What’s the most big brained area of non-quant finance?

I am doing vanilla buyouts at the moment and honestly even though I'm at a prestigious firm, and people are more sharp/polished than in banking, folks definitely don't seem to be intellectual in any remote sense. 

Lately was given the prospect of going into a distressed debt HF role and it seemed on paper like a more intellectual job. 

Which asset class is most big-brained in your opinion? Stereotypes ok. Quant is obvious answer but as a lowly econ major that's not an option. 

Comments (18)

  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Aug 17, 2022 - 5:20am

Research heavy HF roles, firm dependent 

  • Works at Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Aug 17, 2022 - 9:53am

Think distressed is pretty intellectual, so besides that three other areas come to mind.  

FIG PE - usually have to be intellectually curious because you have to think through a plethora of disparate topics including regulations, macro/rates, structuring, and multiple lines of business among a number of issues. None of these things are necessarily unique to FIG but rather the depth, breadth, and sensitivity of each of them is greater on a standalone basis compared to most other industries.

Macro investing - largely self evident.

Structured Products - can be closer to quant on the buy side or sell side but you really don't need to be a quant in the traditional sense to work in this space. I've been impressed by some of the ingenuity I've from professionals in structuring or structured product investing. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Aug 17, 2022 - 12:38pm

Would you have any examples of FIG PE shops?

Aug 17, 2022 - 11:12am
MacroJunkie, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm tooting my own horn here a bit, but I've found that buyside macro-related roles tend to be fairly intellectual (at least that's what I tell myself). Most of the really great macro traders/PMs that I've met have tended to be a bit more intellectual than the average fundamental (L/S, event-driven, distressed, etc.) PM. 

The further away you get from vanilla equities, the more interesting it gets IMO. 

Aug 17, 2022 - 8:01pm
powerforward1, what's your opinion? Comment below:

do you mean macro=RV with in a single asset class (rates/credit/vol) or multi asset (I'm skeptical of most macro folks here because it seems like it's either old school slingers or just simple GAA models)?

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  • Associate 2 in PE - Other
Aug 18, 2022 - 2:30pm

Special sits / opportunistic credit where you are investing across various asset classes (corporate, royalties, real estate, loan pools, etc.) and structures from debt to equity (public and private). Having to be up to speed on each asset class and to be able to think through risk / reward across each part of the capital structure (or whether to lend to or buy assets) is one of the most complex skillsets in finance. 

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Aug 18, 2022 - 5:49pm

+1 to this. Think tasks/fields that reward smart capital allocation and capital structure fosters a real edge in digesting complexity to find value in areas most can't. Frankly personnel / teams that can truly merge both equity (risk appetite and creativity/flexibility in growth) and credit (hedging downside) skillsets are rare

  • VP in PE - Other
Aug 21, 2022 - 3:01pm

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