The e-commerce pioneer and entrepreneurial CEO of Overstock.com is a true market disruptor.
The traditional banking space cheered when Lending Club Corp. (LC) shares collapsed under the weight of a scandal involving its CEO Renaud Laplanche. But it seemed that many weren’t paying attention when Mike Cagney’s emerging lending giant SoFi received a triple-A rating for the securitization of student loans from Moody’s. With the student loan markets hovering at $1.3 trillion nationally, Cagney’s fintech company has substantially lowered interest payments for graduates. But it’s more than that. The company has become a remarkable case study of fintech’s possibilities. Services now include student loan refinancing, 10% down mortgage loans without PMI, personal loans, wealth management platforms, job searches and career coaching. The company is larger than life, just like Cagney, whose Twitter (TWTR) account bills him also as a “macro trader, kayak fisherman, wine enthusiast and cyclist.”
The big boys in the chip manufacturing industry have struggled in recent years. But Nvidia (NVDA) has been one of the hottest stocks during the last four years. Since Jan. 1, 2013, NVDA stock is up more than 660%, and it has returned more than 193% from Jan. 1, 2016 to mid-December. It’d be one thing if Nvidia were a simple one-trick pony in the technology space. But Huang’s company has emerged as a market leader in video gaming and has made two successful bets in virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The company’s third-quarter earnings report shattered Wall Street expectations, while the firm’s profits doubled over the year. Nvidia also booted rivals out of Tesla’s (TSLA) next phase of its self-driving machines and could stand for huge gains as the electric vehicle manufacturer boosts production in 2017 and beyond.
The second-highest-paid female executive in the United States has emerged as the disciplinarian of Alphabet (GOOGL). The former CFO of Morgan Stanley (MS) is focused on Alphabet’s bottom line; a ruthless endeavor aimed at a company that was making so much money that “financial discipline” never seemed to creep into the company’s strategy until her arrival. Porat is the architect of the “Alphabetization” of Google, a process that began in 2015 and has featured rigorous budgeting efforts and management of resources. Since her arrival in May 2015, the stock gained more than 50% through mid-December 2016.
The chairman and co-owner of the Chicago Cubs had a pretty good year.
The best financial journalism conducted in 2016 came from Gerard Ryle’s non-profit organization, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The Washington-based organization tackles international crime and corruption in 65 countries with a network of nearly 200 reporters. The big story this year? The Panama Papers, which poured through 11.5 million leaked documents and connected an international firestorm that exposed widespread fraud, money laundering, tax avoidance and political corruption. Though not all transactions were illegal, the exposure of political grifting and corruption added more undertow to propel a massive wave of global populism that hit the shores of Iceland, Britain, the United States, France and Italy.
The member of President-Elect Trump’s transition team has seen more than just his nominee enter the White House. Facebook (FB) stock continues to surge and his nemesis Gawker Media has filed for bankruptcy. But the big win came down to his willingness to stand against Silicon Valley’s overwhelming support of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Thiel delivered a terrific speech at the Republican National Convention in which he placed his focus not on the culture wars and tribalization of public voters, but instead on the nation’s economic challenges and what must be done. He was also responsible for coordinating a meeting between Trump and many of Silicon Valley’s top executives in the wake of Trump’s victory. In the years ahead, he will be a critical liaison between America’s technology giants and the White House.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen
Despite widespread pressure and regular criticism from the talking heads in finance and the media, Yellen held her ground in 2016. Calm, cool, collected, the Federal Reserve Chair continued to hold interest rates constant through the first 11 months of the year and buffeted accusations of politicizing monetary policy by Republicans and President-Elect Trump. Yellen has said her stable of academics anticipates that inflation will hit the Fed’s target rate, but the stakes have changed. After eight years of limited fiscal policy action in Washington, the Fed’s actions have kept the market afloat. What happens now as pro-growth, pro-inflation policies dominate the first year of the Trump Presidency?
The President-elect won on the biggest stage possible despite a series of self-inflicted campaign wounds. Some would argue that Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton was a flawed competitor who couldn’t close the Rust Belt, but credit must be given to the president-elect. Trump tapped into widespread dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment and parlayed that into a sweeping damnation of “business as usual” in Washington and its establishment candidate. And while his campaign was a broken dam of questionable statements and incalculable positions, this captain’s ship could not, would not be sunk. Trump’s victory has fueled an incredible run by the S&P 500 since the election. Wall Street’s optimism for Trump’s economic plan is high; the stakes are even higher. There will be critics from every corner of Washington, but they are likely the most to lose as he takes full aim at the status quo.
With his hedge fund SkyBridge Capital reportedly on the block, Scaramucci may be making a jump to Washington. His enthusiasm and personality will be a welcome addition to a town that can’t seem to agree on the color of the sky. An early supporter of Donald Trump, Scaramucci maintained a positive profile during a difficult election season and took on debate challenges across the social media and television spectrums. While that could be a full-time job for some, he also ran a hedge fund manager with $7.5 billion in assets and displayed his chops as a media personality, political surrogate and policy advocate. In addition to rebuilding Wall Street Week into a must-watch weekly television show, he also released “Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole,” a best-selling autobiographical book for entrepreneurs, hosted the top hedge fund conference in the business (SALT), and launched one of the best new business podcasts of 2016, called: “The Motivation Inside (TMI).” It’s not clear when he sleeps.