A Q&A with William Richards, executive director and UBS hedge fund relationship director: "Get out on the risk curve and be willing to have opinions on investments and express those opinions."
William Richards travels the globe spreading the gospel of hedge funds. He's also deeply involved in UBS's summer internship program, and serves as a director to seven non-profit organizations. He began working with hedge funds in 1983, when he started covering hedge fund manager Julian H. Robertson, Jr., of Tiger Management. "Since then," he says, "my entire career in the business has revolved around hedge funds."
What's a typical day like for you?
I don't think there is a typical day. So far this year, I took seven hedge funds from New York City to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to an investment conference that UBS put on, and visited with 30 CEOs of various publicly traded companies. I was with Julian H. Robertson, Jr. at his Kauri Cliffs golf course in New Zealand, where professional golfer Michael Campbell is the golf pro. Later this year, I'm taking three hedge funds to Australia for a conference, and I'll be in Singapore and Australia.
When I'm in New York, I get up at 5 a.m. and read the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Then, depending upon the day, I'm meeting with the chief investment officers of hedge funds to see what they're interested in. I'm very uncomfortable if I don't meet with one or two clients every day, face-to-face. My day would end after dinner about 9 p.m.
That schedule sounds exhausting. Do you have time for a private life?
I got in the business in 1973 so I've been keeping up that schedule for 33 years. I'm on seven boards of non-profits. For example, iMentor.org. They have a powerful group of people who mentor 450 young kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods in New York. I have two horses in upstate New York. Tomorrow at 6 a.m., I'll be on my horses.
What advice would you give to junior staffers?
In a world where so much of what we do revolves around e-mail, voice mail and faxes, it's extremely important to make a personal connection. When I have something important to tell a client, I make an appointment to go see them.
Call people and say, "I'm thinking about getting in the business," or "I work at UBS and I cover you and I want your advice on how to cover you." They'll never turn you down.
This country rewards risk very well. Get out on the risk curve and be willing to have opinions on investments and express those opinions. Having an energy for what you do is something people notice, identify with right away, and like.
What advice would you give to students hoping to break into the business?
I'm deeply involved with the summer intern program here at UBS. Combining undergrads and MBAs, we have over 300 interns. You'd be surprised who's here. We have a young woman from the University of North Carolina who's a physics major. We recruit from both undergraduate and graduate programs. We have a training program for juniors in college that gives them an intense course in finance.
Study the three most successful investors in the history of the world: Julian H. Robertson, Jr., George Soros at Soros Fund Management LLC and Warren Buffet at Berkshire Hathaway. Read Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire by Michael T. Kaufman and Julian Robertson: A Tiger in the Land of Bulls and Bears by Daniel A. Strachman.
What else do you think is important?
It's a demanding business mentally and physically, so it's important to be competitive and physically in good condition. To fly 11 or 13 hours to Brazil and two hours later be interviewing a CEO, you've got to be in good shape. It's a marathon, not a sprint, so you need to pace yourself.