Anyone happy at a multi-manager?

Given the short-term/quarterly focus, tight drawdown limits and lack of interaction outside of your team, people tend to describe their experience at MM's as highly stressful and unfulfilling (particularly if you have a fundamentally different investment philosophy). I understand that the experience is ultimately a function of your team and each team is different. But, I'm still yet to hear of anyone detailing their time at a top MM as a positive experience. My sample size is quite small so I was wondering if anyone could share what their experience has been like - especially interested if anyone has spent several years/built a career at a MM platform.

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Comments (99)

Sep 27, 2020 - 5:54pm

I understand all the negative perception: it can be high stress, lead to getting fired and having to leave the industry, and generally requires being wired in a different way with regard to time horizon, tolerance for losses, risk mgmt etc.

But the rewards can be exhilarating. It's as "eat what you kill" as it gets. Zero politics, zero BS, you don't even need to spend a minute on admin, back-office or obviously fundraising.. and still your fund hands you up to $billions to manage and focus on what you love, investing. I have zero stress about the "conversation" with my boss at year end about bonus (it's a % of p&l). If my overall fund is not doing well or losing assets yet my team is performing, I dont even worry that much, because my good track record will make me extremely marketable. There's very few set-ups that provide you with such a degree of ownership and independence. It makes the MM model extraordinarily motivating, you really feel like you are running your own business.

MMs are not for everyone. But then neither is PE (a lot more process) or traditional asset management (working at a LO would feel to me like working at the post office... steady paycheck and career, but zero excitement). They all have their pros and cons. But yes, there's a contingent of us that loves it at a MM.

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Sep 28, 2020 - 6:19pm


But the rewards can be exhilarating. It's as "eat what you kill" as it gets. Zero politics, zero BS, you don't even need to spend a minute on admin, back-office or obviously fundraising.. and still your fund hands you up to $billions to manage and focus on what you love, investing. I have zero stress about the "conversation" with my boss at year end about bonus (it's a % of p&l).

Curious if there is any counter-perspective to this. I've heard from folks that had bad experiences that there are definitely internal politics involved at the firm level and pod level. Speaking more from analyst's perspective, rather than senior PMs with ironclad comp formulas. After all, you can't generate P&L on an idea that your PM refuses to put on or somehow takes credit for. Favored personalities could take less of a fall for money-losing trades and be on a longer leash than those that are not in as good of a standing with PMs and senior management (for all kinds of prejudiced reasons/personal relationship factors a la regular corporates/PE/whatever).

Have you always felt that you are 100% living and dying by your merits at a MM in all honesty? Or just a bit more so than the typical SM setup affords?

Ugh the FBI still quotes the Dow... -Matt Levine
Sep 10, 2020 - 9:04pm

What sort of nuances of the business model did you grow to appreciate over time? I ask because it's unlikely an outsider like me will even be aware that they exist and I'm looking to make the jump at some point.

  • NA in HF - EquityHedge
Sep 10, 2020 - 8:14pm

Are MM as cut-throat as they seem? I'm debating making the jump because I really want to be able to have more direct P&L responsibility, but unsure if it'll be worth the loss of job security. Are there any MM funds that notably have better cultures where they don't find any reason to let you go, or I guess where the risk model isn't as stringent and inflexible?

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Sep 10, 2020 - 8:39pm

I used to work at a large single manager and moved to a multi-manager about a year ago. Working at an MM has been an incredibly enjoyable experience for me. The Analysts I've encountered know their stocks better than anyone else and the information flow is exceptional. The more time I've spent in an MM the more I've realized that most single managers are nothing more than factor shops (long value /short quality for example). MM's are a great place to learn and the idea that one of these analysts couldn't work at a single manager is absurd. 

That said, it's a total grind. Making money is incredibly hard when you have to run everything neutral. The market has a tendency to mean revert in most sectors, which means you constantly need to be turning ideas. Don't underestimate how much of an impact hourly P&L can have on you mentally - it can be tough to have conviction when you get kicked in the face every day for a week (which sounds ridiculous but its the truth)

Sep 10, 2020 - 8:57pm

Damn, thanks so much for your insights, v refreshing to hear. Just two quick follow ups if you'll indulge me.
Can you touch on what the work-life balance has been like for you and if you think the lifestyle is sustainable?
If after x amount of time you decide you want a change, what options are realistically available to you outside of the MM universe?

Sep 10, 2020 - 9:06pm

So I used to work in IB where the 'work'-life balance was non-existent. It was totally miserable and even a 70 hour week felt like absolute shit.  When you work at a HF, especially somewhere that you get paid directly on P&L, the mentality changes. I probably work 60-70 hours a week but I legitimately don't count and have never even thought about it. Everything I do is because I genuinely enjoy what I do / no one is forcing me to do it - this job is a little like a puzzle that you desperately want to solve. Most folks at MM's have complete autonomy (at least at the Analyst level) and so any work you do is on your own volition. I've had weeks where I've worked 30 hours and weeks where I've done a 100 hours (usually earnings) - But if I need to attend an event, go on vacaiton, or do anything else, I just do it - no one is watching.

Outside of an MM, I've seen people go to single managers, strategy roles, internal finance roles - I think it really depends on your network - which by the way, should be pretty easy to build at an MM 

  • Analyst 2 in HF - EquityHedge
Sep 13, 2020 - 11:43am

Following... have not many people who are happy here, ones that succeed are at least half socio 

Sep 15, 2020 - 10:39am

the MM funds have pods for every type of strategy....this board is mostly filled with classic IB type people who gravitate to L/S stock pickers...which means shorter term trading...but all types of investing takes place at the MMs.

right now, i get emails from Millenium (one of the larger MM funds)  trying to hire PMs in rates, credit, L/S equity, options volatilty, FX, global macro, EM, distressed, HFT, and the list goes on...there are hundreds of pods at the MM funds covering every type of investing style.

Sep 15, 2020 - 4:14pm

Pretty much every MM has been making a big push into event-driven, apart from Citadel (who still remember getting burned). It's a strategy that is basically a perfect fit for MM (because it's inherently close to factor neutral), until it really, really isn't (horrific tail outcomes). Unfortunately for most MMs, beta for event-driven went from 0.1 to 1.0 in the span of a few days in March, but it seems like they're back on the hiring path. 

Sep 15, 2020 - 6:39pm

At MMs, the hiring decision depends on the PM, and PMs are always biased towards hiring younger versions of themselves. If you're playing a numbers game, there are probably slightly more ex-IB PMs than ex-ER PMs. 

But really, "will I get into an MM" should not be what drives your decision between going into IB or ER. Because in a Bayesian framework, the probability of getting into an MM is fairly low regardless of whether you do IB, ER, or something else.

Sep 15, 2020 - 8:16pm

I disagree. At least in the US, and for equity pods at MMs, PMs want sector knowledge and good familiarity with their sector universe. ER analysts provide this, for a sector PM they're plug 'n' play and hit the ground running.

In many cases ER analysts already know the hiring PM because he is their client and they talk regularly. IBkers are on the wrong side of the Chinese wall and thus will have never met the Pm before.

In my experience at equity MMs, there's only 1 IB new hire for every 5 ER analysts brought on.

Sep 16, 2020 - 8:02am

I got an offer from citadel for a distressed pod and from millennium to work at a merger arb pod. i do not know which one to take since ever since I was 14 I have been doing both distressed investing and merger arbitrage. So can someone tell me if comp is usually higher in merger arb and distressed? Also, which one has more job security?

Sep 16, 2020 - 11:24pm

OP - everything has a price right?

In exchange for freedom and essentially no annoying bosses and written payouts, you are on a tight leash and in probably something pretty narrow. And definitely significantly hedged. You literally live and die by your PnL. If you aren't a PM, you live and die by your PM's PnL.

You are literally at the MM shop to make them (and therefore you, by association) money. It is not a place to say hello and be friends and collaborate, theorize on earnings etc. This is because everyone is in their own pod and there are definitely various pods running similar strategies that are literally competing against each other. I have met people in such a set up that enjoy it because they get to focus on what they like, have freedom and have a system/strategy in place that works for them (and the shop) of course. Some have survived for a while (one guy well over a decade). I have also met plenty of people who hated it, felt the pressure was intense, the limits restrictive etc and of course people who got blown out. Your mileage may vary. But the turnover at these places is high. Very High.

But generally this industry (hedge funds especially) is not one that I would think has many people who actually "love" what they do.

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.
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Sep 19, 2020 - 6:48pm

Very eloquently put.

It's crazy you know someone who's survived and presumably thrived in the MM space for over a decade! Do they possess any qualities you picked up on that may have contributed to their longevity?

Sep 19, 2020 - 7:20pm

I don't know actually and when I asked him how he survived so long, he shrugged and attributed a lot to luck. He trades or traded small cap stocks and is very much a trading type. He has an analyst background but definitely trades around a lot and does not fall in love with stocks. All of this said, I don't think he is having huge years and printing millions of dollars in bonuses for himself but is making enough to stay in the game and not get canned.

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.
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