John Succo, Partner, SS Financial


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When it comes to equity derivatives, few individuals have traded more options than John Succo. Across a career in markets spanning more than 3 decades, John has managed convexity risk on both the sell-side and buy-side, through high and low vol periods and across single stock and index options. During the course of our discussion, John shares many rich stories. He brings to life the early days of career – one in which option pricing inefficiencies were significant across both strike and time. He describes one of the large, early hedging trades he orchestrated in 1989 – a collar on S&P 500 shortly before the UAL mini-crash in October. And he has plenty to say about the spectacular blow-up of LTCM, an outcome that surprised him very little. A theme throughout our conversation is John’s careful attention to sizing positions and his overall objective of remaining long gamma. While the lean periods for volatility make this challenging, John successfully managed decay through active position management, trading the range in volatility and offsetting some of the bleed from long single stock vol by selling index volatility. The result was that his hedge fund, Vicis Capital, became looked upon by institutional allocators as a valuable addition to a portfolio of generally correlated risk-assets. The orthogonal nature of the return stream from Vicis was of great value for investors in the period leading into and through the financial crisis. Today, John is a partner at SS Financial, and remains a keen and skeptical observer of markets. On his mind mostly is debt and the view that it is the sudden stop of unsustainable leverage that usually figures complicit in big vol events. Please enjoy this episode of the Alpha Exchange, my conversation with John Succo.

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