I'm bored: Macro Hedge Fund PM Q&A

Howdy folks, this market has me bored to tears [edit: I'm truthfully also just having a harder time getting a read on conditions than at any point in my career, so that is prompting both frustration and introspection], and just for work-unrelated reasons, I have a bit more free time on my hands at present. So, as I grasp for meaning in this cold harsh world, I thought perhaps I would derive some satisfaction out of answering whatever questions this community may have.

Don't be afraid to ask a dumb question, though brace yourself for some vitriol depending on my mood. Regardless, I will try to answer stuff. Reluctant to delve too deeply into background. I have worked in HF's for my entire (brief) career. I will not comment on specific funds or individuals ('judge not lest ye be judged'). I don't specialize in any one geography or asset class, though the book has a relatively heavy tilt towards DM. Increasingly involved in vol mkt's. We sort of just do what you'd expect a macro fund to do... rates, FX, credit, some equities and real estate, and really whatever looks interesting. We have done a bit of work that looks more like PE than anything, though that is a tiny portion of activities.

I'm very much a qualitative, discretionary guy (the few, the proud, in macro today) though I wish I had better technical and quantitative ability. My approach is grounded in global history, which has been a life-long passion of mine. I can't guarantee I'll get to all questions.

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Comments (214)

Jun 5, 2017 - 4:57pm

As a history student soon to be starting at a distressed HF, your comment on global history resonates with me. What is your thought on why historical context can be so important for understanding markets? Do you have an outlook for the future of discretionary global macro as well as any other popular strategies? I can probably guess your thoughts on the majority of L/S equity from some of your previous comments.

Jun 5, 2017 - 5:15pm

It's just the tried and true (and cliché!) fact that people don't tend to change their behavior: considering our relative youth the timeline of the history of the universe, we are little changed neurologically from when we were cavemen. So, 'plus ça change...'

I think I've commented before that I'm very bullish on the median returns of discretionary HF's, and very bearish on the size of the industry. While I could spend days on this topic, I basically am a big believer in the power of subconscious processing power. It's probably our only hope of beating machines.

Obviously, I can't comment decisively on the direction of the industry, but I will say with confidence that it is overgrown at present, and the 'slow burn' going on right now is overdue. Too many managers just aren't good at what they do. I just hope I can continue to perform. And if I can't, I don't deserve to stay in business, and as a capitalist, I am ok with that. Only time will tell. (and yeah, anyone who knows me or who has seen my comments knows what I think about 99% of equity funds...)

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Aug 20, 2018 - 4:35pm

How do you learn about distressed and practice what you learned? I'm very much interested in distressed credit but I have no idea how to develop experience in the field.

Cash and cash equivalents: $138,311 Financial instruments and other inventory positions owned: $448,166
Jun 5, 2017 - 5:25pm

Hard to say. A lot of smart guys have looked into this, especially since it can really fuck a lot of the L/S equity books (low dispersion, and all that). You probably know that in the active management community there's more than enough ETF hate to go around. It's probably mostly because ETF's hurt their feelings and self-worth, lol. I'm not as skeptical as some. Though I am concerned that we just honestly don't know how ETF's will weather a significant downturn. This isn't exactly my wheelhouse. Talk to the ETF analysts or Delta One traders, they have more of an insight into the reconstitution, etc process. I will say, that there's not that much of a relationship between ETF flows and HF flows. The marginal investor in a hedge fund isn't weighing "2/20 fund, or Vanguard index?," they're usually just trying to get us to lower our fees or whatever. You'll see popular actively managed mutual funds (that can't perform net of fees) be the real casualties of ETF's (they're already getting hit pretty hard). We're closed to new money, so luckily I no longer have to concern myself with cap raises or the FoF scene

Jun 5, 2017 - 5:00pm

What do you pull in a year, all-in? Ik many are curious but won't ask.


Jun 5, 2017 - 5:28pm

Won't comment on that, sorry. I make more than I probably deserve, though our clients seem happy to pay (we have weirdly idiosyncratic client base, and it's almost more of a multi-family office at this point. No institutional money, which is a huge advantage imo. UHNWI's for the win!). Fortunate to have lots of my own money in fund, which is bulk of 'comp.'

Jun 5, 2017 - 5:31pm

Come on bro, everyone on this website is chasing $. Let's not be coy about it. A range would be perfectly fine if possible. On another note, will Josh Rosen be a total bust in the NFL?


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Aug 24, 2018 - 3:07am
macro bruin:

Won't comment on that, sorry. I make more than I probably deserve, though our clients seem happy to pay (we have weirdly idiosyncratic client base, and it's almost more of a multi-family office at this point. No institutional money, which is a huge advantage imo. UHNWI's for the win!). Fortunate to have lots of my own money in fund, which is bulk of 'comp.'

Care to expand on why UHNWI is better than institutional?

Jun 5, 2017 - 5:00pm

Are "qualitative, discretionary guys" a dying breed and can one build a career going forward on this skill set (which I personally find more interesting). Also, what traits do you attribute to your success in the HF world coming up? What did it take to reach PM and what have you learned makes a successful PM?

"Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry."
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Jun 5, 2017 - 6:09pm

Dying breed in quantity, hopefully not in quality. HF's should by definition be a small, niche industry of the most talented minds in finance. In order to get back to that equilibrium, that vast majority of funds today will have to go out of business. That's the harsh reality that most managers are emotionally unwilling/unable to acknowledge.

What it took to become a PM... curiosity and honesty. Things like ambition, networking, grit, etc etc are just prerequisites, and they aren't hard to force yourself to adopt. But if you are not fundamentally introspective, innately curious, and intellectually honest, I do not think it is possible to outperform in macro on a long time horizon. Those of course are broad personal characteristics, rather than specific skills and behaviors. The skill set (your 'tools') are pretty straightforward, but the true value add comes from creative synthesis, not rote application of industry-standard knowledge.

Jun 5, 2017 - 9:16pm
macro bruin:

HF's should by definition be a small, niche industry of the most talented minds in finance. In order to get back to that equilibrium, that vast majority of funds today will have to go out of business. That's the harsh reality that most managers are emotionally unwilling/unable to acknowledge.

Why is it the case that the HF industry should consist of only "the most talented minds in finance?" Can you elaborate?

“Elections are a futures market for stolen property”
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Jun 5, 2017 - 5:26pm

Would you mind going over a successful (or not successful) trade you've had during your career and how you thought about said trade? Apologies if its too specific a question.

Jun 8, 2017 - 5:08am

Something I am very curious about.

Why wouldnt you hire an investigator, agency, etc... to find the guy? You're willing to spend hours and money on travelling, meeting policy makers, reading, etc... but don't want to spend resources to find this fella who seemed to be one of a kind. Seems like he could be a terrific asset for the organization.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time for this thread.

Jun 5, 2017 - 5:45pm

I once heard that the only two ways to reliably make money are 1. Providing liquidity and 2. Predicting the future. Are you in agreement with the statement and which of the two do you accomplish?

Jun 5, 2017 - 5:51pm

I think Martinghoul said that. He's smart and talented at former (though this is based on his comments. I do not know him in real life... or honestly I guess there's a good chance I do and we just don't know one anothers' online personas haha). I'm dumb and occasionally lucky at latter (obviously being overly humble, but I really do usually feel more lucky than skillful...). In all seriousness, yeah I guess I agree, but statements like that are always more about definitions that the statement itself. Another good one I saw somewhere is "everything in macro is about timing and position sizing/leverage" (and position sizing and leverage are the same thing when you think about it)

Basically, we have several talented derivatives analysts with STEM backgrounds who add alpha by providing liquidity in niche markets, coupled with the conceptual views that my guys and I work on. So we do both, but I fancy myself a 'crystal ball' guy. So they're the tactical complement to my strategic ability.

Jun 5, 2017 - 5:53pm

Yes, you're right about where I read it. I spend too much time on here.

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Jun 17, 2017 - 6:24pm
macro bruin:

Basically, we have several talented derivatives analysts with STEM backgrounds who add alpha by providing liquidity in niche markets, coupled with the conceptual views that my guys and I work on.

Care to elaborate on the bolded part of your post? I hope you aren't referring to head-faking day-traders then scalping back to the price they wanted...

Jun 5, 2017 - 7:36pm
macro bruin:

Hard to like long vol as a structural trade, even at these levels, just because it's so damn expensive. A young guy I met put it well a few weeks ago when he described most vols right now as 'too expensive to buy and too cheap to sell.'

Thanks for the insight. I don't do this professionally-- just in my PA, but I'm starting to swap out some of my ETFs with at the money calls (where the ETFs have a liquid options market), just as insurance. And it looks like the surface stays pretty darned cheap for expiries a good several months out- I remember a lot more upward slope to it a few years ago.
Jun 5, 2017 - 6:36pm

I'm very intrigued with the current state of the Middle East (defining it as the Gulf Coast + the Levant) and have spent years reading about the region's history, the current geopolitical and economic situation. When I heard about the news in Qatar this morning, I couldn't help sharing my long term thoughts with anyone that would listen in my office.

Basically, my dream situation would be to cover the ME region across asset classes...or maybe just on a macro perspective. I understand the capital markets there are fairly small, but in what capacity/role in finance should I be looking at to do the above? Sovereign credit?

Jun 5, 2017 - 7:03pm

I may be literally the only person in the industry who is agnostic! So I guess that implies that I'm not bullish on prospects... if I were, I would be concerned about our FX strategies. ''Tis is more a product if ignorance than anything else... BTC has been an annoying headline more than anything else for me. I should probably read more. Please post good resources if you have

Jun 16, 2017 - 2:04pm

BTC (Bitcoin) can only process max of 7 transactions per second (theoretically)...in practice its really 3 transactions per second.
ETH (Etherium) can process 25 transactions per second (theortically)...in practice its closer to 15
XRP (Ripple) will have no such limit, and is supported by most major banks...and is currently planned to be used for blockchain reporting for transactions in the future (some number of years away)
(imagine how checks clear today...it can take over a week to find that a check was fraudulent...with Ripple, that goes away)

BTC has first mover advantage...larger population of users...used as a store of value to avoid hyper inflation in places like Venezuela where there are few alternatives. Other than the limit of supply caused by the math...nothing else special about it...but BTC was "first" and it has an easy to understand name.

ETH - designed to be the currency used to pay for distributed computing....but can also be used just like Bitcoin as a store of value, and easily transferred from person to person...so technology wise, its a little "better" than Bitcoin.

XRP - designed to be used by banks...same basic crypto, but can be used to process more than just "cash" transactions...can also hash contracts, medical records, really anything identified by data. Also, designed to have no limit on number of transactions that can clear per second...so this will most likely become the crypto that is used by the masses...but it not used yet.

(who would use a credit card to pay at a restaurant if you had to wait hours or days for a purchase to clear?...that's what it can be like to use Bitcoin these days on heavy transaction processing days...ETH clears in about 30min...Ripple would clear instantly...just like a credit card does now)

Last time i checked, using current prices and amount of currency that has been "mined" for each ccy, total value of the cryptos are:
BTC - 40 billion USD
ETH - 20 billion USD
XRP - 10 billion USD

however, since prices are volatile, these numbers change as price changes

Jun 5, 2017 - 7:12pm

Thanks for doing this!

As a Qualitative Discretionary guy who excels at the "Big Picture" where does it all start for you. Obviously context is key, but how/where do you start thinking about the world and how do you look at markets relative to this view(s)?

Jun 5, 2017 - 7:13pm

Thanks for doing this!

As a Qualitative Discretionary guy who excels at the "Big Picture" where does it all start for you. Obviously context is key, but how/where do you start thinking about the world and how do you look at markets relative to this view(s)?

Aug 17, 2018 - 11:24pm

By definition, I consider an unconstrained mandate to effectively mean that there's no start/end point: it's a continual process of revising (a) beliefs about the nature of reality and (b) beliefs about my past chains of argumentation, which have been expressed in the form of trades.

With that said, I pay attention to:

  • Market beliefs: what are different markets saying they believe is occurring? Different markets will tell you different things, reflecting the characteristics of participants (equities vs credit markets being the obvious example)
  • Historical analogues: what archetypal market conditions are we approximating right now, and where have things typically gone from here?
  • Pricing: What are the implied probabilities of different events, and what risks is the market pricing incorrectly? Sometimes it's easy (i.e. there's an explicit P(x # of fed hikes) at any given time, but the market's assessment of the likelihood of recession in Indonesia or something like that is more of an artfully-derived variable

The intersection of these three things, with an emphasis on how #1 and #3 fit into #2, is I guess how I approach the world conceptually

Jun 5, 2017 - 7:22pm

I studied/study NLP in college and have noticed that a lot of hedge funds are using NLP techniques fairly extensively. How much are you using Information Retrieval in your own strategies? You mentioned you read a lot / get your information from misc sources, so it seems that these sorts of techniques could actually be beneficial.

Jun 5, 2017 - 7:58pm

Really no such thing as a typical weekend, anymore than there's such thing as a typical weekday. I travel a lot, especially on weekends. I find that the 10x or 100x ideas always come from stranger, more spontaneous places than one will find in research, bbg screens, or any kind of reading. Traveling to meetings, conferences, spontaneous trips to meet with LPs, team building stuff, etc. Gotta take time to recharge too: beaches, skiing, fun trips, relaxing at home. But I'm probably too much of a workaholic, I do at least 10-20 hrs of work-related stuff on weekends...

On latter question, algorithms are just automated decision making processes. Nothing fancy. And yeah, reading and researching the shit out of securities (across liq spectrum) is literally what an investor does all day... If you have money to invest, and you can successfully/accurately value illiquid securities and buy them at attractive prices, you'll make money. That's what investing is! Tot that I would know – I'm a speculator!

Jun 5, 2017 - 8:15pm

Having an extremely extremely difficult time playing UST duration. Horizon is just cloudy for me, and keep flip flopping belief (therefore no significant explicit risk exposure to US rate levels, though we do have some tactical curve trades on which are performing ok). Primary driver of mkt narrative since reflation fade seems to be Fed rolloff prognosis, but I feel like that's more just a product of low conviction on the really important fundamental factors, rather than legitimate belief that a bit of fed selling (or really, just less bidding!) will increase supply tangibly (i.e. the way they're planning the caps, supply impact really just won't be that extreme, if they follow even a comparatively aggressive path of normalization in the long end). If I had to take a swing in one direction, I would be a net bullish on rates based solely on a deflation conviction. But, like I said – extremely low conviction, as I have concerns about the calculation of price indices and how index miscalculation interacts with market interpretation (i.e. what 'actually' drives duration? What the market thinks is happening with consumer prices, or what is actually happening with consumer prices? and if a gap develops between the two? And if that gap were then to close? etc etc). And one more frustrating aspect is interaction between safe haven status and geopolitical developments. I've been reading interesting stuff on ED$ flows, and that's making me increasingly comfortable with owning duration. (Like in the future, if crazy shit starts to actually happen geopolitically, instead of just everyone talking about crazy shit potentially happening on the horizon, what will be the new safe haven? Would it still be the USD if fulcrum of geopolitical risk were in the U.S.? Would it be Japan, with global B/S's assuming neg yielding assets just to shelter their money (in a curr that isn't even that sound structurally imo)? Would it be in the EUR, where there's redenom, etc risk?) These are all questions that I'm considering, but where history, which has never failed me so far, is simply failing to provide a roadmap... I should probably just look harder.

Argh, really sorry for the muddied thinking and stream of consciousness rambling– it's just a long way of saying I have zero conviction on 10s. Part of why I'm going through borderline existential crisis lol

Re reading materials, I don't know how experienced you are. That would make a big difference in recommendation.

Jun 5, 2017 - 7:42pm

Thank you for doing this AMA.

  1. What are your favorite book/resources about investing that have helped you the most in your career?

  2. Would you mind giving a range of the size of your fund in AUM?

  3. It seems like your fund is pretty flexible with what it invests in, which sounds incredibly fun, do you guys have a global mandate where you can try to glean value anywhere in the world? I guess a better way to phrase this is, is there anything that your firm would not consider investing in?

  4. Would you mind responding to my PM from a week ago? If it delves too much into background and things like that don't worry.

Jun 5, 2017 - 10:35pm

Yeah I think it would be considered a target-ish. I was not exactly what you would call a good student though. I wasn't dumb or lazy, just not great with authority or non-work responsibilities (lots and lots of missed classes and late papers). It's kind of crazy, but I have literally never been employed anywhere other than at a hedge fund. Landed first job during fall of freshman year, and haven't looked back since. I studied history and economics (sort of, lol)

Jun 5, 2017 - 9:29pm

If your investing strategy is qualitative and based on global history, this must be a busy and exciting time for you I presume? As someone from Korea, I think Korea is a very interesting place at this point in investors point of view. I think you should definitely have a look at investment opportunities here. Any thoughts?

Jun 5, 2017 - 10:39pm

It's definitely busy, but I would characterize it as more hair-pulling and miserable than exciting. The disconnect now between 'real world' and 'financial markets' (in DM, at least) is stretching our analytic capacity. Maybe we should just hire Jim Cramer, to get more comfortable buying equities at these levels. All the cool kids are doing it, or so I hear.

My partner was actually in Korea recently. Interesting place. Good friend of mine is Korean-American

Jun 6, 2017 - 9:21pm

I think you need at your team someone who understands and think like Trump. Also someone who isn't biased about Trump.

Most importantly, you need someone who can understand current Trump's presidency and current shenanigan as a spiritual war between pro-Jew group vs Anti-Jew group. If you don't see this big-picture, I think you won't have a very good chance predicting the market.

Anyways, interesting that you have a friend who is Korean-American. I am sure you've heard a lot about political scandals in South Korea this year! I hear a lot of Americans are hoping similar thing to happen here?

Aug 20, 2018 - 4:24pm

You didn't need Jim Cramer. If you accept that the 10 year is 3-4% max long term....and start to believe tre US will never have another recession then it's fairly easy to buy equities as the risks premium is huge.

FWIW Australia hasn't had a recession in 30 years and there's some macro policy developments that can get rid of the recession.

Jun 5, 2017 - 11:26pm

Who do you look up to in the industry? Who are your heroes (industry or otherwise)?

"Not me. Im in my prime"

Jun 8, 2017 - 6:43pm

My partner (fmr boss) would be the number one guy. He changed my life. Other than that, the usual suspects and a handful of equally/more successful guys you've never heard of (because they spend a lot of money to keep it that way). I will say that I respect PTJ less than most, and like SAC more than most.

Historically, I'll admit to a soft spot for Jesse Livermore. Gave me inspiration and courage when I was a kid working with and trading against guys many years older than I.

As a history geek, there are many many many others historically, but naming a bunch =/= value add, imo...

Jun 6, 2017 - 11:20pm

Awesome. Thanks for sharing and starting the AMA.

Side note: For whatever reason when you mentioned historical figures I immediately thought of Teddy Roosevelt...The Edmund Morris biography series on his life is amazing.

"Not me. Im in my prime"

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Jun 5, 2017 - 11:50pm

What do you think of Latin America, specifically Brazil and Argentina? My view is that the Argentinian Macri administration is great for the country and for the economy bouncing back, although for a population that has been used to socialist type benefits and having things given to them for years, they would have to be put through some hurting and reduced public fundings in order to get the country back on track. I just don't think that Macri's approval rating will stand and get him re elected. View on rates in Brazil?

View on hedge funds like Bracebridge Capital and others essentially raping the Argentinian public by buying Argentina's junk bonds and "forcing" the country to pay them back, essentially leading to cuts in education, public works, healthcare etc..

View on Goldman Sachs buying Venezuelan bonds last week?

I see the two previous examples as perfectly legal, and the capitalist in you saying its allowed, but pretty scummy and not the way I would conduct business.

What is you view on PIMCO latest secular outlook essay and basically saying that the Global Economy, except USA, is essentially "driving without a spare tire".

thats all for now, thanks for doing this.

We're not lawyers. We're investment bankers. We didn't go to Harvard. We Went to Wharton!
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Jun 6, 2017 - 10:23am

In the past 10 years, what was your fund's worst return %?

26 Broadway where's your sense of humor?
Jun 6, 2017 - 9:11pm

I don't think in those terms, and fortunately our LPs don't either. I could show you scary numbers, like that we lost more than a fifth of the fund on paper in a month once, but that's kind of meaningless, because our biggest losses have always been from catching falling knives or betting on crashes too early (i.e. our bets have gotten marked down by terrifying amounts, but more than made up for ultimately at closure. We never lever to point of getting stopped out in these situations, because that would good and right fuck us). Timing really is the hardest thing.

In terms of realized losses, this year has not been great, because we have been uncharacteristically low conviction in our major themes, so pussied out of a few trades that maybe we should still have on. Down ~4% YTD, realized. Paper losses minimal, mainly because we don't have enough open spec positions to have moved much – we've been trigger happy on closing trades out at the slightest provocation. My actions this year are me at my worst, so maybe none of you should listen to me. Maybe I've lost the touch, or I'm just not built for these mkt's anymore.

Jun 6, 2017 - 2:54pm

Is the money worth sacrificing so much of your time? Time is the most valuable/precious commodity there is, we all only have a small allocated amount of time, and its getting shorter and shorter as each second/hour passes. Do you feel that when you're in your later years in life you may regret having spent so much of your time (80-100 hours) in the office?

I know this question might seem depressing, though sometimes it's good to remind ourselves when we get lost in the moment that life is very short.

Jun 6, 2017 - 3:24pm

Yep. Work/life balance in the financial industry seems to be non-existent in the early-mid years for finance professionals. Curious if the salary compensates the sacrifice.

Jun 6, 2017 - 8:58pm

Especially relative to my position/experience/success, I am fairly young (or maybe I'm just lying to myself because I feel old these days). But basically, this question for me isn't the deep hole of despair which it is for guys in their 60s or 70s, who are still working without deriving any joy from it.

One clarification I should make is that I don't spend 80-100 p/wk in the office. I travel a lot, I meet with policymakers, colleagues at other funds, politics people, academics, clients (as I have alluded to, we are fortunate in having a small number of clients, all with a lot of money in the fund, and all of whom have tremendous insight into markets, politics, and business), etc. I also spend a lot of time reading by myself. The point here being that if I spent 80-100 hours chained to a desk staring at charts and playing with spreadsheets, I would have quit ages ago.

But I love what I do. I have never met a consistently successful manager who does not love the work for what it is. I've always loved this game, and my conviction increases with every passing day, despite the challenges and stress that come with the territory, and these shitty mkt's

So, yes, time > money, 100%. But the best feeling is for money to no longer be something you think about. If I could remake the world, I would live exactly the way I do now, but add some excitement and logic into these fuckin markets. Maybe roll back Volck rule too... I miss my prop buddies and their shenanigans

Jun 7, 2017 - 5:44pm

I congratulate you on your success and you're very fortunate to be in a position where money is not something that dictates your life choices or causes you considerable stress. Many people forgo their dreams being caught up in the daily grind. One thing i can attest to having the best feeling is having the love of a good woman, for that i find myself truly fortunate too!

Take care Macro Bruin!

Jun 6, 2017 - 7:44pm

Thank you so much for doing this thread, I've learned/laughed quite a bit.
I'm an undergrad going to a non-target school. I want to get a CFA shortly after graduating and get into HF, end goal is to be PM of course. Any advice you can give me based on past experiences or people you have interviewed?
Also, what are some must read books in your opinion?

Jun 6, 2017 - 11:49pm

wallstreetoasis Patrick, I didn't get a chance to write up my comments in the site improvements thread so I'm just going to mention it here. It's posts like these that keep me coming back to WSO. Specifically to read an exchange like the one between @macro bruin" and DickFuld . Some of the best stuff I've read on WSO in a while.

Thanks MB for making this thread. There are some great responses here.

Jun 7, 2017 - 12:23am

@wallstreetoasis Patrick, I didn't get a chance to write up my comments in the site improvements thread so I'm just going to mention it here. It's posts like these that keep me coming back to WSO. Specifically to read an exchange like the one between @macro bruin and @DickFuld . Some of the best stuff I've read on WSO in a while.

Thanks MB for making this thread. There are some great responses here.

If you think that was juicy, you should have read the exchanges we had on personal messages. Yowza!!!

@macro bruin" my permission to share the exchange, if you feel so inclined. Being the gentleman I am, I already deleted it. Of course, Sharon might have a copy.

Jun 7, 2017 - 8:50am

Hey OP, not sure if you're still answering questions but I've got a quick one if you don't mind. Thanks for doing the q/a by the way;

1) What are some skill-sets you look for prospective analysts to have? since its a macro strategy do you care about equity or credit backgrounds (if not whats a good background for an analyst)? how about certain coding skill-sets like SQL, python or vba?

2) do you find most new macro funds (anything on the AUM spectrum) are systematic or discretionary? is it still / (was it ever?) a strategy for geopolitical junkies or has it evolved into more of a quant/systematic field for computer science engineers?

3) what is the usual way of breaking into a discretionary macro shop? I know the cookie-cutter method is the 2-3 stint at BB IB... do you have a thought or two on ways to stand out?

Jun 7, 2017 - 10:14am

Thanks for taking the time to do this (and this is relatively gunna be a pretty long post so I understand if you ignore it or tell me to fuck off), as your type of position is the direction I've found myself increasingly veering towards. Reluctantly too, as I know how unoriginal wanting to work at a hedge fund is, even if I know my reasoning is, for lack of a better word, "pure", since it's the type of work I'm drawn towards and not the money itself (although that part seems to be pretty damn sweet).

Anyway, I've been fortunate in my few years out of undergrad, have done some behavioral analytics work for some of the largest companies in the world, and currently do strategy for a portfolio company (well-known within the industry, ~$1B Mkt Cap), where I advise Senior Management on developing market dynamics, new market entry assessments, etc. Like you, I fancy myself a "big picture" thinker and have been fortunate that others have noticed my ability for this type of stuff, even before I have, and have given me plenty of responsibility/ownership because of it.

I also read non-stop, largely economics and history (I'm sure you've already read it but if you haven't, Will Durant's Lessons of History is the shit) and stumbled onto Raoul Pal a short time ago. From there really started getting into Macro Trading and for the first time felt that this could really be my "thing" as trying to figure out how the whole world works is what I'm most passionate about, and yeah I know that sounds geeky as fuck. Anyway, I finally felt "ready enough" to start trading last month and have already profited more than what my annual bonus was, even made friends and family some sizable money with recommendations. Under no illusions that a month of trading makes me a Big Swinging Dick, but again, I keep trying to find reasons as to why this wouldn't work for me but the universe seems to be telling me to just go with it for now.

At this point, I'm confident that your type of role, or something close to it, is what I should AT LEAST aim for as I frankly believe I have the intellectual/precocious ability you mention as being primary, as well as the ancillary stuff like having a good network (although currently limited HF-wise), etc. Thing is, I know there have been others in the same situation that haven't been able to "make it" for one reason another, so if this is what I aim to do, what do you think could be the factors that can potentially get in my way? Any other tips you think would be useful for me in trying to navigate this path would be extremely appreciated. Thanks again!

Jun 7, 2017 - 11:18am

Hi OP thanks for all the info so far
What do you/your peers think of Ackman, Paulson, and other big stars who are posting abysmal returns. In the past did you think they were skilled investors? Do industry people seem to think they are one shot wonder?

Jun 8, 2017 - 6:35pm

I said in initial posting that I will not comment on individual managers. I can, however, comment on the generic grouping of 'household name' managers.

  1. As unsatisfying as this answer may be, 'it depends.' Some of them, you meet or work with and conclude 'this is a god among men.' If you haven't had this experience, it is difficult to describe: it's as if they are operating and existing on their own plane, above that of us mere mortals (or maybe I'm just a sucker who drank their kool-aid). Others, you come away thinking 'how the fuck did this guy even get a job in the first place!'

  2. Success is path-dependent. When you trade so successfully that people write books about you, you will inevitably be psychologically impacted. PM's are not accustomed to this lavishing of attention, or prepared for it (in contrast to NBA players, or whoever, where success and celebrity are nearly synonymous). So, in a nutshell, what I have observed is that, if you're so successful that you get a bunch of attention, you get both distracted and arrogant, and you become a target for others (which is a big risk factor for guys who play in illiquid/distressed situations, or who do activist stuff). The biggest issue is just the arrogance – you think you're hot shit, and want to make big ballsy calls, which almost always turn out wrong

  3. You would be surprised by the number of managers who stay below the radar, specifically because they anticipate the risks associated with attention. These managers' long-run risk-adjusted returns are often superior to the big dog household names.

Jun 7, 2017 - 1:24pm

Anything energy-related interesting to you and your team at this point?

Jun 7, 2017 - 11:00pm

What, in your opinion, is the best way to get a feel for the macro space or at least the ability to develop some thoughts and ideas in the realm of macro investing? As a complete novice, I find blogs to be a bit too disjointed and 'short'. I enjoy reading and delving deeply into subjects so the more material/depth there is the better.

Unlike a lot of people on here, I don't know if I want to work at an HF or not (i'm not even sure i could at this point), but since what the work life is like sounds appealing to me, I'd like to get at least some feel for the subject matter just to know if it's a goal i should pursue.

Jun 8, 2017 - 6:16pm
  1. Read sell-side research. Do not rely on it, and never accept their 'projections,' but I still think it is the number one way to get familiar with the thought processes of traders and PM's. You'll get a feel for the more sophisticated side of markets. I don't read it at all anymore, except occasionally to gauge consensus (if I were a trader, I would need the daily mkt color, but fortunately I'm a medium to long term guy), but it was instrumental when I was in high school and college learning the ins and outs of market flow

  2. Read all the classic books, and textbooks. There have been many good lists published.

  3. Trade your own money, after sufficient study. (Or at least work through the process of generating trade ideas)

This will get you up to speed knowing all the consensus/establishment stuff, then those become your tools in doing original and creative analysis. Or, you'll learn all this stuff and decide the business isn't for you.

Jun 8, 2017 - 5:24pm

i know some senior accountants (8-10+ years at the big 4 public firms) that do hedge fund accounting...they have offers to move over to certain types of funds (where asset accounting and valuation has value, such as distressed/vulture investing)...but for more junior people, (as i've been told myself) you need to be able to answer the question "if you look at it from the perspective of the PM...where do you add value?? Why should they choose "you" over the other 20 kids looking for the same spot.

2nd-3rd year Investment Banking analysts have learned to grind thru company info to create comparable (comp) analysis, M&A idea generation, capital efficiency analysis, etc.., which you need to do for long/short equity and vulture/distressed investing, and also private equity...there is a partial accounting aspect to that...but lots of that stuff is not generally what junior public accountants learn to do. Why not try to lateral into IB for 1-2 years? (you would learn the specific skills that those hedge/private equity funds are looking for....and there is a natural recruiting pipeline...and you get paid pretty well to learn..probably more than you make as an accountant)

Jun 8, 2017 - 6:11pm

"front office finance" is so vague as to be almost meaningless. Not sure what you're looking for, and advice will vary widely depending on that. If you're good at accounting, and you're also smart, there are opportunities for you across IBD, PE, LS equity, distressed, SSG, etc... but hopefully you already know that.

There are really just two components to moving into a different job function: get yourself considered, and get yourself hired. That sounds tautological, but it's useful to think in these terms: focus on networking/grinding/etc for the former, and actually learning how to add value on the latter...

Jun 8, 2017 - 5:33pm

Thanks for doing this.

Two questions: one on your views, and one piece of advice solicitation.

Say central banks get hot on issuing digital currency. Still fungible for users, more able to implement negative rates in monetary policy, easier to track money (anti money laundering implications, sanctions enforcement). Could you see a trade coming out of this? What would you go long/short? An outright FX play, a rates play, or would you think conventional transaction banking goes belly up and short some safe bank credits or stocks?

I'm a history buff (perhaps not so relevant as I primarily engage with pre-WWI Western European monarchies), language nerd, I enjoy macroeconomics more than finance, and in finance I've done both top-down and bottom-up, derivatives and vanilla lending.

How should I position myself with discretionary macro funds - or should I forget about it?

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
  • 3
Jun 8, 2017 - 6:08pm

Thx for the good question. The issue of a cashless society is an interesting one, which I have been meaning to think about more.

Apart from practicality reasons (which are uncontroversial), the reason CB's get such a hard on for all-digital currencies (in their control, of course – we aren't talking BTC), is that it makes their monetary policy implementation tighter, and allows them to try to suppress economic cyclicality even more (i.e. 'no inflation? set fed funds to -150bps!')... I don't know what the right psychological characterization would be, but probably something like 'control freaks.' It makes monetary policymakers endlessly uncomfortable that there are 'inefficiencies' and 'slippages,' in the system which make their control HF's. Though your advice request was a bit vague, so not sure how to respond...

Jun 14, 2017 - 5:47pm

Thanks macrobruin. I do look forward to seeing such a thought piece, if you end up producing it. Indeed it would represent a paradigm shift, so instead of zero-ing in on one trade/asset class, it might be more fruitful to imagine how the new regime would operate first. Pricing it might require more 2nd/3rd order asset-specific thinking than is usually possible in a cross-asset setting, but I suppose you can't build a house from the roof.

The issue with control-freakism (for the lack of a better word) is that over time it's doomed to fail. They (CBers) can get frustrated with the experience in recent years, in which the transmission mechanism for monetary policy has been clogged, but it's probably wiser to reach the conclusion Bernanke reached - monetary policy can only go so far; the fiscal side has to get its act together. Perfecting the control mechanism isn't the long-term answer. At the risk of choosing a decidedly prosaic and non-Cartesian metaphor (but one I think works perfectly), it's like jealousy and a romantic partner - it's going to backfire/go to rot eventually. I could go on about my views re: central technocratic planning, but it's likely an unsolicited tangent at this stage.

Regarding macro HF's, my current spot on the sell-side is definitely a few steps too removed to be on their radar, and the bridges back to the old spot weren't burnt - they just got shut down/roadblocked.

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
  • 5
Jun 8, 2017 - 7:01pm

Well, in certain illiquid markets you, at least for the time being, basically still basically have prop groups. Yeah, they aren't called that, but mkt makers have so much discretion in those markets that it might as well be an old school embedded HF. The head of the HY desk at Goldman made some stupid amount of money 'making markets' last year, that just isn't possible off of bid-asks. It got some play in the press, I believe.

But no, I don't think removing Volcker would honestly change much. The trend (and it's probably systemically healthy, on balance) is towards less risk on bank balance sheets. You also can't forget about shit like Basel and other accords... it's not just Congress calling the shots on institutional risk appetite. I can't say I have a huge issue with the decentralization of market making we've seen, but I will admit that I am concerned about how liquidity could perform in the case of a sustained or rapid downturn. And I just miss some of that now deceased culture... the camaraderie on those desks is nothing today compared to how it used to be. Mind you, I never sat in one of those seats, but I have many friends who did, and have done much business over the years with them.

Volcker rule always seemed to me like addressing symptom rather than actual problem. My favored policy would be somehow (the 'how' is the hard part, lol) removing still massive moral hazard from system, but loosening restrictions on activities (magnitude of compliance spending is fucking insane today, and that's unequivocally net negative for society... those people don't create any value!). If there was no guaranteed backstop (because let's face it, for most of the big boys there still is one), prudence and prop could coexist. The problem is the moral hazard, but the easy thing to address was the prop.

But I don't know, I'm not an expert whatsoever on market making or prop.

Aug 17, 2018 - 10:39pm

I'm a hopeless rube when it comes to alcohol. Perhaps the single character trait of which I am most ashamed is that I generally just gravitate to the more expensive options, because it's always tolerably good. There's no doubt I'm missing out on great stuff and burning a bit of unnecessary money, but given that the alternative is drinking more often (my body just can't take it, both when I was young, and especially now) and putting considerable time into learning the nuances of different classes of drink, I accept my current situation.

When it comes to coffee, I'm an addict. On balance probably a healthier addiction than the booze and snow of which my esteemed colleagues are such connoisseurs

Jun 9, 2017 - 12:14am

Thanks for doing an AMA. When you speak to central bankers who sit in on the markets desks, whats a common gap of knowledge they have within macro when compared to the guys in HFs?


Aug 17, 2018 - 11:03pm

You mean like the kinda guys who work at the NYFRB? It's a breadth thing: they're super specialized execution traders, so they basically don't give a fuck about the breadth that macro guys try to make money off of

The folks at central banks (talking policymakers now, not traders) are generally way smarter, and understand the real world far better, than most people assume/give them credit for. The nature of their position constrains their ability to communicate candidly and often even thoughtfully

Jun 9, 2017 - 5:58pm

Thanks for doing this AMA.

I'm an incoming college freshman (will actually be a Bruin!) and am very interested in a public investing career. Do you think IB is a necessary path to go down if I'm ultimately interested in Asset Management (specifically L/S HF's), or can sell-side research/Institutional Asset Management be viable paths? And is Asset management even obtainable straight out of undergrad (given investing history and related internships)?

I know similar questions have been asked before, but I feel that your insight, as a professional in the industry for years, will provide better context.

Aug 17, 2018 - 10:32pm

Unfortunately, probably yes. Just get a shiny firm name and title if you want to work at a very institutionalized shop ('birds of a feather,' and all that). I look at those guys' CV's and it's pretty homogenous. Also, semantic point to help you out: 'asset mgt' usually ≠ L/S HF. AM refers to the capital group's and pimco's of the world.

I've made my views known in the past about what I think about guys who get 2/20 to trade equities for a living (most should be doing something else with their considerable mental endowments). If I can save one soul (yours) from a career seeking ephemera on the NYSE in the form of alpha, something good will have come from my drunk meandering on Wall Street Oasis on a Friday night

Aug 17, 2018 - 10:25pm

It's a funny little compound and I've never totally understood it.

While it's played a clearly important role in asset allocation in the past, a lot of stable relationships seem to have broken down somewhat (lots of guys have had major schadenfreude this past week as it failed to act as expected and fucked a lot of gold-obsessed folks, so that may be excessively coloring my view). Have gotten fucked in the past trying (naively) to use it in a kinda vanilla risk hedging capacity.

Personally, I've got a lot of assets, mostly stored as electrons god knows where, so I keep a bit jewelry made of gold and other precious materials locked away as contingency-planning for far far far left tails (i.e. a class war, total digital systems failure, or some shit I obviously can't and won't ever see coming). Learned this from Barton Biggs. Holding physical gold obviously hasn't made me any $ – but I don't expect it to: the opportunity cost of holding it is just like paying prem getting long a deep OTM put

Jun 11, 2017 - 8:37pm

@macro bruin What are the suggestion from you for someone like me who wants to get into a hedge fund. I have a degree in Computer Science, I was thinking of applying as a software developer and then switch to the front office role such as a PM role as soon as I can. What is the process like for someone in a back office role in a hedge fund to the front office role? Thanks for doing this AMA.

Jun 11, 2017 - 9:19pm

Do you see parallels in the current situation of the world and any time or region of history?

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

Jun 11, 2017 - 9:25pm

Also, do you have a life outside your career?

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

Jun 12, 2017 - 2:31am

You said you travel a lot and meet a lot of people. Can you elaborate on this? How much significance would you attribute to strong people skills vs reading the market?

I would... but the truth is I can't sell my soul to myself... http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blackknight.asp
Aug 17, 2018 - 10:13pm

That's a great question: frankly no idea on proportional significance.

It should go without saying, but talking to people from wide backgrounds and stress-testing ideas improves performance if you know how to coolly and honestly evaluate arguments and evidential interpretations. One kinda quirky thing that's helped me is talking more to economically left-y (though still intelligent) people. I'm very centrist (I smash a window every time I make the mistake of hearing Trump-types or Bernie/AOC-types speak), so I chafe against interpretations of people like Wolfgang Streeck and other such maniacs (I say this in the most charitable sense possible) who prognosticate over the demise of capitalism or whatever. But talking to them ultimately made me less invested in my ideas and better able to calmly deliberate over hard facts. Similar thing goes for talking to goldbugs/Austrian-econ people/whatever... they're cute curmudgeons who have some things right and some things very wrong. But ultimately it's those more 'out there' conversations, not price action or talking to some 25 y/o at goldman, that allows me to aggressively disagree with markets and win (or lose) big

edit: to be clear, I have never personally met Streeck/Trump/Bernie/AOC. They are prototypical examples. I'm not important enough (or enough of a glutton for punishment) to have met them face to face

Aug 20, 2018 - 4:46pm
macro bruin:

I'm very centrist (I smash a window every time I make the mistake of hearing Trump-types or Bernie/AOC-types speak)

Pure Keynes right there my friend.

Jun 18, 2017 - 8:01am

Hi macro bruin, thanks for hosting this AMA! First of all just to give a short introduction of myself, I'm a Singaporean undergrad working as an intern in Europe.

I have two questions for you:
i. Do you believe that a hypothetical meltdown of the Chinese economy could be the catalyst for the next financial crisis?
ii. While it appears that we are witnessing an upswing (albeit a modest one) in US business cycle with pickup in corporate earnings, a tighter labour market, and growth in private investments, do you think that a turn in the credit cycle is imminent? I am asking this question because I'm seeing rather elevated private sector leverage and taking into consideration that rates at current low levels can only move up.


Aug 17, 2018 - 10:07pm

i. Yes, of course it hypothetically could. CN is central in driving the global economy today and that role is only increasing, and frankly the Western mainstream has been slow to pick up on this and coverage has been kinda off the mark. Part of the reason for the lag in perception is that financial intensity/depth/whatever (basically ratio of size of a country's financial markets to the real econ activity going on there) is still picking up as China progresses along the development continuum (very normal, albeit at high speeds). Economy is huge, and liquid markets are getting to be too. Those old enough to remember the EM shit from 80s/90s recognize the same conceptual issue playing out. Not to sound trite, but booms usually end in busts or bust-like things

ii. Speculating on the turn of the U.S. credit cycle isn't really my hat. I will note that little of the fundamentals we are seeing are remotely unique – things are moving pretty much as a conventional economist type would expect them to

Aug 21, 2018 - 5:30pm

You should look into nominal gdp targeting been around since the 80's but it's mostly from Scott summer now. From everything I can tell those ideas are making it into central banks and a big reason I think demand side recessions are nearing extinction. Greenspan did a lot of things like ngdp targeting but acted like he was magical. Supply side recession can of course occur, but not likely in diversified developed markets. More likely in small economies with industry concentration where real factors matter more.

If you are ever in Chicago we should meet up. I did the book a week thing for a very long time and it's the only way to develop strong macro instincts.

Aug 17, 2018 - 9:57pm

There's a lot of background knowledge that makes it easier to cut through crap and successfully trade, invest, do deals, whatever.

Post-graduation, your time will (likely) be severely constrained from without. So your shot to learn what you perceive to be useful stuff comes during the high school and college years.

I'm a big reader, so I'd say, basically... read a lot. Prioritize the process of making yourself qualified to do useful work, and the opportunities themselves will follow (assuming adequate hustle)

Aug 21, 2018 - 12:29pm

Mallaby's Greenspan book was great. AG's tenure was quite something, looking back on it. Pretty sure everyone I know has read the book at this point, so that's not much of a value add. My award balancing obscurity and quality is Andreades' History of the Bank of England, 1640-1903. It hopefully goes without saying, this book is not for everyone, but I came away with very helpful insights

EM has been good to us recently... famous last words. It's worked (SO FAR) because humans do the same silly things over and over again. Perceived uniqueness is generally just a symptom of a lack of temporal perspective

Aug 20, 2018 - 4:35pm

Why are you bored to tears? The VIX is at 12, the market is going up, heavy skewness in the strike structure and low contango in the term structure (at least in the 3-9 month range) is making out of the money calls crazy cheap, and options are risk-free leverage.

I'm a stat arb guy, not a macro guy, but I think it's time to buy some lottery tix. (Thinking about doing a post on this) The market isn't exactly quite them away for free, but it's almost like buying pick 4 tickets knowing that the first draw has a 1 in 2 chance of starting with a 9, or like playing a slot machine that has a 150% payout ratio.

Typically such heavy tailed upside trades (IE in venture capital) wind up going at a premium rather than a discount.

Aug 20, 2018 - 5:48pm

Macro guys almost by definition are not suppose to be your leverage long investor even when they believe in it. If they start doing that then their investor base becomes overly exposed to equity markets. Hendry shut down his fund because he said markets were going up and he couldn't do his mandate.

Do these calls pay if the snp is at 3k at the end of the year? That is basically where I think we are going. Kinda feeling one painful dip between now and end of year. So wouldn't be going risks in here.

Aug 20, 2018 - 5:58pm

Macro guys almost by definition are not suppose to be your leverage long investor even when they believe in it. If they start doing that then their investor base becomes overly exposed to equity markets. Hendry shut down his fund because he said markets were going up and he couldn't do his mandate.

Do these calls pay if the snp is at 3k at the end of the year? That is basically where I think we are going. Kinda feeling one painful dip between now and end of year. So wouldn't be going risks in here.

Year-end $300 calls on the SPY (basically within about 1% of the SPX getting to 3k) cost $1.70 per contract with a market-implied delta (going off the $295 and $305 contracts) of 0.24. So in theory the market is saying there's very very roughly about a 24% chance we hit $300 by year end.

Again, I'm of the view that whenever vol gets below 10% more than a few months out, the market is offering upside exposure (or downside protection if it ever gets below 10% on out of the money puts) for really cheap. It's almost like the 1980s junk bonds era, except you're not on the hook if there's a crash.

Aug 20, 2018 - 6:46pm

You can also always rollout as the market goes up.

Historically, the rule has been that there's a bit of momentum to the market. If it's up over the past month, there's a better than 50% chance (not 55%, but more than 50%) that it will be up next month.

All else being equal, if the market is going up and vol is low, it's not a bad time to buy out of the money calls.

If the market stops going up, vol goes up and you make money on the vega.

If the underlying goes up, you make money off of the delta.

Heads I win, tails the market loses.

Feb 18, 2019 - 2:50pm

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just google it...you're welcome
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just google it...you're welcome
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