalling: its list of top-30 traders under 30. The list gauged talent, not just flash, and was meant as something of a prediction as to who would one day run the Street.

Since the 2008 list ran last September, they've had a front-row seat to the upheaval - they've been on the court, in the game, commanding billions of dollars. They're trading their first bear market, and a historically nasty one at that.

Before the crash, a Wall Street trader cut a striking figure in New York City, a town where nearly half of the tax base came from the world of finance. Then, people wanted to emulate traders. Now... well, opinion has turned nastily south - just a small cut above American Psycho.

I wanted to speak with the "30 under 30," and hear their stories. Most declined to comment, or couldn't be reached. The few that agreed to talk told me what's happened to them, and to Wall Street - and where they think both will end up.

The traders I interviewed didn't seem to share Trader Monthly's winner-take-all philosophy. Even the nature of the list made them slightly squeamish - it seemed antithetical to the secrecy a trader requires.

John Chiang, 29, works for Citigroup (C) and trades equity derivatives and index options. He said, "As traders, especially for banks, you're kind of born and bred to be more on the incognito side. It allows you to move around more freely."

Still, Chiang said he was honored to receive the distinction, in part because your peers on the Street nominate you. He said the happiest person was his mother.

Unlike what the Trader Monthly ads touted as the way to live, though, Chiang doesn't own a fancy watch, car or private jet. "It's very unlike my lifestyle. It's a running joke with me and one of my friends on the desk that we are the humble immigrant kids."

At 2, he moved here from Taiwan. His parents were academics,, and he grew up with modest means. "I think it's an Asian family mentality," he said. "You always want to save for a rainy day. And you don't want to be conspicuous with your wealth."
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