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The strange habits of highly-successful financiers

Pre-beard days

If you want to move up in the financial sector, it helps to have hobbies that the boss likes. This used to be predominantly golf, now an increasing amount of networking is done on the back of a bike.

But what if the boss is, well, a little odd? As we’ve pointed to previously, the new era of banking CEOs are painfully dull, but this doesn’t mean that otherwise sensible people at the top of the tree don’t indulge in some weird weekend pursuits.

Related articles:

Eight examples of good old-fashioned hedge fund manager excess 

Hedge fund managers: mavericks no more

Odd and outlandish things hedge fund managers say

Michael Sherwood: Perception is everything

Goldman Sachs’ London chief Michael Sherwood, who goes also goes by Fat Mike or ‘Woodie’ as an indication of how chummy he can be with his subordinates, is known for being a typical aggressive alpha male trader. Even before starting at Goldman, he was a flashy student at Manchester University, dining out in top restaurants and driving expensive cars while his contemporaries survived on Pot Noodles. However, back in 1993, at the tender age of 28, he was thrust into the limelight for being a youngster at Goldman earning a bonus over £3m.

This prompted some interesting revelations about how he liked to live the high life, even if he doesn’t seem to enjoy it. He reportedly buys expensive theatre tickets, but leaves early if the show bores him and eats in top restaurants despite suffering from nerves which means he can’t always hold down his food. Oh, and he also keeps a draw full of cash in various currencies, for reasons unknown.

Jamie Dimon: Road trips

J.P. Morgan’s CEO has a reputation for being brash, aggressive and having a knack for firing off expletives. However, when it’s vacation time, he enjoys annoying other motorists by driving an RV, or recreational vehicle. In the UK, this would be known as caravanning – holidays where perfectly sane adults inexplicably choose to park in a damp field, drink tea and use a chemical toilet for a week. RVs are popular among retired octogenarians state-side, but Dimon drove through Yellowstone, Idaho, Nevada and Yosemite before arriving “unshaven and in shorts” at the Beverly Wiltshire hotel in Los Angeles.

Anshu Jain: Tiger obsession

Deutsche Bank’s co-CEO really loves tigers. Perhaps it can be pinned on his Indian roots, where it’s the national animal, symbolising strength, power, loyalty or courage. Or maybe he just really likes being on safari. He once spent three days with his cousin Amit waiting for a tiger to make an appearance in an Indian national park, but it was a no-show until the two men drove out of the park and one crossed the path of their car. Jain was apparently “so enthusiastic that he jumped down from the car” and “ran after the tiger, still holding his video camera up to one eye”. The tiger nonchalantly walked off.

Carl Icahn: Keeping romance alive

Carl Icahn is apparently so irked at employees leaking details of his private life that he banned staff working at any company owned by Icahn Enterprises L.P from revealing any personal details about him. Perhaps he should have told his wife, who happily blabbed to the New Yorker that they take nightly baths together in their large penthouse jacuzzi.

David Rockefeller: Beetle fan

As well as leading Chase Manhattan Bank for over 20 years, David Rockefeller has also has a life-long fascination with beetles (the bugs, not the cars). In fact, he has personally collected at least 500 species, or around 10% of the total specimens, from over 23 countries. How, you might ask? Usually by “supporting exhibitions in return for a portion of the catch, and being always alert to rare collections that come up for sale”, according to a 2005 article in Harvard University’s ReVista magazine. He also collected over 130 species while serving in WWII. “His breadth of familiarity with the taxonomy of the many hundreds of specimens on display was astonishing, if not unpredictable,” wrote the magazine.

Ken Griffin: Froth swapper

OK, so this may have been a one off, but it was still odd enough for an FT journalist to note during an interview with notoriously hard-nosed Citadel chief executive Ken Griffin, that he “takes time to spoon foam from one Starbucks coffee cup to another” while contemplating a question, perhaps as an attempt to unnerve the interviewer.

Hugh Hendry: A journalist's dream

Hugh Hendry, who runs Eclectica Absolute Macro hedge fund, is known for his general eccentricity rather than any one defining habit that can be considered odd, following a 2010 Newsnight appearance when he told Nobel laureate economist, Joseph Stiglitz: “Um, hello? Can I tell you about the real world?” during a debate about the economy. Since then, he has pulled back from the limelight, but still comes up with some great gloomy lines – notably in a recent opinion piece in the FT when he said the hedge fund industry was like “the plight of the banana”. “Today the world eats predominately just one type of banana, the Cavendish, but it is being wiped out by a blight known as Tropical Race 4, which encourages the plant to kill itself.”

Ray Dalio: The art of Zen

Where to start with Bridgewater Associates’ eponymous CEO? The 123 pages of ‘principles’ that advise employees to “ask yourself whether you have earned the right to have an opinion”? The fact that all staff must submit dental records before being given the job?  Perhaps it’s better to keep it personal – Dalio is a big fan of transcendental meditation, having been inspired by the Beatles’ trip to India. “It’s just a mental exercise in which you are clearing your mind,” he told the New Yorker. “Creativity comes from open-mindedness and centeredness—seeing things in a non-emotionally charged way.” This may seem a little weird, but meditation techniques are increasingly being used by investment banks to increase employee productivity.

Lloyd Blankfein: Nuzzler

Lloyd Blankfein likes to cut loose when on holiday and, like a Shoreditch hipster, enjoys growing a beard. This year, though, it didn’t disappear: “I always had a beard on vacation, and I’d think to myself, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it just prolong the vacation if I kept the beard?’” All very well, but a new look on such a high-profile figure gets attention, especially from the laydees. During a charity event in March, Blankfein “nuzzled his beard against the cheeks of two ladies”. “I was proving to women everywhere that it’s really soft, not coarse,” he told Bloomberg.

James Gorman: Early career planning

Because of his background as a management consultant, Morgan Stanley’s CEO is considered something of a bland character, aside from the fact that he has an Australian accent, and enjoys Vegemite. However, his early life makes this all the more surprising. Gorman was the sixth of 10 children, and his father – Kevin – once made them all take an IQ test. He posted the results in the living room, outlining each child’s score and their potential career. James came in 5th, and was expected to become a “midlevel bureaucrat or manager”.

Raffaele Costa: Pirate theme

A hedge fund manager with his own private yacht is not unusual, but what separates Raffaele Costa – head of new commercial real estate fund Tyndaris and former Goldman and GLG trader – is his alter-ego of Captain Magic, who sails dressed in a mask, long leather coat, leather trousers wielding a samurai sword. “I try to bring my creative side to all of my passions in life: finance, boating, the arts and the body and mind. This creativity served me well in helping to build GLG to the powerhouse it was,” Costa told us previously.

Greg Coffey: Coffee for Coffey

Greg Coffey, the star hedge fund trader who retired with a fortune of £430m last year, was undoubtedly an obsessive – asking for trading screens to be assembled in his hotel room while on holiday, so he could work through the night while his family slept. He also had a range of fetching leather jackets. However, more interestingly, he apparently demanded that a cup of coffee be delivered to his desk at the same time every day – regardless of whether he was in the office.

Dick Fuld: Gamer

As ridiculous as it sounds now in the era of smartphones, Dick Fuld, the former Lehman Brothers chief executive who is now trading penny stocks, was addicted to the simplistic BrickBreaker game on his Blackberry. In 2006, he ordered the IT department to remove it from his handset, so he could go cold turkey.

AUTHORPaul Clarke

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