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Investment Team

Christian Zugel

Mr. Zugel serves as Founder and CIO of ZAIS and is also Chairman of the company’s Management Advisory Committee.  Mr. Zugel also serves as CIO and Chairman of the Board of ZAIS Group Holdings, Inc. Prior to founding ZAIS in 1997, Mr. Zugel was a senior executive with J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., where he led J.P. Morgan’s entry into many new trading initiatives.  At J.P. Morgan, Mr. Zugel also served on the Asia Pacific management-wide and firm wide market risk committees.  Mr. Zugel received a Masters in Economics from the University of Mannheim, Germany.

Michael Szymanski

Mr. Szymanski serves as President of ZAIS and is also a member of ZAIS’s Management Advisory Committee.  Mr. Szymanski also serves as Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”), President and Director of ZAIS Group Holdings, Inc. Before joining ZAIS in September of 2009, Mr. Szymanski was Chief Executive Officer of XE Capital Management, LLC, an investment management firm specializing in structured products, from 2003 to 2008.  Before that, Mr. Szymanski was Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”) of Zurich Capital Markets (ZCM), a subsidiary of Zurich Financial Group, from 2000 to 2002.  Mr. Szymanski was also a Vice President in the Bank and Insurance Strategies Group of Lehman Brothers from 1997 to 2000, providing capital markets structuring and advisory services to financial institutions and corporations.  Mr. Szymanski also spent nine years at Ernst & Young LLP advising financial services clients, leaving as a Senior Manager in the Capital Markets/M&A Advisory Group in New York.  Mr. Szymanski is a CPA and received a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in Accountancy from the University of Notre Dame and an M.B.A. with a concentration in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business.  Mr. Szymanski formerly served on the Board of Directors of the National Stock Exchange (NSX) as Chairman of the Audit Committee.

William Connors

Mr. Connors serves as a Portfolio Manager and Managing Director of ZAIS and brings over 20 years of investment experience in the leveraged credit asset class, specifically high yield bonds, leveraged loans and leveraged equity.  Prior to joining ZAIS in October of 2012, Mr. Connors served as co-founder of Battleground Capital Management, a credit focused hedge fund. Prior to Battleground Capital, Mr. Connors was a partner at Ore Hill Partners, a $2 billion multi-strategy hedge fund based in New York City.  Mr. Connors launched and was Portfolio Manager of the Ore Hill Concentrated Credit Fund. Previously, Mr. Connors spent 14 years at W.R. Huff Asset Management, a registered investment advisor managing approximately $17 billion in assets across an array of mandates, including high yield bonds, public and private equity, distressed investments, and performing bank loans.  While at W.R. Huff, Mr. Connors was responsible for domestic High Yield portfolio management, and he served as Chief Investment Officer of the WRH Global Fund. Mr. Connors has been a member of the Board of Directors of Virgin Media Inc., Telewest Communications PLC, Impsat Fiber Networks Inc., and ICG Communications Inc. Mr. Connors has a B.A. in Mathematics from Drew University and an M.B.A. from Columbia University, as well a Chartered Financial Analyst designation. 

Denise Crowley

Ms. Crowley serves as Head of Securitized Credit at ZAIS and is responsible for mortgage investments, including Non-Agency RMBS, CMBS, Commercial Real Estate debt and equity and CLO investments across our separately managed accounts and co-mingled funds. She is also a member of ZAIS’s Management Advisory Committee. Since joining ZAIS, Ms. Crowley has been actively involved in the MBS, CLO and CDO security markets since 1999. Previously, Ms. Crowley managed a HY credit fund for ZAIS. Before joining ZAIS in August of 1997, Ms. Crowley worked at J.P. Morgan in the High Yield Trading Group. Before J.P. Morgan, she worked for Hon. Daniel P. Moynihan as an economic research analyst. Ms. Crowley received a B.A. from Boston College and an M.B.A. from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Ahrash Daneshvar

Mr. Daneshvar joined ZAIS Group (UK) Limited in London in July 2016 and serves as a Managing Director with a focus on credit derivatives and quantitative trading strategies. Before joining ZAIS, Mr. Daneshvar worked at Morgan Stanley for approximately ten years, where he rose to lead the structured credit business.  Mr. Daneshvar began his career at Commerzbank, before moving to UBS in 2004. He holds a B.A. in physics from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge University.

Kenneth Harmonay

Mr. Harmonay serves as a Managing Director of Research and brings over 25 years of investment experience across numerous credit and equity markets. Prior to joining ZAIS in October of 2012, from 2009 to 2012 Mr. Harmonay served as a partner at Battleground Capital Management, responsible for credit analysis and security selection. Prior to that, Mr. Harmonay served as a key investment professional of W.R. Huff Asset Management, a registered investment advisor managing approximately $17 billion in assets across an array of mandates, including high yield bonds, public and private equity, distressed investments and performing bank loans. Primary responsibilities at W.R. Huff included research analyst and Director of Research. Mr. Harmonay was a partner in numerous Huff private investment funds and served as a director on several boards of directors, including: Trident NGL Inc., Price Communications, Rymer Foods, and Multi-Market Radio, Inc. He also served as an observer to several boards, including: Texas Petrochemical Inc., Arcadian Corporation, and Benedek Broadcasting, and as a member of several official creditors’ committees in U.S. federal bankruptcy court. Mr. Harmonay earned a B.S. in Economics from Lehigh University and an M.B.A. from Fordham University.

Vincent Ingato

Mr. Ingato serves as Head of Leveraged Finance and a Portfolio Manager and Managing Director. He is responsible for managing ZAIS CLOs and investing in the underlying leveraged loans. Mr. Ingato is the Chairman of the Leveraged Loan Investment Committee and is a member of ZAIS’s Management Advisory Committee and Investment Committee. .  Prior to joining ZAIS in June of 2013 and establishing the leveraged finance business, Mr. Ingato was a Managing Director and Portfolio Manager at CVC Credit Partners, CVC Capital’s credit business (formerly known as Apidos Capital).  He joined CVC in May 2008 in connection with the sale of ACA to CVC.  Mr. Ingato established ACA’s leveraged finance business in 2004 and was responsible for the firm's Corporate and Leveraged Loan CDOs.  Prior to joining ACA Capital, Mr. Ingato was Senior Vice President and Head of the Leveraged Finance Group at Fuji Bank, which he started in 1992.  After the bank merged to form Mizuho Financial Group, he served as Deputy General Manager.  Prior to joining Fuji Bank, Mr. Ingato was Vice President and Area Manager of the Corporate Banking Group at Wells Fargo Bank where he was responsible for originating LBOs with the bank’s private equity firms.  Mr. Ingato holds his B.S., magna cum laude, in Marketing from Fairfield University, and an M.B.A. from the College of William and Mary.

Rick Nicklas

Mr. Nicklas serves as a Portfolio Manager and Managing Director and is responsible for securitized credit. Mr. Nicklas has over 20 years of experience in the U.S. Structured Securities market. Prior to joining ZAIS in August of 2008, Mr. Nicklas spent eight years with Lehman Brothers where he was a Senior Vice President trading non-agency mortgage backed securities with a particular focus on credit. Prior to Lehman, Mr. Nicklas spent seven years at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette trading both the senior and subordinate parts of the capital structure in the Residential Mortgage space. Mr. Nicklas has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania and a B.S. from the University of Virginia.

Cara Roche

Ms. Roche serves as Portfolio Manager and Managing Director and is responsible for securitized corporate credit.  Ms. Roche joined ZAIS in September of 2004 and since has had significant involvement in the investment analysis of corporate backed CDO tranches, credit derivatives and synthetic securitizations and the management of the funds holding these securities.  She also contributed to the development of analytical systems and the group’s quantitative modeling capabilities.  Prior to joining ZAIS, Ms. Roche attended New York University and Trinity College Dublin. She earned a B.S. in Chemistry from NYU in 2004 and an M.A. in Mathematics of Finance from Columbia University in 2009. 

David Stehnacs

Mr. Stehnacs serves as Portfolio Manager and Managing Director and is responsible for securitized corporate credit.  Mr. Stehnacs joined ZAIS in June of 2001 and since has had significant involvement in the structuring and investment analysis of CDO2, corporate backed CDO tranches and synthetic securitizations and the management of the funds holding these securities.  Mr. Stehnacs has a B.S. in Finance from Monmouth University.

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