Far from Wall Street in a Chicago neighborhood once synonymous with urban blight, two futures industry veterans are using secrecy and speed to mint fortunes.
Their firm, Jump Trading LLC, was all but invisible until it was among six companies subpoenaed in April by New York prosecutors. Jump has ascended the ranks of high-frequency traders during the past 15 years to become one of the top firms on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where $925 trillion of derivatives changed hands last year. Its annual revenue has exceeded half a billion dollars.
The company was founded by traders Bill DiSomma and Paul Gurinas, whose level heads caused them to stand out in the cacophony of a Chicago trading floor. Today, the pair parcel money among 20 or so teams, each guarding its computer models from the others to trade stocks, bonds and commodities with strategies that go almost as fast as light.
“Billy was one of the few upright, stand-up guys in the pits,” said Yra Harris, owner of Praxis Trading who knew DiSomma when they worked in the Chicago trading pits during the 1990s. “He had a very good presence. There were all kinds of games being played in the pits, but he wasn’t one of those who messed others around.”
Befitting its history of stealth, neither the firm nor its principals spoke for this article, and three people familiar with the matter said former employees were told not to speak with Bloomberg News.
Jump’s reluctance to speak comes as arrangements between financial exchanges and HFT firms are being examined by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Jump hasn’t been publicly accused of wrongdoing by any government investigator.
“Although Jump is well known and respected within the industry, they keep a very low profile beyond the narrow confines of electronic trading,” said William Sterling, former chief of UBS AG’s global equities electronic business who co- runs Headlands Technologies LLC, a quantitative trading firm.
Jump’s headquarters are north of Chicago’s financial district in an area once dominated by one of the nation’s most dangerous public-housing projects, the Cabrini-Green Homes, whose high-rises were demolished during the last decade. Its offices are in the former warehouse of Montgomery Ward, a remnant of the city’s days as the mail-order capital of the U.S.
Jump has about 350 employees who also work in offices in New York, London and Singapore, according to a version of its website that was deleted earlier this year. While the closely held company, which trades with its own money, makes few disclosures about its inner workings or finances, there are clues to its size.