Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday - this was originally posted Feb 2009
Since there aren't any decent/active discussions on the HF forum, I figure I start a thread highlighting the good, bad, and ugly aspects of working at a hedge fund. This is based on my personal experiences so don't take them as gospel.
Hopefully others will contribute with their own experiences over time to add more color to the discussion. It is my hope that those getting into this game will have a better understanding of what they are getting themselves into.
Before I get started, this thread is really intended for people already in finance (current banking analysts/buyside professionals) as a way to start an honest discussion about HF. I'm not going to answer "I'm an undergrad looking to break into hf" type questions in this thread. If I'm in a good mood, I'll start a separate "You're an undergrad and want to break into buyside...this is what you can do" thread later.
This initial post isn't comprehensive and I'll add more over time. There are plenty of thoughts I have on the subject.
Work as an analyst at a multi-billion dollar fundamental hedge fund, and have been here 3+ years. I work in the special situations/event driven equities group, and specialize in long positions.
Good, Bad, Ugly, Random thoughts (in no particular order and hopefully it makes sense):
1. Be happy with the fund's/group's strategy because you will get pegged. Some of you with restructuring/hy experience are already pegged before you even step foot at a hedge fund ("Jeez these recruiters are only calling me about distressed opportunities"). I would very much like to do distressed debt, short equities, and dabble in foreign securities, but those opportunities are limited for me since I don't have enough experience shorting/analyzing credit/foreign companies.
2. Movement between funds can be very hard. Buyside is great, but it's really not easy to move around. Over time, you're going to be very particular with what you want to do, and the funds are going to be very particular with who they want to hire. Trying to find a fund that matches your preferred strategy, salary, location, culture, and career trajectory is a HUGE task. Most funds don't like paying recruiters so opportunities are usually found through the network. This is why when people move it is usually the result of a senior member branching out and taking junior people with them or networking with a past co-worker. B-school is also another avenue used to move to another fund.
3. Most new hires (ex-IB analyst) are initially hired to grind out models and help "flesh out an investment thesis" (i.e. read the footnotes) for senior guys. You become really valuable when you start to develop an investment identity and begin sourcing ideas. Keep in mind, some places don't care about developing your idea generation abilities and you're only there to grind through the numbers. Obviously places like Tiger were hedge fund manager factories, because analysts were trained to source ideas and defend their thesis. Hopefully, your buyside opportunity is with a place like Tiger.
4. Pay is volatile. You can be doing to same task at different funds and be paid vastly different amounts. Obviously pay at most places are based on fund performance, so be comfortable with knowing your financial well being is heavily reliant on the skills of your PM. As I reach an inflection point in my career, I'm starting to yearn for a situation where I can play a bigger role in killing what I eat and not be so tied to decisions beyond my control/recommendation.
This is a good stopping point...