How to adjust to Hedge Fund culture

googly2u's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 26

I'm a lawyer in London and just moved into a VP position with a leading hedge fund. I worked in financial services before but this is my first real job in house.

I've been here a few months and I really find hardly anyone is chatty or friendly. I am finding that a little difficult as I've come from a law firm and tend to be friendly with people etc.

Is this normal in hedge funds? Or is it because I'm a new face? Anything I can do? The firm doesn't even have many social events or things people across the firm can do together. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Comments (10)

Most Helpful
Apr 12, 2019

It's a difficult position to be in.

My experience has always been that the legal team, operations, risk, etc were always sequestered away from the trading floor (even in relatively small firms), and so day-to-day cross-over was relatively limited. Sure, I'd occasionally bump into one of the lawyers getting coffee at the same time or even go to their office to seek their advice, and yes I'd be polite and ask how they're doing and wish them a good day, but really they were never in my immediate sphere of concern.

This wasn't me being callous: it was a simply fact that the nature of our two roles were very different. Whereas my work was "continuous" in the sense that it never had a completion point, the work of the legal team (at least, from what I found) was more project based. As a result, and because they didn't deal as frequently with counterparties, they had a lot more flexibility in terms of how they chose to schedule their workload. This, unfortunately, inhibited my ability to be more friendly in terms of taking 10-15mins to chat more casually.

The additional issue is that legal and, in particular, risk are often perceived (wrongly, I might add) as naysayers. They are the gatekeepers and it is their responsibility on a broader level to safeguard the wellbeing of the firm from needless risk or legal exposure. Often, this boils down to tempering the risk appetite of traders, which can be interpreted (by the traders) as making their life more difficult. The downside of this is that there's often an underlying adversarial dynamic to the legal/trading relationship. As a result, it's not unexpected that some traders may even choose to keep their interaction with legal even outside the office at arm's length.

In short: yes, this is somewhat normal (although the degrees to which it's true vary), and no, it's not because you're a new face, but rather because of what your face represents. In terms of changing this, all you can do is to attend company socials when they do crop up and do your best to integrate with the wider firm. More generally, rather than trying to build more personal relationships during the day when traders, etc are likely to be more busy, save it for after market hours. In 9/10 instances, traders will be too tired to want to go out and socialise, but if you ask on a Thursday or a Friday, they're more likely to be game. It's nothing personal, simply the nature of the business.

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Apr 17, 2019

Thanks so much. Really appreciate this

Apr 17, 2019

How's performance and AUM flow looking? Given how poor HF returns have been the last few years, and the intense fee pressure on existing AUM, I would guess there are a lot of stressed people trying to figure out their next move.

Apr 17, 2019

performance last two years wasn't great but before my time. Perhaps it is stress, I know a lot of people are definitely looking at pastures new

Apr 17, 2019

I always have found lawyers to be more chatty because they as a whole have an economic incentive to do so (billable hours). Even when lawyers go corporate, that unintended consequence of the economic model tends to stick with you.

Apr 18, 2019

Exactly right. I started my career as a lawyer in a big firm, and I found lawyers to be overly chatty even when I was one of them. When I switched to IB I noticed right away that there's a lot less idle chit chat and less tolerance for excessive detail in conversations, emails etc.

Took some getting used to but now a few years later, I'm the investment-side guy who can't stand when our internal lawyers want to talk all day. In terms of idle chit chat but especially in terms of their desire to talk their way through projects . . lots of conference calls and update meetings and very little time getting tangible things done on their own. It annoys me, but that's also how I know I've completed the transition away from 'lawyer brain'. OP, you'll shift over time as well.

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Apr 17, 2019

This isn't a HF thing - sounds like its firm specific.

Some shops will be more social than others.

Apr 19, 2019

The fund I am working at it is the same way. However, it definitely seems to be a firm-specific thing (and perhaps for quantitative funds in general). My friends at other firms report that their firms have been making active efforts to get their employees to socialize.

Apr 20, 2019

I don't think this is out of the ordinary tbh. My experience is that hedge funds tend to be very autonomous places and people tend to work in isolation, as such office banter is no where near as high as large places.

There are days when I come to work, close my office door and don't say a word to anyone. I also almost never interact with the back office, tbh it's mostly because I have nothing in common with them / nothing to talk about.

I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.

Jun 13, 2019