The financial press can't resist stories about teenage hedge fund managers. First there was Jacob Wohl, the former "world's youngest hedge fund manager" before his firm was shut down by the SEC. Then there was Mohammed Islam, who fooled New York Magazine into believing he made $72 million trading stocks in high school.
And today, CNBC brings us another entry into the ranks of Gen Z market gurus. His name is Cole Mattox, and he launched his fund, North Tabor Capital, when he was 17 with money from a few of his parents' friends. Of course, the notion that there's a braces-wearing teenager managing money professionally begs the question: Is this just the latest sign of the top? By our count, Mattox was in the third grade when Lehman went under.
Maddox is now 18, and he's headed to the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, where he will continue running his fund, which has "more than one, but fewer than five" investors.
The young financier can't say who his clients are or how much they invested for legal and privacy reasons, but he says he has more than one and fewer than five clients in his hedge fund. They are all SEC accredited investors, says Mattox (which means they are making more than $200,000 year or $300,000 together with their spouse or have a net worth of more than $1 million excluding the value of their primary home). Mattox says he has over six figures in assets under management and, though he declined to disclose how much he is making running the fund, he says he does "pretty well" for a teenager.
Mattox has wanted to work in finance from a very young age. "Actually you know when I was in middle school they asked on a career day, 'What does everyone want to be?' And there are the typical answers of policemen, firefighter, professional athlete. And I actually wrote investment banker," Mattox tells CNBC Make It from his bedroom and office. "So that's where I am."
His mother joked with CNBC that their family would invest in their son's fund - but they couldn't meet his minimum investment.
Mattox doesn't solicit his hedge fund — investors reach out to him. "Everyone who is invested in the fund reaches out to me first. I don't actually actively pursue anyone," says Mattox. His first investor was a family friend who knew about his ambitions. From there, "it's all by word of mouth." All of his clients are friends and family, says Mattox.
His parents, though, are not clients. "We don't have enough money to invest in Cole's hedge fund. Hopefully when we grow up, we will be able to have enough money to invest, but I think he has a minimum investment amount and we have three kids," says Mattox's mom, Kuae.
Where did he first learn about his passion for finance? He learned it from an uncle who worked in mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs. Though he says he mostly taught himself, having been a subscriber to the Wall Street Journal since the age of 15. His mother frequently finds him awake in the middle of the night watching TED talks.
Some of his favorite books include: "Principles" by Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio, "Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street" by Sheelah Kolhatkar, the finance correspondent for the New Yorker, and "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" by Thomas Picketty.
"He was so serious about getting this going and so passionate about it, I came to really believe that he was going to get this up and running and keep it going," says Kuae. "He spends long nights, kind of every waking moment doing what he can to learn as much as he can he is really self-taught."
He also insists that he doesn't solicit investors - and that all of his clients reached out to him. He says the hardest part about managing money when you're a high school student is working in between and during classes. The first person he ever told about his ambitions reportedly laughed and told him it'd be possible when he's "40 with an MBA and have been working for 20 years".
One of the first people Mattox ever told he was going to start a hedge fund now works in compliance at a large bond fund and was a former financial lawyer. "And he looked at me and legitimately laughed in my face, and he's like, 'OK maybe when you're 40 and have an M.B.A. and have been working for 20 years,'" Mattox says.
Mattox says that part of his approach is algorithmic, and that having a small number of clients allow him to tailor his needs to accommodate them - whether that means trading cryptocurrencies or equity futures. In addition to preparing for Penn, Mattox says he's studying for his Series 65 finance exam. Mattox, who has met Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as New Jersey Senator Corey Booker and Governor Phil Murphy, told CNBC he hopes to continue running his fund at Wharton - and possibly expand.
Maybe by the time he's finished with Wharton, he'll have wizened up and moved on to private equity.