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High-stakes game of keeping secrets on Wall Street

Dan DeFrancesco   

High-stakes game of keeping secrets on Wall Street
Finance4 min read

Nearly there! Dan DeFrancesco in NYC, and I can't stop looking at this awkward photo from the debt ceiling negotiations. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy looks like me when my wife promised we'd only take two photos but starts making different poses.

I'm still collecting questions for a future mailbag. Submit any questions you have via this Google Doc. (It's anonymous.) No personal finance questions, please.

Today, we have stories on why Apple poses a big threat to neobanks, the dealmakers still making money amid a drought, and summer-friendly button-downs.

But first, can I tell you a secret?

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1. That's why her hair is so big. It's full of secrets.

Coca-Cola's syrup formula. KFC's recipe for its fried chicken. Citadel Securities' trading strategies?

You've likely heard of how closely Coke and KFC guard their secrets, but the massive market-making firm might be the most protective of the bunch when it comes to its "secret sauce."

Look no further than a recently filed lawsuit by Citadel Securities against two former employees, per Bloomberg. The suit, which you can read here, alleges the former employees were building a competing high-frequency trading firm while still employed and used trade secrets gained while at Citadel Securities.

Leonard Lancia and Alex Casimo unveiled Portofino Technologies, a market-making firm focused on cryptocurrencies, in September 2022 with $50 million in funding from backers like Coatue Management. A major part of the pitch? Invest with the guys who had a front-row seat working at one of the top trading firms in the world, per the complaint.

Portofino's announcement also came just a few months after reports of Citadel Securities working on its own crypto-focused brokerage with a slew of other high-profile firms. Portofino told Bloomberg that the Citadel Securities lawsuit was "corporate bullying" and that it would defend itself.

Whichever side you fall on regarding the lawsuit, it does raise some interesting questions about Wall Street's trade secrets and the extent some firms will go to protect them.

On the one hand, trading firms invest a lot of money — check out some salary ranges here — in developing these strategies. Margins are thin, and the difference between making and losing money comes down to fractions of a second, literally.

But I also don't want to live in a world where employers can limit the future earning ability of their workers on the basis of "trade secrets."

If you think this isn't top of mind for every trading firm in the world, think again. As Insider's Alex Morrell has previously covered, preventing employees, particularly quants, from defecting to rivals is a top priority.

Inside the paranoid, hyper-competitive onslaught to prevent quant traders from leaving for rivals.

In other news:

2. Ready or not, Apple is here to upend fintechs. Revolut's US CEO made the case for why Apple poses a big threat to digital banks as it expands its banking offerings. Here's why the Big Tech giant poses a risk to some neobanks.

3. Sales tax made easy. It's not sexy or exciting, but navigating sales tax compliance across multiple states is a massive headache for businesses. Enter Zamp, a startup that's looking to alleviate the pain with an automated solution. Here's the deck it used to raise a $4 million seed round. And check out more than 50 pitch decks fintechs used to raise millions of dollars in funding.

4. AI is going to send the market up and to the right, per Steve Cohen. The billionaire founder of Point72 is feeling "pretty bullish" about the markets thanks to the cutting-edge tech, according to Bloomberg. No word on if AI can invigorate the Mets' offense, though.

5. Amid a dealmaking drought, Raine is making it rain fees. The merchant bank will make $65 million from advising on the Endeavor-WWE deal, should it close, per the Financial Times. Here's who else is set to get paid from working on the deal.

6. Gen Z is getting into credit-card debt just in time for student-debt payments to restart. This should end well. Here's a bunch of data on how delinquencies are on the rise.

7. Go woke, go broke, invest in alts? Under Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has railed against "woke" investment strategies, the state pension fund has transferred more than $1 billion into alternative investments. But analysis by Lever found the move potentially cost state employees billions of dollars. More here.

8. The job markets to bet your career on. It turns out AI won't take all the jobs. A recent report from the World Economic Forum highlights the fastest-growing jobs for the next four years. Check them out here. (OK, you're still going to want to learn about AI.)

9. Dressed to impress without the dreaded sweat stain. Guys, we've all been there. You arrive to work looking like you just left a sauna thanks to the hellhole that is the NYC subway in the summer. Pick up some of these summer-friendly button-downs.

10. Some tips for the solo traveler. Not looking for company on your next vacation? We've got 9 tips for those of you who are looking to travel alone. Read them all here.

Curated by Dan DeFrancesco in New York. Feedback or tips? Email, tweet @dandefrancesco, or connect on LinkedIn. Edited by Jeffrey Cane (tweet @jeffrey_cane) in New York and Hallam Bullock (tweet @hallam_bullock) in London.