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Comments (50)

Feb 11, 2016 - 7:56pm

This is extremely useful burke, I wish you the very best of luck as you seem truly passionate and hard working!

Would you mind answering a couple of questions? I'm currently a penultimate year Maths/Stats and Econ student in the UK (think Oxbridge/LSE/UCL) with a summer lined up in S&T at a bulge bracket (GS/MS/JP/BAML). In the long run, I'm interested in a discretionary Macro role. I think there are still many people who value experience more than a PhD, and, with that in mind, what would your top pieces of advice be if I were not to pursue a PhD? Get a job in Rates/FX/other Macro desk Trading and wait to be contacted by recruiters?

On another note, what kind of books and resources do you recommend? Is Excel & VBA useful in Macro? In terms of programming, would R be the best choice? What else should I be doing?

Thanks in advance!

Feb 11, 2016 - 10:44pm

Good luck with job hunting. Hope you will get what you want soon.

Two questions:

1) What research did you do regarding asset allocation? Did you have to rely on MVO or had any other views in asset allocation at your firm? I heard that CPPIB and HOOPS are drifting away from classical asset-type based allocation to factor allocation/investing. What is your take here?

2) What are the programming and quant skills required in asset allocation? Would appreciate elaborated reply.

Snootchie Bootchies
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Feb 12, 2016 - 12:07pm

ForTheDream - your answer really depends on where you intend to work. In the UK, I would think your best options would be:

1) Hedge fund (too many to list)
2) Asset manager (Schroders, Ashmore, etc.)
3) Banks (preferably in a research role - FX/rates preferably, but economist/strategist is also good; S&T is dying, thanks to Volcker, and is second-best)

Definitely do not wait for recruiters - they won't come; or they'll come with stuff not relevant to you. Network as much as possible, continually update your knowledge of major industry players, etc.). Many jobs are unposted and you'll (hopefully) land something through these informal channels.

With regards to programming, Excel and VBA are good for basic analysis - but the best is Matlab. SQL is also good. Other languages are also useful - peruse job postings to see; this is a great source of information.

For books, PM me and I can send you a list of recommended books (too many to list).

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Oct 4, 2016 - 3:46pm

Hi Burke -- I know this is an older post, but I would greatly appreciate if you could pm me that book list as well. I am currently a sophomore in the US who is interested in macro investing but not quite sure where to begin. Thanks for any advice you can provide.

Feb 12, 2016 - 12:08pm

Bondholm - I think all of the major Canadian players are moving towards risk factor investing. It makes a hell of a lot more sense than MVO. Re programming languages, see my prior post.

Feb 12, 2016 - 4:01pm

You would be better off trying to get a seat at one of the 20 primary dealer investment banks (idealy on their FX/rates strategy/research desk). If you can get one of those seats (not as the main guy, but just as a member of the team) then you will get exposure to clients and have a chance to make a name for yourself. The pay is decent (you are not actually managing P&L, so its not baller...but the better you do and the more clients like you, the more you can make), and after you make a name for yourself over 1-2 years, then macro buyside funds (who used to read your research reports) will give you a shot to manage a portfolio (i've seen this happen several times).

Feb 17, 2016 - 12:12am

Do you have the skills to trade your own book?

alpha currency trader wanna-be
Feb 17, 2016 - 12:57pm

Thank you for the great post! Re: getting a PhD, would you consider a finance PhD to be a complete waste of time compared to econ if I aspire to work in macro funds? How much does the ranking of school matter vs. the quality of research you produce, and how likely is PhD to open up a way for me as an international (Europe to be specific) to get work Visa if I do my PhD in US?

I would also really love to hear what books you recommend - I don't have enough SBs to PM you but would really appreciate if you'd send the list to e.g. e-mail (snagglee (at) gmail (dot) com). Thank you and best of luck!

Feb 17, 2016 - 9:37pm

Agreed on the importance of quant. PMs can do the financial analysis and interpret the data, challenge is gathering and processing data now -- there is an endless supply and very hard to pick out the signal. A lot of focus on process of generating signals that isn't just picking out data with a confirmation bias. At my macro HF, front-office junior analysts spend most of the time coding models and backtesting ideas. Those who can only do Excel will have a much harder time being useful.

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Feb 20, 2016 - 4:22pm

sheldonxp - Look at the USCIS website, specifically regarding TN visas.

watersign - I sat on the trading floor at work, but never traded directly. I definitely have the other skills to trade my own global macro book, though. What skills are you referring to specifically?

risenshine - I don't have a PhD, so I really can't answer. This much is obvious - if you want to be a quant, study finance; if you want to be a macro strategist, study economics. Definitely get your PhD in the US; barring that Oxbridge. I'll PM you the list.

ThinkMacro - Interesting. How are junior analysts trained, and transitioned, to more analytical/PM roles?

Angus Macgyver - Seeing that MIT alumni (Bernanke, Fischer, Draghi) run the world, the answer seems to be yes; but it seems likely, at some point in the future, less formal/mathematical schools of thought will become more prevalent in economics. That being said, there's a high threshold for charlatanism in the field, so you never know.

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Feb 18, 2016 - 4:15pm

Great post,

What advice would you have for a fresh graduate trying to break into the industry? The rotational program you did where you got the chance to work in risk management, asset allocation, and macro research sounds ideal. Do you know of any entry level positions in the United States that offer a similar experience? Thanks

Feb 18, 2016 - 5:31pm

adding to jenson123's comment, do you think it's possible for a US student to achieve a PhD in Econ if I received my BS in Agricultural and Resource Economics (3.73 gpa) and have work experience mostly in commodities trading? I'm quite good at modelling commodity markets but I would like to enhance my understanding of monetary economics, so I'm thinking a PhD might be the right path.

Will I be considered or completely looked over?

I have also been considering publishing my energy market models on a blog, along with analysis, to try and get my research and opinions out to more people. Thoughts?

Feb 18, 2016 - 10:48pm

Hi Burke,

Great post. I am Canadian, majored in finance/econ with good grade and work as a buy side analyst now. I am in a similar position as you were a couple of years ago. Trying to go to US B-school and gain access to the northeast buyside.

  1. Can you also elaborate on what your overall experience as a Canadian trying to make it down in the states? I am surprised by how tough things are, especially with your pedigree.

  2. Also, what is your view on the future of macro investing? Is the old school of Soros Druckenmiller style gone and no longer viable? Do you really need quantitative degrees to excel in the business?

  3. Can you give an example of the typical quantitative analysis or modelling macro funds are doing these days?

thanks

Feb 19, 2016 - 5:55pm

jenson123 - Bridgewater has a comparable rotational program, but I don't know of any other US firms that have such rotational programs... I'm probably missing some though.

Bergenstein - I think a Phd's possible. My last roommate was a lawyer before he started pursuing his PhD in Economics (he went to Yale Law, though, so he had good credentials to make the switch). Doing a blog is a really good idea... I'm going to do the same.

halfstep - 1) I'll elaborate more by PM; 2) The old school in global macro is definitely not gone (my buddy is working with Druckenmiller; I interviewed at Soros; Moore/Tudor/Brevan are predominantly discretionary), but there's been a lot of consolidation within the industry and the bigger, systematic shops (e.g. Bridgewater, AQR) are getting most of the money. I think the discretionary world's in better shape than my original post suggests, but those jobs seem hard to come by (networking/connections required). It does seem like quantitative macro jobs are more abundant than old-school research positions, so a quant degree just opens more doors (than not having one); 3) I don't have a sample, sorry.

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Feb 19, 2016 - 9:04pm

thanks for the answers Burke. I got just a few more for you

  1. Can you explain the typical portfolio and asset allocation for funds like Duquesne or Soros? (always eluded me since only a small portion is displayed in 13F) What would be the typical % break down for other allocations such as equity short book? cash? FX and rates?

  2. Which asset classes contribute to most of the returns for macro funds like Soros and Duquense? I always thought equity is the main portion of investment returns, until Druckenmiller had an interview a couple of months ago and I get the impression he actually likes to focus on rates and FX more?

Lastly, what do you think contributed to the stellar macro returns in the 80s and 90s, (CAGR 25%+ to 30% for famous ones) that no longer exist today? Do you think as world correlation drops and interest rate/vol goes up, macro will get impressive returns again like the old days?

Thanks

Feb 19, 2016 - 9:02pm

Macro AM is something that really interests me, and I love reading about for fun. But as a senior year finance major with mediocre grades at a mediocre school (good internships tho), it kinda sounds like I should give up the dream now while i can still retreat with some dignity.

Feb 20, 2016 - 4:26pm

halfstep - I don't know what the P/L contribution for Soros/Druckenmiller would be. For what it's worth, one of my profs once said Soros attributed all of his returns to value investing/stock picking - all the other trades netted out. I'm not sure I trust this, though...

Re your other question, I think returns have 3 sources: 1) cash, and excess returns, which are attributable to 2) beta, and 3) alpha. So macro fund returns have fallen because: 1) Cash returns have fallen because interest rates have fallen; 2) In the past, macro funds carried beta (or "alternative beta", in today's terms) in their books; and modern funds aren't able to get away with this now; and 3) Alpha is harder to come by (whether the macro environment or greater competition for alpha is attributable for this is a longer conversation). And, lastly, macro funds - all funds for that matter - are simply more risk-averse than they used to be, because their client base has become more institutional; and institutional investors are more risk-averse than HNW investors.

Connor-Godfrey - Good point. Here's the short list.

Reminisces of a Stock Operator
Asset Management
A History of Interest Rates
Manias, Panics & Crashes
This Time is Different
The Volatility Machine
Expected Returns
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf

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Apr 4, 2018 - 5:14pm

IMO most blame the algos. I think Andy hall shut down last year and blamed the algos. Truthfully they've distorted how those guys trade. I think they use to trade using much more Bayesian logic where new information comes in and you try to price it. Now with algos you see a lot more moves like January in equity markets followed by February in equity markets - straight up straight down. Or the pound dropping 15 pts in 5 minutes last year on a random night. Tough to do risks management when the algos make things so directional. Not that floor traders or bank desks didn't play the same games just that now it's all magnified and faster.

Feb 21, 2016 - 11:41am

Hi Burke,

I'm also on the same boat and I'm trying to get into grad school this year. From your experience, do they care for just the ranking itself? Do they tend to know which schools are strong in macro and the area they want to hire?

On a side note, do places usually hire recent grads for macro role specifically? Just need a plan B in case I need to work first.

Thanks for posting!

Feb 21, 2016 - 8:59pm

kkorn,

If you're trying to break into global macro - an MBA won't help you too much. Global macro firms, generally, don't recruit at b-schools; and if you don't have work experience that's directly useful for global macro investing, forget about it (exception: Bridgewater). If you want to get your MBA - and work in global macro some day - then recruit for fixed income positions at the banks; that's most likely your best route.

If you do have experience... your school doesn't matter too much - so long as you attend HBS/Stanford/Wharton/Chicago/Columbia/(maybe) NYU. Obviously, being at the better schools on this list helps, especially with regards to the network it provides, but it's not a deal-breaker. Work experience is still more important.

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Feb 22, 2016 - 1:28pm

Burke is right here. For non-ocr finance jobs, it comes down to your experience. Going to a top school helps a bit in terms of the network and branding and may get you some interviews, but its importance is rather limited.

I also attended one of Wharton/Columbia/Booth for my MBA, and the only jobs I recall in the macro/asset allocation space that actually did OCR are PIMCO, Voya, State Street, and PAAMCO. But pretty much you're on your own, and obviously don't expect career services to be of help.

Sellside trading desks and research also hate MBAs now. They do undergrad hires and promote them from within.

Another issue is that being out of the workforce for 2 years is a liability unless the job in question is specifically targeting MBA grads. Even if you are smart and have a strong relevant background, why would they hire a guy who has been in school over someone who has been working the entire time and is totally in sync with what's going on in the markets?

MBA is still valuable for traditional OCR jobs such as banking, consulting, marketing, F500. But for non-OCR jobs, the MBA's value and respect have declined precipitously as employers now recognize that b-school is just a 2 year vacation for adults and that you don't acquire any useful quantitative skillset.

Feb 26, 2016 - 4:41am
  1. How are you supporting yourself in the meantime if there's been no luck on the job front?

  2. What strategies have you been using to get your foot in the door? Cold email? Reaching out to your pre-existing network?

Feb 26, 2016 - 9:53am
  1. Savings.
  2. Much of it's reaching out to my existing network; or trying to build a new network.
Most Helpful
Jun 8, 2018 - 3:13pm

All - I initially took down this post, because it wasn't sufficiently anonymous, but I think there are several lessons others can learn from my mistakes so I've re-posted a new version.

I developed a bug for macroeconomics when I was 16 and have, essentially, worked 80+ hour weeks to further my understanding of what drives economies and markets since then. When I graduated college, I worked for a large institutional investor (note: I'm not American). In 5+ years, I was able to accomplish the following:

25: First currency research project. I was told it was better than a famous macro HF's research on the subject.
26: Told by my MD, who used to be regional Chief Economist for a prominent US bank, that my research was getting more recognition than his.
27: Senior researcher of $10b+ multi-asset portfolio.
28: When I left, my recommendations had generated $400m net profits (SR=0.74)

Simultaneously - I enjoyed my job, team, company; but, when I was 27, realized I wanted to work for a macro fund in NYC, so that I could realize my potential. So I started a job search that proceeded as follows:
27: Read every Albourne report on macro funds (and read 120+ books over the next 2 years). Compiled database of target companies. Cold emailed funds=no replies. Cold emailed high school/college alumni networks=no replies. Applied to 74 positions with banks and asset managers=1 reply; didn't land job.
28: Change tact. Scrapped together b-school applications. Didn't land first or second choice school; got into second choice school (M7) on 2nd application.
30: Graduate from b-school. Interviewing for target company (macro HF); offered back-office job; declined for front-office consideration, which I didn't land (process took 5 months). Next, interviewed with global macro team at prominent PE shop; no offer due to hiring freeze (process took 4 months).
32: I've resolved my work visa and job situation, but it took me 300+ applications. Looking for an upgrade, too...

There's a lot more I could say to outline the above - but that would divulge unnecessary personal information. There are several takeaways I'd like to share, so that others can learn from my mistakes:

1) Applying To Jobs: Global macro's been in decline for years, so it's incredibly hard to land interviews at macro shops. In contrast, the multi-asset space has grown a lot among banks and asset managers. There are more opportunities here.

2) Skills: The industry's become far more quantitative in recent years. If you want to work in macro, a Masters in Economics or Quantitative Finance is far better than an MBA. A PhD's even better. And having extensive programming experience (Python, R, Matlab, etc.) makes you eligible to far more jobs than if you don't. Also, never take your macro skills for granted. Whatever you study, regularly commit extensive time for independent macro analysis.

3) Landing Interviews: Firstly, a US work visa is pretty important, especially given the direction immigration policy is headed (obvious, but worth stating). Once I sorted this, landing interviews got easier. As you can see from my experience, applying for macro jobs from abroad is a hopeless endeavor. Secondly, I've been able to expand my network via the usual suspects (friends, alumni, cold emails, LinkedIn, etc.) - and this has landed most of my interviews and informational chats. What also works is simply reaching out to employees after you've applied to a position on their team. This typically lands me a recommendation - and, rarely, a coffee chat. Applying to jobs without tapping your network is next to useless.
Ultimately, be smart about your process. In hindsight, I realize I wasted time applying to jobs from abroad and applying to jobs without leveraging my network to get recommendations. Be thoughtful, practical and realistic about your application strategy; it will save you a lot of time and energy.

4) Interviewing: Nobody cares about your track record (unless you were a PM), past research, passion, work ethic, etc. They typically just want to talk about your resume, current market conditions, etc. In other words, analytical and communication skills are paramount to interviewing; values and abilities (to paraphrase Dalio) are not.

5) Process: Be patient, principled and process-oriented. To thine own self be true. Don't over-commit to any given application or outcome. I made a bad decision when I graduated from grad school, because I was overconfident about a possible outcome. And I made another bad decision when I became too outcome-oriented about a subsequent application (not nearly as bad as it might sound). By all means, be iterative about your interview application process, but never deviate from your principles.

6) Psychology: Interviewing can be emotionally taxing. It can test your stamina, your patience; and ultimately your self-worth and self-identity. The former is fine, the latter is not. By all means, learn from your mistakes and take interview outcomes as 'dots' about who you are, but also realize that there's a lot of luck and randomness involved when interviewing. Ultimately, your failures can define you if you admit defeat and they can define you if they stimulate growth that ultimately causes you to achieve your goals. It's up to you.

Expect an update when I achieve my goals.

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Apr 7, 2018 - 9:59am

Hey Burke just curious, you just mentioned that "In hindsight, I realize I wasted time reading books", may i know why is this so?

Jun 7, 2018 - 6:42pm

Reading all of those books lead to the greatest intellectual growth of my life - which was immensely rewarding. But it was poor time management because it negatively affected my b-school applications, which was a major impediment to me achieving my goals.

  • 1
Aug 17, 2018 - 6:22pm

Hi Burke, thank you so much! I am also not American and have a passion for macroeconomics. I am a STEM major at a great college; however, I do realize that Macroeconomics classes/math classes in college don't necessarily give me the essential knowledge/ability. I am wondering:
1. What are the best ways/resources to learn Macroeconomics, as the Macroeconomics taught at school fail to describe the world?

  1. What is the best way to cultivate/improve one's analytical ability?

Thanks! If one day I made a successful career like you, I will remember your help and give back just like you did.

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