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Hedge fund ‘talent shows’ take off to tackle image crisis

Can hedge funds ever be hipsters? In the battle for talent, not only are large hedge funds rolling out their own graduate schemes, they’re also creating competitions to uncover graduates who may have never considered going into the financial sector at all.

Winton Capital Management is offering $50k on data scientist community site Kaggle to the winner of its ‘stock market challenge’ where people are invited to create statistical modelling and data mining techniques to beat their peers.

Winton's carrot is a cash prize, but there’s also the chance to end up with a job at the hedge fund in its research scientist division.

Call it an attempt to appeal to the X-Factor generation, but the concept of 'hedge fund talent shows’ is catching on.

Man Group AHL has a coding competition where it’s inviting students to use programming language Python to control a player for the old school game Hexplode. The winner gets £5k and the chance of an internship.

“It’s true that both the finance and technology sectors are seeking to attract the best coders,” Sandy Rattray, CEO of Man AHL told us in an interview. Hedge funds are trying to make themselves increasingly attractive to tech recruits. “Man AHL isn’t a consumer facing brand - our focus is alternative and long-only investing for institutional and private clients. This means that we need to find new and innovative ways of engaging and raising awareness of the opportunity.”

One hedge fund technology recruiter, who declined to be named, put it more succinctly: “Hedge funds are hiring more and more technology professionals , but the technology talent wants to work for start-ups Shoreditch in London or Silicon Valley. Hedge funds are not cool enough.”

In response, quant hedge funds are increasingly trying to brand themselves as ‘cool’ places to work. Two Sigma, which also has a coding challenge on software depositary GitHub, has a ping pong table, fiestas and an onsite music studio. It also pays $417k a year, on average. Earlier this year it hired Alfred Spector, who was previously working as a senior engineer at Google.

Quant hedge fund GSA Capital Partners encourages its employees to dress down in its modern office overlooking London’s Green Park. It offers free fruit.  It probably helps too that average pay for GSA partners was $3.7m last year and that rank and file employees earned $197.7k each.

AUTHORPaul Clarke

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