By Vyvyan Tenorio
|| Queen Anne's Gate founder Kathleen Kelley|
Commodities specialist Kathleen Kelley's path to the High Water Women Foundation, a volunteer organization in New York, seemed preordained by a series of events. Kelley had been an economic researcher at the New York Federal Reserve Bank for three years after college, aspiring to be an academic, when hedge fund magnate Paul Tudor Jones II hired her to work at Tudor Investment Corp. in 1990.
"I didn't know what a hedge fund was," admits the forty-something executive.
It wasn't long before a career managing macro portfolios took off — first at Tudor, where Kelley worked for about a decade, then at Vantis Capital Management and at Kingdon Capital Management; she served as Kingdon's global macro portfolio manager for six years. Kelley went on her own in 2012, founding Queen Anne's Gate Capital, a New York–based global macro firm named after the famous London neighborhood.
Working closely with Jones, whose Robin Hood Foundation supports antipoverty programs, opened Kelley's mind to Jones's proactive style of impact philanthropy. Kelley, a board member of professional association 100 Women in Hedge Funds, saw a need for a separate philanthropic outfit. As she puts it, "Women reach a point in their careers when they want to give back, but it's hard for them to find the right organizations."
In 2005, Kelley, along with Leslie Rahl of Capital Market Risk Advisors, co-founded HWWF, which aims to make it easy for women volunteers to find suitable organizations that can make the best use of their skills. The work includes resume writing, job counseling or advising homeless women who want to go back to work.
From all signs, HWWF is limited only by the scale of its ambitions. As the name High Water Women implies, the idea is to take everything to the next level, Kelley explains.
HWWF's biggest project is an annual backpack drive for schools and nonprofit partners. "Our volunteers are so gung ho that "'ully stuffed' for them is quite literally a 50-pound dream backpack," says Kelley.
In the first year of the drive, Kelley, then seven months pregnant, tackled the backpacks herself, commandeering an empty room at Kingdon to assemble and sort about 350 packs. Through 2012, HWWF has donated 43,000 backpacks to children in need.
Financial literacy is another major endeavor. Through random discussions with financial adviser Muriel Siebert, Kelley learned that Siebert had developed a curriculum for financial literacy courses but that most school principals declined to participate because of budgetary and time constraints. HWWF trained financial industry professionals to teach the lessons for free at junior high and high schools. The program began in 2009 in four sites with 35 students each; it now has more than 40 sites with 1,500-plus students, and requests continue to pour in for more venues.
Kelley thanks Jones, whom she calls her mentor and hero, for instilling in her a big-picture approach to philanthropy. "He picks whatever it is that he believes is the toughest challenge," such as education reform, notes Kelley.
For her, allotting time for everything can be the biggest challenge these days. Sitting in a sun-drenched trading room, surrounded by oversize monitors and paintings by Bedford-Stuyvesant students, Kelley performs an impressive juggling act. Between fundraising — a painfully slow process, she says — overseeing trading, sitting on the boards of HWWF and other foundations, and family life, Kelley has her hands full.
"It's a lot of work, but now that we're over the $100 million hump, we're much happier," she says of her new firm. "You got me on a good day."