Born in 2001, out of a small garage in Herzliya Israel with, reportedly, just $6m in capital, Final has tried hard to stay out of the limelight. In this article we pieced together the few bits of public information and have tried to summarise their growth.
- Nir Kalkstein
- Arie Kalkstein (Nir’s father)
- Noam Stern-Perry
Both Nir and Noam are graduates from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at Technion Israel Institute of Technology and previously officers in the Israel Defence Force’s advanced technology units.
A colourful character, Eddie’s autobiography Living at twice the speed of sound provides some, very limited (he uses a pseudonym for final calling it SMART), insight into the early days of Final. The original algorithm was developed and implemented on options which is interesting considering how much more compute power is involved. Eddie's initial investment ‘grew exponentially’ and within two years, Final was paying dividends and returned his initial investment within 18 months.
Twenty years on, the three founders have stepped back from day to day control of the company whilst launching other ventures – for example, Nir Kalkstein co-founded Medial EarlySign, a company using machine learning algorithms to find insights from clinical data.
How profitable are they ?
Final has an offshore corporate structure so very limited public information is available on their financial results. However, in an article published in 2009, it was estimated that 20% of futures transactions on the German DAX were related to Final and they produced $50m profit in 2005 and then doubled that passing the $100m profit mark in 2007.
They reportedly made over $2bn in profit between 2011-2018 with a profit of $350m in 2018 alone. We do not have any figures for 2020 but based on other similar HFT firm it’s reasonable to assume they made over $1bn. Not bad for a firm with only 170 employees.
According to their website, there are 170 employees, mainly from technical backgrounds, located at their headquarters in Herzliya, Israel. In keeping with their secretive nature, most employees do not have a public social media profile – at least not directly attached to Final.
From the limited data we could find, the majority of employees studied at Israeli universities. Most popular graduates include from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Tel Aviv University with classifications in Engineering and Computer Science related courses and a few Economics/Business field of study. As military service is mandatory, many served under the Israeli Intelligence Corps in technological and engineer roles, similar to founders Nir and Noam.,
$4bn price tag
Final reportedly received a $4 billion buyout bid in 2014 with sources citing Citadel and Renaissance Technologies as potential bidders. The offer was refused and Final still operates as an independent firm.
Final did make an acquisition of its own in 2017 purchasing Xambala Capital Inc. After the acquisition, most of the original Xambala employees moved on however, the firm continues to trade US markets for Final under the name Xangrilla. The US entity that acquired Xambala was a subsidiary of Final called, Alpha Trading LP. According to their website, it was founded in 2017 and is a broker-dealer managed by CEO David Silverman.
Out of the shadows
Despite their secretive nature, Final has recently started to open up, revamping their website, producing coding videos on YouTube and investing more in building their brand. This could be in recognition of the very real battle for talent within data science. We think remaining in the shadows, whilst big tech and other HFT firms scoop up talent, is no longer an option.