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Academic study uncovers ageing hedge fund traders' pursuit of 'warrior physique'

The ideal hedge fund physique

Beware ageing male hedge fund traders. A new study of a London fund has found that older men in hedge funds are prone to enthusiastic exercise in an attempt to achieve a hyper-masculine, super-fit, warrior-style physique.

The study* was undertaken by academics at Monash University and Sydney University in Australia. They visited an unnamed London-based hedge fund and scrutinized the way in which its 20 male traders aged 30-62 were handling the process of getting older. Although there were three women on the trading team (two of whom were single and none of whom had children), the academics noted the environment was overwhelmingly masculine, leading to some peculiarly male methods of dealing with creeping decrepitude.

The hedge fund warrior body 

The researchers found that the male traders' main reaction to ageing was to exercise a lot. It was important for the traders to be fit and healthy because being fit and healthy was seen an extension of the "testosterone-fuelled" ideal of working in finance. The traders therefore spent a lot of time cycling or in the gym and felt compelled to talk about it and emphasize that their bodies were "built to last" - much like their trading careers.

"I feel like I’m 35 (but) it changes with how fit I feel," declared 38 year old trader Sebastian (not his real name). "And I have to say, since I’ve started cycling I kind of feel fitter than I’ve ever felt. Yes, yes. In some ways I think, using that criteria, I feel physically younger now than I did probably five years ago."

The average age of traders at the hedge fund studied was 37.5, making them unusually aged for the hedge fund industry. While George Soros may be 83, Ray Dalio 62 and John Paulson 58, traders are typically in their 20s and 30s. The fund also contained a number of traders with working class roots who'd worked their way up, without always attending university.

The study found that the ageing men fetishized a kind of working class ideal of the masculine physique. It was all about being 'muscly' and "ready for battle," regardless of ethnic and class backgrounds. The traders also liked to talk a lot about football - their "football identities" were important and led to a lot of chatting about their footballing pasts or weekends spent coaching children's football teams.

It helps to be battle-scarred

The academics also unearthed an unwillingness to do anything too cosmetic to mitigate the effects of getting older. A trader with a scarred face had avoided laser surgery because the scarring was seen as a helpful addition to his aggressive and slightly dangerous trading persona. Another trader confessed to having his teeth straightened and some admitted to dyeing their hair, but in most cases looking a bit rugged was seen as enhancing masculinity.

Above all, the traders showed signs of being wedded to the notion of extreme fitness for the foreseeable future - even after their inevitable retirement. 'Building up a vision of their retired body as fit and ‘still ready and waiting for com­bat' was extremely important', the academics noted.

The study helps explain financial services professionals' obsession with triathlons. It also places male hedge fund managers aged 35+ at the front of the queue for hip and knee replacements in 20 years' time. ‘Hopefully by the time, in another 20 years’ time you’ll start changing body parts. But then you need money to change body parts!" observed one trader, aged 38.

Built to last: ageing, class and the masculine body in a UK hedge fund

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • ol
    14 January 2014

    What happens to traders when they actually turn 40? I think 40 is fine. 50 is pushing it. What happens to traders who don't make the management once they turn 50?

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