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May 01, 2019  

Pedigreed Quant Pros Launch Equity Strategy

Quantitative-investment startup Pluribus Labs has begun managing money.

For now, the San Francisco firm is running insider capital via a quant-equity portfolio that employs models developed by research chief Wachi Bandara. But Pluribus, led by former BlackRock executive Kenneth Kroner, plans to begin marketing a long-only vehicle later this year, followed by a so-called 130/30 offering and possibly a long/short equity vehicle — depending on investor demand.

Bandara co-founded Pluribus in 2014 to develop and market big-data and machine-learning programs for asset managers. The firm was recast as an alternative-investment manager last year following its acquisition by San Francisco private equity shop Golden Gate Capital in 2017. Several Golden Gate executives have contributed investment capital to Pluribus, along with Kroner and other members of his management team.

With Bandara’s system, Kroner’s resume and Golden Gate’s backing, Pluribus has the potential to raise $1 billion or more, according to an investor who allocates to quant funds.

Golden Gate recruited Kroner in June 2018 to develop an asset-management business. At BlackRock, he was a senior managing director in charge of multi-asset strategies and “scientific active equities” — a quantitative-equity division that currently manages some $100 billion. Kroner’s chief of staff at BlackRock, Paul Sacks, followed him to Pluribus.

Also on board is chief technology officer Sebastien Astie, who co-founded Pluribus with Bandara. Co-founder Frank Freitas no longer is with the firm.

Another former BlackRock executive, Paras Fancy, joined Pluribus this month as a portfolio manager, lifting the firm’s overall headcount to about 20. At BlackRock, Fancy managed emerging-market index portfolios and liability-driven investment strategies.

Greg Williamson, who started at Pluribus last year, is head of strategy. His resume includes chief investment officer posts at the American National Red Cross and BP America.

Pluribus’ software models select positions based on up to 75 “exposures” across three broad categories: long-term trends; risk factors such as size and volatility; and environmental, social and governance considerations. “We see the world through the lens of trends and risks that we believe will drive the global economy and markets,” according to a summary of Pluribus’ strategy.

Before starting Pluribus, Bandara was a senior researcher at a quant-investing unit of BNY Mellon called Mellon Capital.