About James Aitken

James’s long story short

For over twenty five years, James Aitken has advised many of the world’s most sophisticated investors. Discover why they trust him.

James, an Australian, has worked in financial markets for thirty years, the last twenty two of which have been in London. His background was foreign exchange sales and trading, helping risk-seeking investors think through then position for global macroeconomic trends. In March 2002, James was hired for a similar role by AIG Trading, and one year later AIG Trading was taken over by AIG Financial Products.

Given James’ multi-asset skills, after that takeover he was one of the few AIG Trading employees retained by Joe Cassano, and over the next three years James kept his head down: continuing to work with risk-seeking investors across all assets classes but also learning everything he could about the plumbing of the global financial system.

In September 2006, James was hired by UBS on their hedge fund FX desk in London and tasked with building upon his existing relationships with buyside CEOs & CIOs. From that seat, James was permitted to advise and transact across all assets classes, and soon started advising people on how to short subprime, and how subprime would expose and jeopardize the plumbing of the global financial system. Via the powerful UBS network, James’ daily email – Notes from a Small Island – soon became required reading for investors and policy makers alike.

Throughout 2007 & 2008, James’ unique ability to understand then explain the plumbing not only helped his clients not lose money, but helped some of them make a fortune. Starting in late 2008 a number of these clients encouraged James to set up his own firm, which he did: his one-man firm Aitken Advisors LLP went live on June 1st, 2009.

James’ unique plumbing skills also provided valuable insights into the EMU debacle: whilst the consequences and inevitable turmoil of injecting sovereign default risk into peripheral Europe ought to have been obvious, as with subprime it was not well understood. Via word of mouth alone, James’ business grew rapidly.

As much as his reputation was built during periods of extreme market disruption, James always knew there were two sides to the distribution of macro outcomes: there is a tendency for macroeconomic or macro-financial advice to focus on what is going wrong, but it is important to keep an open mind on what could go right. Whilst he will always take a keen interest in the plumbing of the global financial system, on everything from monetary policy, to Brexit, to COVID, to strategic competition between western capitals and the CCP, to inflation, to ESG, to the climate transition (which are only a few of the topics he covers) James’ longstanding, loyal clients appreciate his thoughtful, proportionate interpretation of global events. In their view, the ROI of a subscription is high.

James doesn’t just advise clients on what is happening: he always follows up with the ‘so what?’ and ‘now what?’ whereby clients can understand how to implement James’ ideas, across all asset classes.

His global client base includes every type of investor: the world’s largest family offices, endowments and foundations; pension funds and insurance funds; mutual funds; long-only investors; the world’s largest credit and fixed income investors; sovereign wealth funds; HNWI; special situations; distressed debt; and hedge funds of every description. In addition, he continues to be sought out and to advise Western policy makers, particularly when it comes to unfinished financial regulatory reform. 

If James had a motto…

If James had a motto it would be ‘I want to be less wrong’: in a world that is endlessly shouting at itself, James prefers to spend as much time as possible reading books and other material in the public domain that he believes important to his clients’ success, but which his clients may not have time to read.

James’ bi-annual booklists are much admired by his clients, their colleagues, and their families: across the first twelve and a half years of his business, James has dispatched over two thousand seven hundred books to clients.

Interviews and podcasts
What do you get if you combine relentless curiosity, relentless reading, and relentless listening with an extraordinary network of contacts, an extraordinary memory, and an extraordinary pair of pale blue moccasins? The unique insights and colours of James Aitken. An invaluable guide to anyone trying to navigate the future of our complex world.
Henry Maxey
Chief Investment Officer, Ruffer LLP
Always avoiding the comfort of conventional wisdom and the safety of momentum trades, James has been humbly and relentlessly following the money for decades. He digs deep through plumbing as diverse as SIV liquidity, euro clearing and SFDR so we can better understand how finance works, when it’s failing, and where it’s going.
Mark Carney
Vice Chair of Brookfield Asset Management, former Governor of The Bank of Canada, and The Bank of England

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