Veteran buy-side trader cites Leon Cooperman as a strong career influence.
Traders Magazine spoke with Darrin Sokol, Global Head of Equity Trading at Lazard Asset Management, who won Excellence in Trading: Equities at the 2023 Markets Choice Awards.
Briefly describe your background and career to date.
For the past 22 and one half years, I have been the Global Head of Equity Trading at Lazard Asset Management. I strategically managed three global trading desks (New York, London, and Sydney) with 11 traders, responsible for multibillion trading for large institutional clients.
We recently migrated to a new OMS (Charles River Development), which was an ~18-month firmwide project. I helped lead the trading piece spending copious amounts of time helping to ensure a smooth transition from our old trading platform (Fidessa Latent Zero).
In addition to be a member of numerous committees (Brokerage, Counterparty Risk, Asset Allocation, Fair Value Sub Committee, Mentoring Program, etc.), I have presented to the Investment Council and discussed best-execution/TCA and liquidity to help PMs generate alpha for our clients and to discuss markets, flows, liquidity, etc.
Prior to joining Lazard I was a Partner/Senior Trader for Leon Cooperman at Omega Advisors. Lee gave me my start and was a great mentor and reason for my success. In fact, I still keep in touch with Lee, as he is still someone that I go to for advice and has been like a father to me.
What have been the main drivers of your success?
First and foremost, luck played a significant role in my journey. Meeting Lee Cooperman was a stroke of good fortune and I recognize the tremendous impact this had on shaping my career path. However, luck alone does not guarantee success; it is how we seize the opportunities presented to us that truly matters.
The main drivers of my success have been a combination of determination, resilience and pursuit of excellence. I embraced challenges set before me, viewing them as opportunities to showcase my skills and prove that I could meet high standards and expectations. Moreover, my willingness to learn and adapt helped me grow and develop new strategies.
Lastly, building strong relationships at Lazard and with the sell-side brokers have been crucial elements of my success.
For you personally, what’s your greatest achievement?
I enjoy helping clients, PMs, analysts and giving back to the people I work with. Lazard has a great mentorship program which allows me to share my experience and knowledge with our new employees and watch younger people grow. Hopefully, I can provide a fraction of mentoring like I received and helped my career path. I have many people at Lazard reach out with positive feedback and that is a great honor.
Additionally, being part of the Wall Street Committee for St. Jude Children’s Hospital has been extremely rewarding.
What trends do you see around buy-side equity trading?
Being part of the buy-side for a predominately long-only firm I see continued challenges for institutional blocks and liquidity. Fragmentation across different exchanges, dark pools and other venues may be dispersed across multiple platforms. Additionally, institutional liquidity tends to be concentrated in certain stocks/sectors, especially smaller-cap stocks, which can impact prices.
Addressing these challenges requires a combination of market knowledge, technology, and relationships. Staying informed about market structure and regulations can enhance the ability to find access to institutional liquidity.
How are innovative technologies shifting behaviors within equity markets?
Sometimes we can become overly focused on popular or trendy investment tools (e.g., Chat GPT and other AI/machine learning). I am not a technology expert, but I do see some interesting features that may enhance best execution. However, there seems to be a lot more to learn and I feel there will be a need for human decision-making, rather than replace it entirely. Lazard is an example of how important communication and collaboration between portfolio managers, traders, analysts and brokers are crucial to helping generate alpha for clients.