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Risk Warrior

Published in Automated Trader Magazine Issue 37 Summer 2015

Miranda Ademaj was born in Kosovo at a time when an undeclared war was ravaging the area. Her parents fled with three children in tow to Germany, leaving everything behind and only uncertainty ahead. She has since worked as a fashion model and in investment banking while finishing an economics degree; took time off to travel the world; and co-founded fund of hedge funds, Skenderbeg Alternative Investments. We ask her about risk and return, and the very different kind of modelling she does today.

Miranda Ademaj, co-founder, Skënderbeg Alternative Investments

Miranda Ademaj, co-founder,

Skënderbeg Alternative Investments

Automated Trader: Few people have such a challenging background, what has led you to where you've ended up?

Miranda Ademaj: From a social and cultural point of view, Germany was very different from what I used to grow up with in Kosovo. As an adolescent woman I recognised particularly that women in Germany had more options and a higher social status than in Kosovo, but to assert similar rights for myself in my own social environment was a year-long up-hill struggle because, as an Albanian woman, you are expected to behave according to the norms of your own culture.

I think that for my parents I was sort of a difficult kid, because I was a person that enjoyed pushing the limits and transgress boundaries. My mom asked me again and again why I couldn't be a normal girl like other Kosovar girls.

Despite being left to my own devices in a way, I managed to graduate from Economics College (Höhere Handelsschule für Wirtschaft und Verwaltung). While studying, I also had to work part-time to support myself financially. So, I went through some hardship, but that turned me into a fighter.

Since German economy was showing signs of decline at that time, I saw better opportunities in Switzerland and so I decided to move to Zurich.

In Switzerland, I was confronted with, and had to learn to adapt to, yet another culture, albeit a culture not so much different from Germany's. But, ultimately, this country turned out to have a significant influence on my life.

Life has never been easy for young people uprooted from their homes by war, making their way into a new country, which, at times, is unwelcoming. For instance, when I arrived in Switzerland, a poster of a right-wing party against public funding of integration centers for immigrants from Kosovo could be seen everywhere. This was certainly not a comfortable sight for me.

The omens seemed to be not favourable. But, the vast majority of the Swiss population is very welcoming and, "Where there is a will, there is a way". I continued my studies in economics, worked for one of the biggest Swiss banks, Credit Suisse, and, as a hobby, I did some modelling. I even had the opportunity to appear on television. I had achieved all my goals. Except one: the dream to become someday CEO of my own company.

AT: Why finance?

MA: Since a very early stage, I have been fascinated by the intricacies of the financial markets. Hedge funds, in particular, attracted me due to their secrecy, their mysterious aura. Later on, probably partly due to my traditional upbringing, I wanted to see whether I could make a difference in this male-dominated world. But perhaps I expected too much from my life and my role as a woman in the financial industry?

I needed some time off, time to come to terms with what I wanted in life. So I went on a one-year trip round Australia and South East Asia. But my predilections hadn't changed. As a consequence, I started to work for a fund of hedge funds pioneer in Zurich. There I met some great people. People who understood my perspective in life, who were enthusiastic, intelligent and highly educated.

One day, after having gained a lot more of experience, my last unfulfilled dream resurrected and I decided to create my own company, a spinoff of our employer, Brunner Invest AG. I partnered with two colleagues and we created a company, called Skënderbeg Alternative Investments named after the medieval Albanian freedom fighter Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeg.

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