Energy transition spurs hiring spree in metals trading

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - Trafigura, Gunvor Group and Bluecrest Capital Management have hired traders as they seek to profit from an infrastructure boom spurred by the global energy transition, six sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: Trafigura logo is pictured in the company entrance in Geneva March 11, 2012. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

Robust manufacturing activity, as the world emerges from pandemic lockdowns and as government stimulus drives spending, has boosted metals demand and expectations of tight supplies have pushed copper and aluminium prices to multi-year highs.

The shift to a low carbon world, involving electric vehicles, renewables and energy storage, over the coming years is expected to further increase demand and prices, creating money-making opportunities for traders and funds.

Several commodities firms saw record profits last year as they benefited from volatile markets, which also prompted increased interest in hiring, recruiters said.

Ross Gregory, a director at recruitment firm Proco Commodities, said there had been a significant rise in companies looking to recruit metals traders since October 2020.

“This demand has grown exponentially through 2021. The war for metal trading talent in the current market is fierce.”

Proco Commodities recorded 50% more metal trading moves in the first five months of this year compared with the same period last year.

Commodity trader Trafigura last year set up a business development unit for non-ferrous metals, such as copper and aluminium, and restructured its metals trading unit into four books; copper, zinc and lead, nickel and cobalt, and aluminum.

In recent months, it hired two copper traders Michael Gabathuler and Joel Adams, previously with commodity trader and miner Glencore, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorised to speak to the press.

Late last year, rival Gunvor set up a unit to expand its derivatives trading across commodities under Scott Harbert, a former portfolio manager at hedge fund Millennium Management, in Geneva, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Geneva-based Gunvor made a brief foray into physical and paper base metals trading between 2014 and 2016. The trader has not returned to physical base metals.

Another commodity trader, Hartree Partners hired Michael Jansen as the head of base metals trading in February this year, based in London.

Trafigura, Gunvor and Hartree all declined to comment.

Hedge funds that typically do not employ specialist metal traders are poaching them from traders and merchants.

An example is BlueCrest Capital Management, co-founded by billionaire trader Michael Platt, which hired two former metals traders from Engelhart, Paul Crone and Brandon Rust, in April. The traders are the first metals-focused hires for the fund.

Others, such as Matador Investments, are looking to expand into the commodities space, sources said.

BlueCrest and Matador did not respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York and Julia Payne in London; editing by Pratima Desai and Barbara Lewis