Breaking Into a Hedge Fund with a Background in Pharmaceuticals

TheAlchemist101's picture
Rank: Chimp | 14

Hello all,

I am in the process of completing a doctorate degree in pharmacy (PharmD) as I plan how best to leverage my non-conventional background in the hedge fund industry. As an active trader with a fairly diverse portfolio, I have always had a keen interest in the markets. Given my healthcare background and working knowledge of how different medications behave in the body, I often read company filings/clinical trial updates in an attempt to find value where it is due. I am able to look at companies objectively and make decisions accordingly from a bottom-up perspective (L/S).

As far as career plans go, I understand it is difficult to land a position at a L/S hedge fund if one lacks the proper knowledge, skills, and fortitude. With this in mind I decided to pursue the CFA route to add some relevance/credibility to my CV (I am scheduled to sit for Level 1 in December). Of those who I've spoken with, many have suggested that I look for a position in ER at a boutique IB or smaller shop to gain some experience after graduating. With the recent trend of hiring individuals from STEM backgrounds, I'd like to know if there are any additional steps I should be taking to better position myself.

At this point, I am looking for some advice/insight into the best way I can get my foot in the door at a hedge fund. If there are any members out there with similar plans or experiences willing to share their knowledge and opinions, I would be eager to listen. All insights are welcome!

Comments (15)

Mar 6, 2018

Tbh this might not be any help. But, have you looked at PE or VCs focused on the life sciences? Consulting is also a field where they like hard science people.

Mar 6, 2018

I also have a life science background and can tell you for a fact that without some banking/consulting/PE or VC experience I doubt you'll go straight from science to HF. If you're based in the US I would highly suggest looking at industry specific banks such as Leerink Partners to build on finance skills. Additionally you can start off in the healthcare groups or larger banks or in ER but that may be less valuable than healthcare IB.

IMO, if you really want to leverage your science knowledge then I would apply to life science consulting where it will be really useful e.g. at MBBs. McKinsey offers a pharma consultant position in Zurich which demands an advanced degree in medical sciences. I'm sure you can find an MBB or Tier 2 similar position in the US.

Here is the position: https://www.mckinsey.com/careers/search-jobs/jobs/...

Mar 6, 2018

Thank you for your insights! Apologies for leaving it out in the OP but I am from Toronto.

Ideally, I'd like to stay as close to the markets as possible, hence my decision to go the CFA route. I understand it may not be as useful in banking as it is in the HF/AM industry but as I said, I'd like to add some credibility. Would this be the case in PE? I understand PE is quite similar to IB when it comes to deals. I will continue to look out for analyst positions at the smaller shops in Toronto, since I feel my chances of breaking in there would be greater than knocking on BB doors. I've noticed that many of the positions advertised relevant to my background are outside of Toronto (i.e. NYC, Chicago, SF, LA). I would be open to relocating if the opportunity presents itself. I'll take a closer look at Leerink definitely, thanks!

Mar 11, 2018

What is your rationale for getting a CFA? I would probably recommend against this as it is incredibly time consuming and generally not viewed as a requirement by people in the HF industry.

As others have mentioned, your best bet is likely to try to get an entry level consulting or equity research job and go from there. CFA not required for either. Instead open up your own portfolio and start buying stocks so you have something to talk about in interviews.

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Mar 12, 2018

I have a solid foundation of knowledge in my industry which I continue to build upon. Always enjoy reading different perspectives/opinions and learning. My rational is that the CFA will add credibility in the sense that I'll be able to look at a company more effectively bottom-up. In my position, I think passing the CFA exams with my background will show an interest in the industry and help land interviews. I also think it will set me apart from others looking to transition into finance (especially ER) with a science background. If you look at my original post you'll see that I have a portfolio already and would be happy to discuss my positions in interviews. With that, I think many would agree that the CFA would only help somebody in my shoes.

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Mar 18, 2018

I am curious as to why you did a PharmD as most people with that degree end up as retail pharmacists?

Curiuous to know what firms in Toronto are you targeting straight out of school?

Mar 18, 2018

I've always had a passion for the markets. Decided I'd like to take my career in that direction. PM me if you'd like to discuss Toronto firms further.

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Feb 26, 2019

I'd watch youtube videos on investing, trading, fundamental analysis, financial modeling.

Then I'd print out 100 stocks in your realm of specialty and do an event analysis over 5-10 years, and an investment case study on 20 of thee. Also, analyze how the stock reacts to newsflow.

Then start writing some stock pitches and format them similarly to how sell-side initiation reports are done, but much shorter and concise Build your stock pool and watch-list. Have a set method for following, monitoring, etc these stocks. Refine stock pitches and reduce to the best 5 ideas, 3 long, 2 shorts or 4 long 1 short. Keep doing this again and again, because this will the majority of the work we do as a buy-side analyst. Those ideas will come in handy for interviews.

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Most Helpful
Feb 26, 2019

Former science guy here (now work at a HF). Your background is definitely good (PharmD), but unless a specific HF is looking for someone that has a PharmD, there's a high barrier to entry. By all means, try to network as hard as possible, but it's not going to be an easy undertaking.

My personal recommendation is to shoot for an Equity Research role in Specialty Pharma/Therapeutics, and then try to lateral after a year or so. Alternatively, try to get into a VC/PE shop focused on life sciences, and learn how to invest before lateraling. Lastly, try focusing on Consulting/IB and then lateral over.

Make sure you learn accounting/valuation. PM me for more questions you might have.

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Mar 3, 2019

@Anon1254
Thank you for sharing you thoughts on the topic.
I have a PhD in STEM field with more than 5 years of work exp. plus MBA Finance, and currently at Pharma Company. I want to transition to the Buy side, HF/PE (NYC Metro area)

Any thoughts or guidance on networking would be really helpful.

Thxs,
Andy

    • 1
Mar 3, 2019

Feel free to PM me--will gladly help in any way I can.

    • 1
Mar 3, 2019

@Anon1254 got it thank you, Andy

    • 1
Mar 4, 2019

@Anon1254
could you please confirm if you have received the PM, I can't tell from the WSO Sent messages. Thxs,
Andy

Mar 4, 2019
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