Susquehanna International was built on Poker training
On City Avenue in the Philadelphia suburb of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., across the street from a TGI Fridays and California Pizza Kitchen, within that dull gray-brown edifice, away from the trading hubs of New York and Chicago, sits a crucial engine of the $5 trillion global exchange-traded fund market, one increasingly relied upon by investors ranging from hedge funds to individuals. What’s more, the little-known billionaires behind the operation have groomed a generation of canny market experts.
Like its headquarters, Susquehanna International Group LLP is hidden in plain sight. It keeps a low profile even though its fingerprints are everywhere in financial markets. In addition to ranking among the largest U.S. traders of ETFs, it’s a giant in options trading and has plowed into sports betting, private equity, and even Bitcoin.
Susquehanna built its empire on poker. All six co-founders met in the late 1970s at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where they gathered to play cards before advancing to Las Vegas casinos. One of the six, Jeff Yass, had the insight that card skills could transfer to Wall Street. That bloomed into Susquehanna’s philosophy that poker provides the best training for the type of probability-based decisions in uncertain circumstances that are needed in markets.
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