Dealing with PM (equities) who is trying to limit your progress

wasper710's picture
Rank: Monkey | 49

Hi Guys, I'm currently at a L/S equity fund, not too big, but in the 50-100M USD range. The thing is, I've been at this shop for less than a year, but I've discovered that the PM is incredibly difficult to work with. In that he is a poor people manager and actually goes to great lengths to keep analysts from building out their areas of expertise, in order to (in my view) limit the possibility that analysts take this experience with them and go somewhere else. This PM also likes to micromanage, so we all just spend time crunching numbers, but are not allowed any flexibility to make calls, even to pitch stocks. The PM generates all of the ideas and even when the few analysts pitch something that makes a lot of sense, I've noticed the PM tends to ignore all it and switch the topic back to his own ideas.

I'm a bit confused how to deal with someone like this at my point in my career (3-4 years of solid work experience). Would it be worth starting to look for other opportunities, even though I've only been here for one year? The thing is, I want to be working for a place where I am getting personal growth and new experiences as well, not stuck doing the same number crunching over and over again while being micromanaged and given absolutely zero freedom to specialize on any industry or geography. The pay is industry / Street average.

However, the work environment at the office is extremely toxic because the boss only hires "Alpha" type personalities and then finds ways to pit people against each other. For example, he will often switch up the analysts tasks - ie if I was in charge of looking at company or sector A, he would suddenly reassign this to the other analyst without warning, making you confused and often frustrated at what you did wrong. Or he would ask other analysts to secretly look at the same companies you are doing as a way to encourage undermining and sabotage amongst staff. Nobody in the office talks to one another - we only communicate with the boss. This job has been increasingly my day to day stress levels tremendously

Was wondering if any of you have seen something like this (boss who doesn't want you to grow, don't see any career progression path, but stayed for a 1 year only).

The thing is, I've had a chat with him about my longer-term career, and his feedback was basically I should be happy I have a job to begin with. There was nothing said about what my role 2-3 years down the line would look like if I stay and the fund does well. I have other friends in the industry and I just don't think this is normal because smart / motivated workers also want to progress and feel like they are getting better and contributing more, but the PM apparently wants everyone to be extremely motivated but his strategy is to micromanage them (ie, "build the model this way", "do this calculation", "ask this question", etc...) This type of management kills motivation.

I currently have another option, but it isn't at a hedge fund, but at a sell side firm. The thing is, I want to move out of this fund, but also worry that I might be doing the wrong thing by jumping to the first option that would let me get out of this fund. The situation here isn't that pleasant but not sure if it's worth anything to stay until I find a truly better option.

Any advice would be helpful. Thanks!

Comments (16)

Mar 3, 2019

Jump ship ASAP. There's no dealing with a person like that. It's critical at this point to grow.

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Mar 3, 2019

I would show some grit and tough it out until you find something materially better. Don't commit career suicide just for the emotional release it would give you. Although subtly threatening to leave (not outright) might yield some better circumstances for you if you are viewed as a valuable employee.

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Mar 3, 2019

Let me put this into perspective, since i am sitting on the other side of that imaginary divide. I am not an L/S PM (thank God) but I know that side of the business well enough.

(a) I doubt there are any sister motives in play here. It's very unlikely that your PM is really doing anything that purposefully reduces the growth of his analysts. However, it's very likely that he is doing nothing that would improve their growth either.

(b) Micromanaging is normal in this business. After all, the buck stops with him and he feels that he needs to give you the exact directions. I don't know what your experience was prior to this, but from his perspective you are just a hunk of fresh meat that does not know his ass from his elbow.

(c) Switching analysts, asking people to look at other peoples models etc is just his way of getting a diversity of opinions. It's a pretty tricky thing to do, in all honesty and frequently ends up in a sh*tshow like you are describing.

(d) On the other hand, there are several red flags. Is he the founder and all of the capital is his/FF money? How many analysts does he have? Why did you go to work there (100m fund is a startup in this day an age) in the first place?

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Mar 4, 2019

Mostly Random Dude, thanks for your thorough answer. Let me clarify some the questions / issues you posed.

1) I am not a beginner in this industry, I have close to 5 solid years of work in equity analysis and investing, and can do the whole process from sourcing ideas to modeling to testing scenarios to deeper channel checks to comparing my views with consensus and generating / pitching the idea. When I entered the industry I was a kid who was just learning so I think micromanaging can teach you a lot, but at this stage I am being told what numbers to crunch, how to make my model (down to the line), what to ask on questions, and while I'm doing all of this, he does the exact same work in his office as I do and we compare notes. As far as I know, this doesn't seem to be "standard" in the industry. Friends near my experience level are given independence to explore the themes and ideas they like. I pitched several potential ideas and sectors to him and they were ignored, as he changed the topic back to asking me to update financial models for him. Every time I come up with something I want to explore, he turns the attention back to updating the latest quarterly numbers for Company X or Y. I am not given the opportunity to do anything on my own.

  1. He is the founder, and we are a small firm with just 3 analysts. There is no one else above him and he makes all the decisions. I joined because I thought this was a good chance to help build a small fund, but at this point I'm starting to sense that even if the fund makes it and grows very large he isn't the type of person to reward people.
  2. There is a bit of a style drift at our fund that's adding to my worries. We were advertised as a fundamental equities fund, but a significant majority of our trades are based on technical analysis / chart reading with no attention paid to long term fundamentals / structural thesis. I don't have much experience in TA, nor do I believe it works that well.

The situation is what it is. Thanks for your input, but I think it is probably best to consider other employers. I just am not sure if it's the best option to take an offer that clearly isn't the best for me just to leave. But at the same time I'm not sure when I will actually get a truly better opportunity and how long I might have to wait in the interim.

Thanks for your feedback.

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Mar 3, 2019
wasper710:
  1. He is the founder, and we are a small firm with just 3 analysts. There is no one else above him and he makes all the decisions. I joined because I thought this was a good chance to help build a small fund, but at this point I'm starting to sense that even if the fund makes it and grows very large he isn't the type of person to reward people.
  2. There is a bit of a style drift at our fund that's adding to my worries. We were advertised as a fundamental equities fund, but** a significant majority of our trades are based on technical analysis** / chart reading with no attention paid to long term fundamentals / structural thesis. I don't have much experience in TA, nor do I believe it works that well.

Run. As fast as you can.

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Mar 3, 2019

We got a mind reader here.

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Mar 3, 2019
mbahopeful88:

We got a mind reader here.

I wish I was. But I do have experience in a risk taking role and can understand the motivations of people in similar seats.

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Mar 4, 2019

1.) its intentional by the PM
2.) build relationships with other people in the firm, that will scare him, this is how you gain leverage in a company. Your fund might be too small though
3) dont ever bring up his gatekeeping directly
4.) wait for the right opportunity to leave

Mar 4, 2019

Hi mike78787, thanks for your response.

Regarding building relationships with other people, it is not that easy, as we are a very small office with 3 analysts. The analysts have all fought with each other and generally don't talk one another. I have not brought this gatekeeping with him directly but I have discussed with him how he viewed my career and the response I got was along the lines of "be grateful you have a job". The PM is also the founder so there's no one above him.

I've been at this place for slightly less than a year, but the micromanaging and cock-blocking is seriously destroying my originally strong passion for the industry. Also, he asks the analysts to analyze a firm or company but he in his own office, does the exact same thing. So I feel like I am just repeating the same work that he is doing - if that's the case, why even hire an analyst? This type of management just kills any passion. It's just I'm not sure how long it would take for me to get another job, but I don't want to make the mistake of just going to the first offer I get. My currently offer is from a research - type firm.

Mar 6, 2019

don't go to a small research shop (like Nomura/Instinet) if you can avoid it...either goto a BB....or a large fund. Research is fine...it is the breeding ground for PMs

just google it...you're welcome

Mar 4, 2019

1) Your PM doesn't sound like someone who would even care about analysts leaving - juniors are just a resource to him and you're probably reading too much into his behaviour. Unfortunately there are plenty of people like this in the industry.

2) Unless he's a genius and you think he's going to turn it into a $1B+ fund very soon (the style drift suggests not), you need to get out. Extract everything you can from his process and move on.

3) I would advise trying to stick it out until you get another buyside offer. Buyside to sellside can come across negatively on a CV regardless of whether it was a justified move or not (people will wonder whether you couldn't hack it on the buyside, if you couldn't take risk, if you were burned out, etc.)

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Mar 5, 2019

Given the fact that he is both the founder and your direct report, I don't think you have any other option but to leave. This sounds like an extremely toxic environment that will do nothing but burn you out. That being said, I don't know that I would jump to a sell-side gig just to get out. My impression is that would be a step back for you career wise. I think the 1 year blemish on your resume will raise some eyebrows, but is also easily explainable once you're able to have a face to face conversation. For what it's worth, sorry you've found yourself in this position. I've been there before and it is truly a nightmare.

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Mar 5, 2019

How to deal with WSO memebers trying to limit your sale of LLC?

Most Helpful
Mar 5, 2019

I've personally been in this position before, and it's a bitter pill to swallow.

In reality, you already know the answer to your question. Once you start perceiving that your boss isn't conducive to your personal/professional growth, it's rather hard to reverse that thought. Realistically, ask yourself--what can your PM do to change it? Pay you more? Even if he does that, chances are you still aren't going to be happy (you stated above that you don't have the freedom to pursue ideas independently and that bothers you). Resentment can also be a snowball that turns into a boulder. It's hard to stop negative thinking once the cycle begins, and there's an ensuing feedback loop that just stays "on" the entire time.

I think the right move here is to stick it out (unless you have a ton saved up, you don't mind a lack of income, and the situation is borderline toxic/unbearable). Just view it as a paycheck, and spend whatever spare time you have networking/applying to roles/cold-emailing.

Make sure that your next career move isn't out of desperation or fear, because remember--your next gig may bring you relief in the short-term (due to change of environment and people), but long-term, you may become bitter/resentful again if it isn't what you envisioned it to be.

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Mar 4, 2019
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