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Twin tracks to finance and technology

Just one of the things that make the Jahnke brothers unique is the fact they are the first twins to complete the HKUST-NYU Stern MSGF program. James Jahnke, a software engineer with the Chicago Trading Company, was a graduate of the class of 2017, while venture capitalist Richard Jahnke completed the one-year program in 2015.

Even though they have followed separate career paths, they both caught the ‘investment bug’, as Richard puts it, around the time of the dotcom bubble. Since then they have constantly swapped insights and advice on their overlapping interests, and these interests seem to be converging.

Richard explains: “My primary focus is on finance but I work at the intersection of finance and technology, investing in public and private technology companies. He is a technologist working for a finance firm. He has been shifting a little bit more towards finance and I have been shifting a little more towards technology over the past few years.”

First employed as a software engineer in the automobile industry, James now works for a large options market making firm. “I work in front office development, developing their core electronic trading software,” he points out.

Already looking to broaden his knowledge of finance, a trip to see his brother while Richard was studying on a MSGF module in Hong Kong was enough to persuade James to submit his own application.

“Through him [Richard], I learned about the various topics covered in the program and I got to meet the diverse group of people in his class,” James recalls. “It seemed pretty appealing.”

For his part, Richard told his brother he did not think he would find a better finance program anywhere.

In his own studies, James says he found the three modules on corporate finance the most fascinating, adding that he also learned much from his classmates. “A lot of the modules facilitated larger, class discussions, so along with the professors lecturing, you got to hear about your classmates’ experiences and viewpoints.”

James hopes the program will open doors to the hybrid roles that are emerging in finance. “The strongest traders are now the ones who can write code and also know what the financial engineers are involved in.”

Having worked as an equity and research analyst for a global investment firm in New York City and a hedge fund in Chicago, Richard applied for a place on the MSGF program, despite already holding an MBA.

“What really piqued my interest in this program was the fact it is very immersive and taught from a global perspective,” he says. “Being a US-based investor, it is very easy to look at the world from just a US point of view.”

Since graduating, Richard has leveraged both his MSGF degree and his experience investing in the broad technology sector, and is now an early-stage investor with a reputable Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

While still in very close touch with his classmates, it was a chance meeting at a MSGF alumni event in New York that helped lead Richard to his current position. “Someone I met - I think they were from the 2016 class - just happened to be very good friends with the guy who was interviewing me at the time, and we started chatting. Ultimately, he put in a good word for me. VC is such a competitive industry that having one warm introduction makes a huge difference.”

Though they have not worked together – yet - the flow of ideas and information between the Jahnke brothers never ceases. But just in case this sounds too much like a tale of life-long sibling supportiveness, James and Richard are happy to add a little perspective. “We fought all the time when we were kids,” they both recall.


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