Winton Capital is a “managed futures adviser”. Before you glaze over, this is no ordinary investment firm full of brash, city-slicker fund managers. The employees at Winton are researchers, with PhDs in subjects such as theoretical physics and actuarial science. These boffins analyse market trends and establish trading strategies for the likes of Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank, helping them to invest their funds wisely. “If you’re into girls and all-night parties, this probably isn’t your cup of tea,” says 46-year-old David Harding, the entrepreneur at the helm of this London-based firm. Harding himself admits he’s “no academic”, but he is something of a serial entrepreneur: he owned a couple of hairdressing salons, a karaoke business and hedge fund AHL (which he later sold to the Man Group) before setting up Winton Capital in 1997. Futures trading might not be very glamorous. But it’s massively profitable. With over £6.4bn of assets under management and sales of £92m, Winton Capital raked in a whopping £59.9m in 2007. Harding likens the business to JK Rowling or Paul McCartney: “We have global appeal. Just as everybody reads books or listens to music, everybody needs to save money. In this business, you can be disgustingly successful – but it’s also disgustingly competitive.” With margins of 65 per cent – making Winton Capital the most profitable company in this year’s Hot 100 list – it looks like Harding is leaving his rivals in his wake.www.wintoncapital.com
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