Hedge-fund managers gather in Tel Aviv for investment tips and charity

Co-founder of Sohn Conference brushes off concerns about Israeli role in binary options.

Tel Aviv stock exchange (photo credit: REUTERS)
Tel Aviv stock exchange
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange was bustling on Wednesday as investment mangers, controlling some $200 billion in assets gathered for the city’s second annual Sohn Conference.
Along with raising more than NIS 1 million in charity, the conference sought to provide participants with investment ideas.
“What can be better than writing a check for charity and at the same time getting an actionable investment idea,” Sohn Conference chairman Rodger Gladstone said.
The 20-year-old conference, which has taken place in San Francisco, Hong Kong, London and Toronto, was founded in 1995 by friends and family of Wall Street investor Ira Sohn, who died of cancer at the age of 29. A reserved seat sold for NIS 2,500 up from NIS 2,000 last year or NIS 1,500 for the overflow hall.
Three charities received the money raised at the event: Silent Angels, which develops treatments for Rett, a neurological disorder; The Institute for Rare Diseases at Sheba Medical Center; and Kids Kicking Cancer.
Among the presenters was Douglas Silverman who manages the nearly $8b. Senator Investment Group hedge fund. He said the Caesars Entertainment Corporation was a potentially wise investment.
According to Gladstone, the hardest part of organizing the event in Tel Aviv was logistics.
Tel Aviv is still not seen as a world-leading financial center, making it difficult to gather busy hedge-fund managers in the country.
“Guys are very busy; they manage billions of dollars,” he said. “Israel has not yet developed a lot of homegrown talent.”
The conference was successful in attracting hedge-fund managers in part by structuring the event around Succot, when many Jewish hedgefund managers visit Israel with their family.
“There is a real Jewish connection because Ira Sohn, the person the conference is named after, was from a dedicated Orthodox family,” said Daniel Nir, cofounder and president of the Sohn Conference.
He dismissed any negative image Israel may have obtained for leading a gray market of “binary options,” which has been accused of fraudulence and manipulating investors.
“Binary does not have an effect,” Nir said, “Israel is still under the radar.”
Hudson Bay Capital CEO Sander Gerber said Israel’s role in financial markets may grow as more investment opportunities open in Asia and Europe.
“There is a tremendous timezone advantage in Israel, and the human capital goes without saying,” he said. “A lot of mangers, including myself, have homes here and would love to open up a branch in Israel.”
Gladstone said he hopes the Tel Aviv Sohn Conference can help trigger a growing financial industry in Israel.
“There could be a surge in the financial industry,” he said. “The next wave could be financial.”