Tuesday, February 14, 2012

- Reluctantly Emerging From The Shadows

CNN Money has an interesting (if somewhat personally misleading) article on my old boss, Louis Bacon, from Moore Capital Management.

If I owe my career to one guy, it's actually Bruce Kovner the Billionaire ex head of Caxton Associates, who took a flier on an ambitious research staffer who he felt showed some promise. It was he who assigned to me the first institutional money I ever managed and who in effect 'promoted' me from Quant/research analyst to PM. And although my gratitude to Bruce will be eternal, I've got to admit, I learned more in just a few years working at Moore capital than I had anywhere else.

A lot of that can be blamed on Elain Crocker, the eminently capable President of Moore. I don't know how it is now, but when I was working there, she had that place running like a well oiled machine - a machine that was designed and built from the ground up to absolutely maximize performance. She knew that when it comes to building a race car there are lots of things to worry about, but the mileage that it gets isn't one of them. In my humble opinion, I don't think there is another non-trading executive on Wall street who is her equal.

And in my personal case, the rest of the positive things that came from my experience at Moore could probably be blamed on Kevin Heerdt who was then the head of derivative trading, and was the guy from whom my little group took the vast majority of it's marching orders. He's a brilliant guy and he taught me more than I had leaned in all my time at JPMorgan or the other banks I worked for combined.

The work practice at Moore for people at my sort of senior 'worker bee' level, was to put us under 100% of the pressure we could stand, and when we stood it, turn the pressure up to 105%. After a few months my little team could produce studies and data in 90 seconds that would take days or weeks to produce elsewhere. But it was in keeping with the social hierarchy of the place that when we did, we'd apologize for it taking so long.

It was a brutal and incredibly demanding work environment, that a friend who left a bit before I did said "It takes you about a year to recover from." It was a great place to be the guy asking the questions, but a terrible one to have to be answering them. Or at least, it was difficult. Terrible is really too strong. Because with all that said, I was always paid well... very well. In fact, I was paid so well that it was worth all the demands of the job and then some. And that demanding environment made you much better at whatever you were doing.

I've since worked at Caxton Associates and Tudor Investments - which along with Moore, make up three of the top five hedge funds in the world. And while I have nothing but respect, and in many cases genuine affection for the people at both firms, neither of them could hold a candle to Moore Capital. It was a white hot crucible where things were hardened into something useful. At least that what it was for me.

The big multi-strategy macro hedge fund seems to be going the way of the dodo. I spoke to a very prominent hedge fund investor recently. They're based in Zurich and are a name industry insiders would know. He gave me the impression that they don't think the big managers are adding as much value to the PM selection process as they used to. And that means the smaller more focused firms will probably have an easier time marketing.

But guys like Louis Bacon will always be legends. And the thing about some of those guys is, a few of them even deserve it.

1 comment:

chess said...

tom. sorta sounds like some of my life. im 58 yo retired doc who does his own money.i went through 3 residencies back in eary 80s when the senior attending could still hit you in the head with a chart and not get canned for doing it. i learned more from a few of those attendings at 3am than i ever did on coffee rounds at 8am.they made you focus and think when you had been up for 36 hrs. those days are now gone and and i think we are worse off for it. i owe 25 yrs of anesthesia/intensivist to some real bastards.medicine and the bs wore me out at 52 when i still had 15 good yrs left. i just couldnt put up with the crap nomo.........