Money & the World
The 10 Most Interesting People in Money Right This Second
The story of money is a character-driven narrative. Understand these ten compelling folks, and you’ll be able to follow along a lot better.
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Here at Wealthsimple Magazine, we usually unpack big macroeconomic stories to help readers understand what the heck is going on in markets and in business. And, partly as a result, we tend not to discuss specific people very often. We’re changing that. Because the story of money is a character-driven narrative. And, if you want to understand money a lot better, you need to know the folks behind today’s biggest headlines. That’s why we compiled a list, arranged in no particular order, of the most compelling people in finance, business, and beyond.
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How did we decide who to include? It was a very scientific process that involved reading all the financial news in the world for our jobs, debating one another on Slack, and then adding Ryan Reynolds to the mix because he’s easy on the eyes — and, turns out, a mogul you can probably learn something from. Read on:
Last year, a Florida-based hedge fund called Citadel brought in more money than any hedge fund. Ever. Its US$16 billion profit even topped the US$15 billion John Paulson made in ’08 from the so-called greatest trade ever, when he bet against the housing market. And the man behind Citadel’s rise to the top is its CEO and founder, Ken Griffin. How did he do it? Unlike Paulson, Griffin didn’t make one brilliant trade but a lot of smallish great ones. Citadel works differently from a lot of funds, in that it doesn’t specialize in one thing but instead hires a lot of independent investors, gives them cutting-edge tools and data, and then pours resources behind the ones who excel and cuts loose those who don’t. Think of Citadel like a social-media platform that boosts, and profits from, its top performers, rather than handing down strategy. But what makes Griffin even more significant is that he also owns Citadel Securities, one of the largest so-called market makers, which warehouse stocks, Costco-style, for brokerages. The firm currently handles about one in five U.S. equities trades.
Some people don’t like Griffin because of his alleged involvement in the $GME frenzy. He also outbid crypto investors for a copy of the U.S. Constitution, and he’s become a GOP megadoner. But this a story about the most interesting people in money, not the most kind or lovable ones, and there’s little debate that he’s interesting.
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Read more: Boy Wonder (Institutional Investor)
In creating Succession, the nihilistic business drama from HBO, showrunner Jesse Armstrong turned stock prices and investor roadshows into high-end soapy dramas. He also brought terms like “bear hug” to the non-MBA masses and created a lot of “good memeage,” as brother/Not Serious Person™ Kendall Roy would say. We’ll miss it.
Read more: The Real C.E.O. of “Succession”* (The New Yorker)
C.C. Wei is the CEO of TSMC, the Taiwanese chip giant that’s one of the world’s most geopolitically important companies. It controls roughly 60% of the global semiconductor-fabrication business and makes the most advanced microchips on the market. Its main customer: Apple. Right now Wei has the unenviable job of safeguarding the company’s all-critical chips, in the event China acts on its threats to seize Taiwan, which would almost certainly render its plants inoperable. That would be very bad news for NATO and its allies, whose fighter jets and other defence tools depend on TSMC chips. As a hedge against an attack, TSMC plans to spend some US$100 billion to build new plants in Arizona, Japan, and Germany. The big question is whether TSMC can recreate its chip magic overseas. Watch this space. Read More: The Chipmaker at the Center of the Taiwan-China Standoff (Wealthsimple Magazine)
Last year, Lana Payne became the first female president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, and she couldn’t have done so at a more turbulent time. In 2022, Jerry Dias, Unifor’s then-president, was charged with ethics violations after he allegedly received a $50,000 payout for selling Covid tests to union members. Payne shepherded the union through the turmoil, and, after winning its top job, she’s become a leading figure in the resurgence of organized labour in Canada — if not the face of the entire movement. During her tenure, Unifor has already ratified a new collective agreement for thousands of railway employees. Now it’s preparing to negotiate new contracts for auto workers, including those at Ford’s Ontario EV factory.
Read more: Lana Payne is taking on the fight for workers (Maclean’s)
Matthew Desmond, a Pulitzer-winning Princeton sociologist, has made us understand how poverty works in more visceral ways than any academic who came before him. For his 2016 landmark book, Evicted, Desmond spent years following eight families struggling to stay afloat in post-financial-crisis Milwaukee, an experience that illuminated for him housing’s role in perpetuating poverty. In this year’s urgent Poverty, by America, he goes further, investigating how upper-middle-class people unwittingly benefit from poverty — a problem Canada in many ways shares with its southern neighbour.
Read more: How America Manufactures Poverty (The New Yorker)
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, not only revitalized the house of Gates but also took a bet that could change the course of Silicon Valley, if not the world. Nadella, who was born in India, joined Microsoft during its early-’90s heyday. But, by the time he took over as CEO, in 2014, the company was behind on almost everything and its culture was reportedly super toxic. Nadella started by having his executive team read Nonviolent Communication, to help them dial down the awfulness. Then he shifted Microsoft’s attention to cloud and mobile. And it worked: cloud now generates more than half of Microsoft’s revenue. But perhaps his savviest move was the multi-billion-dollar bet Microsoft took on machine-learning start-up OpenAI — a deal that changed the entire conversation around the company. Microsoft’s market value hovered around US$315 billion when Nadella took over. It’s now north of US$2.3 trillion.
Read more: Microsoft in the age of Satya Nadella (Wired)
When Rania Llewellyn immigrated to Canada from Egypt shortly after the Gulf War, she took a quintessentially Canadian job: serving double-doubles at a Tim Hortons. Nearly 30 years later, having worked her way to the top of the finance industry, she took the helm of Laurentian Bank, and in doing so became the first woman to lead a major Canadian bank. In two and a half years as CEO, Llewellyn has done much to reinvigorate the Luddite Laurentian, in part by overseeing the rollout of its first mobile-banking app and by allowing customers to open accounts online.
Read more: This Bank CEO is Building the Bank She’d Want to Work For (Financial Post)
Ryan Reynolds. Who would have thought the Vancouver guy from Waiting would turn into a Canadian business mogul? Not us. But, over the past five years, Reynolds has launched a humongo production company, sold his gin brand for $610 million, sold a telecom startup for another $1.35 billion, and bought into a Welsh football club. (He also invested in our sponsor, Wealthsimple.) Is he quietly crushing Ashton Kutcher as a former romantic lead turned investor? Seems like it.
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Read more: This Story Has Already Stressed Ryan Reynolds Out (The New York Times)
Nominally, Adam Tooze is an economic historian, a Foreign Policy columnist, and a podcast host. But, over the past year or two, he has also gained cult-leader status among mostly left-wing bros for his wonky-but-not-too-wonky synthesis of (and rapid-fire tweets about) huge, messy topics: the polycrisis, U.S.-China relations, American hubris. Oh, and sometimes crypto (although he hates talking about it).
Read more: The Cult of Adam Tooze (New York)
Jeff Dean is Google’s chief scientist. He’s also the overseer of its AI division and, as such, the chief antagonist (at least the way we see it from the cheap seats) of Microsoft (see “Satya” above) in the race to own machine learning and bring about the end of civilization. (Just kidding. Probably.) The competition has gotten pretty interesting. Last week, just three months after Microsoft fired a shot across the bow of Google’s search dominance by announcing a Bing–OpenAI integration, Google said that it would begin incorporating AI meaningfully into search. This story is being written as we speak (probably not by humans), and the rivalry is one of the fiercest in business.
Read more: The Friendship That Made Google Huge (The New Yorker)
Sarah Rieger is a news writer for Wealthsimple Magazine. She was previously a staff writer and editor at CBC News and HuffPost Canada. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @sarahcrgr.
J.R. Sullivan is an editor for Wealthsimple Magazine. He’s also writing a book for Knopf about the Kingston coal-ash disaster.
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