The most powerful woman in hedge funds is off to a red-hot start at the helm of her own firm.
Leda Braga—who launched Systematica Investments in January after years under prominent European hedge fund firm BlueCrest Capital Management—steered her $7.6 billion flagship BlueTrend fund to a 9.52 percent gain net of fees last month, according to a private performance update sent to investors.
BlueTrend won mostly on unspecified bond bets, according to the letter. Much smaller returns came from correct interest rate plays, stocks and energy-related securities. BlueTrend lost a small amount on currency bets over the week of Jan. 10, the same period when a surprise Swiss National Bank policy move sent its currency soaring versus the euro and U.S. dollar, and burned many investors in the process.
But the firm more than made up that weekly foreign exchange loss with wins on bonds and stocks.
BlueTrend uses a "managed futures" strategy, meaning it trades the futures contracts of stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities and looks for trends in the movements of their prices—so-called trend following. The strategy was among the best performing in hedge funds last year.
A spokesman for Braga declined to comment.
Geneva-based Braga, 48, manages about $8.2 billion, easily making her the most powerful female hedge fund manager in the world in charge of her own shop.
Brazilian by birth, Braga got a Ph.D. in engineering from Imperial College London, where she also lectured. Braga then worked at JPMorgan Chase as a quantitative analyst on the derivatives research team, according to firm materials. At JPMorgan, Braga was a colleague of Michael Platt, who co-founded BlueCrest in 2000. After a stint at JPMorgan spinoff Cygnifi Derivatives Services, Braga joined BlueCrest in 2001.
In 2004, she launched and managed what became one of the firm's largest strategies and funds, BlueTrend.
The strategy gained an average of 11.2 percent net of fees each year from 2004 through 2014, according to performance figures obtained by CNBC.com, and only lost money in 2013 (down 11.5 percent). The Absolute Return Managed Futures Index, which tracks similar hedge funds, gained 4.91 percent over the same 10-year period. BlueTrend gained 12.68 percent in 2014.