The BlackHat Interview: 2/4HF
Mod (Andy) note: The much anticipated BlackHat interview is here (see part 1 here). Questions came from myself and members of writing and intern teams. BIG thanks to BH for his really in-depth/quality/quick responses. I promise all of you will have some great takeaways from this series.
If you don't know of BlackHat, he has been in the has been one of the most active members on the site this year, and boasts a formidable 173:25 sb:ms ratio.industry for 5 years (broke in straight from ugrad),
Here's how the four part series will go:
- Background / breaking into HF
- Working in , Money & Motivation
- Career advice for all you WSO Monkeys + how he advanced in his career
- General life tips
First question of Part 2: Who is best fit to work in
(btw, try to keep your questions relevant to the current post as he may have likely already answered it in a previous or upcoming post.)
There’s so many different kinds of funds out there it’s impossible to speak to all of them, but as far as value funds go, the right person is somebody who take in a ton of information and truly learn about a business rather than jump in and out of a bunch of short-term ideas in plug-and-play fashion. I’d say the biggest qualities are autonomy, communication skills (including and particularly written), and a genuine thirst for knowledge. Most of the businesses I end up covering are ones I end up getting really interested in and learning everything about. I’ll call up academics, industry experts, and other people to try and get information that the companies won’t just hand out (else they may look bad) and learning all about the way the business works from these sources is not only what generates, but what makes it so fun. Having an investigative personality and a high level of curiosity is a huge plus, since there’s usually a reason a stock is cheap and you have to play detective and find out if it’s legitimate or not. It’s not for everyone, but if you didn’t notice I absolutely love it.
What's a typical work day like for you?
Here’s a typical day without the morning workout, which would go down at 5am:
6:00am – Wake up, roll around and make loud noises to piss off fiancée
6:15am – Shower, get dressed and ready for work
6:45am – Catch up on news from overnight and if there’s any 7am earnings releases I’ll wait
around for those. Check WSO of course and basically dick around for a while
8:00am – Head to work, maybe grab food at a cart or wait until I get to the office
8:30am – Get to the office, check emails, read newspaper, get caught up on everything
9:30am – Watch the markets open, start doing research and pick up where I left off day before
12:15pm – Go get lunch, usually with co-workers, but usually bring food back to my desk
12:30pm – Possibly look into some phone calls I need to make to IR or some management
2:00pm – Start writing up a memo for my boss and other analysts that summarizes my research and upload it on the network we all share. Afterwards, keep doing research or maybe updating model for whatever company I learned new information about if needed.
4:00pm – Watch market close, wrap up research for the day and maybe host a quick daily debrief in my office with PM and a few senior analysts. We’ll discuss how our positions held up in the market and talk about what we’re working on currently.
5:00pm – Print out aand some quarterlies to take home for a new company I’m looking at
5:30pm – Head out if I don’t have motivation to keep working on whatever research I was on
6:00pm – Gym, then pick up food or groceries or whatever fiancée says we’re doing for dinner, then jack around on WSO or whatever to kill time until dinner.
7:30pm – Dinner, followed by maybe going out for a quick drink or something, sleep by 12am.
What do you do to relax or take your mind off work?
My favorite hobby is probably MMA and/or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s a very demanding sport physically, but also mentally. Sparring in Jiu Jitsu is really like a chess game, and there’s way more strategy and planning in MMA than people give it credit for. I love being able to work on certain finesse techniques and try to set people up in certain positions, so it actually compliments my job pretty well. And let’s not forget, when you want to blow off some steam there’s no better way to do it than by kicking someone/something in the head. Aside from that I also love a good glass of wine and am a big movie fanatic. I used to play a ton of poker online too but unfortunately we can’t do that anymore…
What keeps you motivated?
The only thing that really keeps me motivated is that every day in finance is a little different, so life doesn’t get too monotonous at work. And like I mentioned, I’m motivated to learn [somewhat] useless information, which you tend to gain a lot of when you’re becoming an expert in several different businesses and spending your entire day reading and talking to a variety of people associated with the business or industry.
How much does money motivate you?
I can’t lie, money probably provides about 60% of my motivation to ‘succeed.’ The only way I can do everything in life that I want is by making enough money to be financially stable. Right now I’d say I’m most motivated by money because I knew I wanted to propose to my girlfriend and I didn’t want to do that until I was confident I’d be well-off enough to provide for her and a potential family. As I get older I don’t think money will be as much of a motivator, but I can’t just pretend like the almighty dollar isn’t at least a partial influence in why I work as hard as I do. First and foremost, however, is the fact that I enjoy what I do and would happily do it for 10% of the pay.
How much does someone in a role like yours make per year (base + bonus)?
Oh boy, of course this is one of the questions. Okay, well I’ll explain how I get paid and then go into how it generally works for more junior guys I guess. First off I feel like I need to start by saying I’m pretty fortunate at 26 years old to be given a lot of responsibility, whereas there’s guys under me who are older but still get trusted with less and push less ideas into the portfolio. My compensation is such that I get paid a decent base salary but am entitled to a certain percentage of our incentive fees for the year, in my case a little less than 1%. So someone in an agreement like this at a $2b fund might expect to see $300k salary and, let’s say the fund returns 20% (so $80M in fees), if the payout is 75bps, $600k as a year-end bonus. The downside of this is obviously that you can get killed if your fund loses money, but the upside is clearly very attractive. Don’t expect this until you’ve been working for long enough to have the trust of your PM and some sort of track record of good ideas and the ability to invest on your own. I’m in my 3rd year as an analyst and I’d still expect that’s way earlier than most places to get a chunk of fees worked into your contract. Luckily we run lean and my PM is pretty meritocratic, so I got an early opportunity.
Let’s take someone else at the fund who might work more on a discretionary bonus compensation plan, though. At the same seniority, it might be a similar base, but the bonus would just be “anywhere from 0-200% of base salary.” Typically that will also to a certain extent be based on fund performance, but we definitely know whose picks are whose, so if you’ve been repeatedly picking winners or losers, your bonus will reflect that. For 1st and 2nd years, base salaries are going to be decently lower and the bonus range might only go up to 100% or 150%.