How to get a job at Steve Cohen's Point72 - a conversation with their head of investment talent development
Do you want to work for Point72 Asset Management, the firm that oversees the (immense) wealth of legendary trader Steve Cohen? If you're in London, now may be your chance. Point72, which achieved a 16% return last year vs. the average hedge fund industry return of 1%, has just opened an office in London's Mayfair.
We spoke to Jonathan Jones, head of investment talent development at Point72, about what the firm's looking for - both in London and further afield, and why you should want to work there anyway. This is what he said.
Doug Haynes, President of Point 72 recently said that finding talent is the biggest issue at Point72 right now. Do you agree? Is it hard to find good people?
Well, a big and important part of our mission and function is to be a destination of choice for world class investment professionals. We’re relentless in our pursuit of that talent.
You’ve recently opened an office in London. How many people do you plan to hire for it?
J: “We’re not trying to grow to some specific and preconceived size in London. We already have around a dozen and a half employees there, split between investment and infrastructure and support staff and that will likely grow as we build our office and presence. The office has space available for as many as 50 to 70 people.”
Have you been deluged with applications?
It’s not really appropriate to talk in terms of applications – we haven’t been taking applications through a website. Instead, we’ve been reaching out to people who might be interested in the roles.
What kinds of people have you been approaching?
Primarily they’ve been experienced investment professionals in roles comparable to our own. We haven’t initiated any particular focus on graduate hiring for the London office – although I think we’ll start hiring for our Academy in a year or so.
Are you interested in hiring traders from investment banks?
That kind of depends on their seniority. When we’re hiring an experienced portfolio manager we’ll typically hire from another fund, and look for someone who’s already working in a similar capacity. However, at a more junior level research analysts will typically come to us from investment banks’ analyst programmes.
Have you hired many juniors in London yet?
We’re only just starting to think about hiring at this level in the City. We participated in the Alternative Investment Conference at the London School of Economics earlier this year and had a good level of interest from junior candidates after that.
So, who do you most want to hire in London now?
That would be the head of our London office. Once we’ve appointed that person, we’ll have an opportunity to move ahead more aggressively with our talent acquisition plan.
So you’re looking for a London office head…?
Yes, we’re actively searching for that person now. Our ideal profile is an experienced executive from the asset management industry. We’ve already seen a lot of candidates from a variety of backgrounds.
Why should people want to work for Point72?
Well, I’d point to two or three things. We offer an opportunity to build a long term career, irrespective of the level you start at. We put a lot of energy and resources into helping you grow and become the best at what you do. And we will do our best to promote you through the firm.
Do you have any stats to back this up?
Sure – 70% of our portfolio managers were promoted into their roles from the firm rather than hired externally (including those who worked for SAC previously). And the average tenure of our portfolio managers is over seven years. This means we have a strong sense of culture.
So you don’t churn portfolio managers like some rival funds?
No. Our aspiration is to make everyone successful. We don’t have a formulaic ‘down x% and you’re out’ policy. If we find a portfolio manager who is having a difficult time and who is struggling, our orientation is to help them work out the source of the challenge and why it is that they’re losing money. Our approach to risk management is to be a coach rather than a referee.
And are there advantages to working for a firm which doesn’t manage outside money?
Yes. We have a very stable capital base. We essentially have one investor – Steve Cohen. When you’re a fund with multiple investors, you’re susceptible to capital withdrawals, which can be very destabilizing and even an existential threat. We think our greater stability is a significant advantage. The lack of outside investors also helps keep our portfolio managers free of the additional demands and distractions that come with a large investor base.
Has anyone graduated from your Point72 Academy yet?
The 2015 cohort started in the middle of last year, and was our first. This cohort won’t roll off the programme for a few months yet, but we really like the first class and are confident of their success.
Are you hiring new candidates for the Academy now?
At this precise moment, we’re in a hiatus between the 2016 and 2017 hiring cycles. We’ve completed hiring for the 2016 Academy intake and summer internship programme, but will probably begin focusing on the 2017 hiring cycle later this summer.
Jonathan, you’ve worked for Blackrock and Goldman Sachs in the past. Compared to these large firms, what makes Point72 an interesting employer for trading professionals?
Those are both very fine firms and anyone with the opportunity to go and work there will have a great experience. At Point72, however, we offer a lot more focus. Our primary business is discretionary long/short equity investing and all our energy and resources are directed towards this.
Our smaller size relative to larger firms is also a plus. People at Point72 have really extraordinary access to the firm’s senior management. On almost any day, you can walk onto our trading floor at Stamford Connecticut and see Steve Cohen sitting at his desk in the middle. Steve’s desk is no different to the desks to the left or right of him – he’s just there, as approachable as anyone else. Given that Steve is one of the most talented investment professionals of his generation, this is an extraordinary opportunity for anyone who works here. Steve is a very visible leader and coach to our staff – he also runs breakfast meetings, gatherings and forums on a weekly basis.
What do you look for when you hire?
Our selection process for talent is both rigorous and holistic. We try to understand an individual’s capability, fit, character and potential in the most comprehensive way that we can. We look for a history of achievement in all their endeavours – not just academically.
What’s your favourite interview question?
I’m not a believer in silver bullet questions, but I do like to ask candidates at the campus level to describe the way they spend their time in terms of a pie chart. – How did they split their time in the past week?
What's the worst answer you've ever had?
I would generally advise against any answer that has the word ‘fraternity’ in it.