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Rising Stars: If the Fund Fits, Join It

By Lucas Laursen

Most of Amol's job offers were in consulting, but he applied for one position at a hedge fund because friends there recommended it. "I had a quantitative background and [the fund] fit my investment philosophy. My contacts told me the best time to get in was right after college. All of that convinced me to take the job."

Name: Amol
School: University of Pennsylvania
Major: Electrical Engineering and Finance
Years Out of College: 0-2
Title: Analyst

Challenges Faced

It may sound like Amol was unusually well-prepared for his job, but he did rely on his firm's training program to bring him up to speed. "I did a summer-long training program and learned about my firm at a high level but didn't learn about my own job until I was on it."

The biggest shock: "The learning curve, actually. I was surprised to learn how much you don't learn in school, even though I had a finance degree. I've definitely felt a little lost at times." Amol has made a point of seeking out more experienced members of his group and claims that "the associates aren't afraid to sit down and talk things through with analysts." Aspiring hedge fund managers need to have the fundamental quantitative skills, but Amol is a reminder that a proactive attitude towards mentorship is also important.

My Experience

Amol contributes to fine-tuning the economic models used by his fund and also has a hand in re-balancing portfolios. His supervising associates assign his work, but he has a fairly free hand in his research and making recommendations. The associates, if anything, are more helpful than tyrannical. Amol says the hierarchy "is pretty flat."

And he gets to do what he likes. "Research is probably the thing I look forward to most. I like exploring and coming up with improvements for our models."

Next Steps

Amol is taking the long view towards the hedge fund industry. As he points out, "we see very low turnover here." He may stay a while to really get the hang of it. "I definitely don't know everything about this business, but I'm happy here now. You have to look at it as something that requires a sort of apprenticeship and many years to master."

Advice for Others

Possibly the most important advice Amol can pass on has to do with compatibility. "Quantitative hedge funds are a business for people who have quantitative experience. There's lots of programming and attention to detail. You have to want to fit into the bigger process. People have to accept that it'll take years, not months to get on the learning curve. This is not the right place if you're sort of the person who likes to think on the fly."

"So think hard. And if the fund fits, join it."

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