How to Start Your Own Hedge Fund: A Day in the Life at Your New Start-Up Fund
We’ll be optimistic here and assume that you’ve actually managed to raise enough capital, get all the legal and infrastructure stuff taken care of, and that your trading strategy still produces solid returns.
So what will your average day look like now?
Like everything with hedge funds, it depends: it depends on your strategy, the size of your organization, and your stage in the fundraising cycle, among other things.
Here’s a realistic day in the life for my research-driven value fund:
Wake up. Check smartphone before rolling out of bed to scan headlines coming out of Asia and Europe. Glance at inbox to size up what chunk of my day will be consumed by correspondence.
Eat breakfast with the Wall Street Journal. Actually read it.
Listen to the BBC’s Wake Up to Money podcast at the gym and on my commute to round out my information on European markets. It’s more interesting than anything on CNBC 90% of the time.
Arrive at the office. Read news related to positions I currently hold and am following. As I read all this news, I take notes on what’s interesting, what to follow-up on, and what could affect my portfolio.
A colleague brings by the daily holdings and performance report from our prime broker. There was a big move in the GBP overnight that leaves us more exposed than we’d like to be.
I ask him to call our prime broker to sell the excess currency and get the allocation back on target.
We don’t trade currency as a primary strategy, so we don’t have the capacity to handle this in-house.
There are a lot of securities I’d like us to trade ourselves, but the required infrastructure is too expensive for our current size, so we rely heavily on outside traders.
Meet with the team to finalize the day’s game plan. This is possibly the most important part of the day, as it determines our research and trading priorities.
A lot of our positions have upcoming corporate actions (bankruptcy hearings, spinouts, etc.), so I need to stay on top of events as they unfold.
We go around pitching new ideas and decide what to pursue. Unlike a traditional asset management firm, we don’t divide people up by industry coverage.
We’re looking for asymmetric opportunities across industries/market caps/geographies/asset classes, so we have to be generalists.
An analyst who watches our screens for ideas presents some companies with massively underfunded pensions and declining earnings as potential shorts. I pick out the most promising names and divvy up the research. We’re off to our desks with plans in hand.
Of course, this plan can be blown to smithereens if the market opens down 300 points.
8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Work on current holdings. One of them just announced a rights offering, so I build that into my model to see what the capital structure will look like and whether we want to participate.
US markets open. If things are generally stable, I’ll just keep working through my game plan for the rest of the morning.
There’s an interesting merger underway with the potential to shake a bunch of weird securities, so I spend a few hours reading through the filings to understand the merger terms and the two companies being merged.
A trader stops in to tell me that one of our positions has been hit with a regulatory action by the EPA. I stop researching the merger to figure out what’s going on with the EPA.
We determine it’s not of real concern since the company has ten times the amount of cash it needs to pay the highest possible fine.
An equity salesperson calls to pitch a secondary offering in a company I was looking at months ago. No way – it’s a total disaster.
Eat lunch while reading the merger agreement. They’re paying for part of it in warrants – put those on game plan for tomorrow. Time to fundraise!
Have call with potential investor. He’s very well-connected and could catapult the fund to the top institutions.
He drills me with questions about our strategy, our risk management, our infrastructure and back office, and whether we have the capacity to take a lot of new money.
If that last issue seems odd to you, scalability is a common problem. A fund focused on microcap stocks can’t take meaningful positions with more than a few hundred million under management because they’d move the market.
On the other hand, it’s hard to succeed as an activist fund without a few billion in the bank.
Large investors are frightened that their contribution will decrease your ability to execute your strategy and they won’t reap the performance that attracted them in the first place.
That company with the possible EPA fine? It just got worse. The stock is down 15% and the Justice Department has issued its own inquiry into the matter.
It’s going to get ugly – I pull everyone from their desks to figure out who knows what and how we can find out more. It’s a huge position for us and we’re losing money every second, but it could also be a great buying opportunity if the market is overreacting.
I want a decision by 3:30 PM so we can act.
I’m looking through old EPA court cases to get a sense of how these things progress. History is telling me that the actual fines wind up being far less than expected and our company will have no problem paying.
Nonetheless, the stock’s down another 7%. We go ahead and buy more.
Markets close. Other than our environmentally unaware company, our positions remained relatively flat, which is a relief.
I call our prime broker to make sure we’re set up to act on those merger warrants if we decide to pull the trigger. Luckily, no new paperwork is required.
I round up the team for a meeting to see how everyone’s progressed on their research projects. Most ideas end up as duds and there’s only one idea left from today’s list that I want to keep an eye on.
We go over our end-of-day screeners and pull a few names for tomorrow’s agenda.
Back at my desk, I have time to do uninterrupted research for two hours. What does all this research entail?
For us, we look at everything: SEC filings, court documents, industry publications, sell side research, and our own meetings with management.
It’s easy to read the first page of a bankruptcy with a critical and energized mind, but by the time page 57 rolls around? That’s where most people drop off.
Our strategy requires knowing the nooks and crannies of everything we hold and that means a high level of engagement with all of these documents.
Dinner party organized by a hedge fund service provider for new managers. Sad, but not surprising: I’m the only woman in the group of 30.
We talk shop and it seems like everyone’s had a rough quarter except for us. It’s nice to catch up with some peers and network with new folks – odds are that most of our funds won’t be around in three years.
Head home and straight for my desk to do some paperwork. Running a fund isn’t just portfolio management: it’s a small business. I have to make sure that our bills are getting paid on time and our operating accounts are up to date.
Outline ideas for the quarterly investor letter. I like to draw back the curtain a bit and talk about a few of our positions.
The challenge now is talking about this EPA fine without inducing panic in our investors – if we get a lot of redemptions at once, it would severely cripple us.
I respond to non-urgent emails from that morning. My friends want to organize a weeklong ski vacation, but at this point I can’t take that much time away from the fund.
Go to sleep excited about the weekend, not because I have awesome plans, but because I can focus on research in the five-hour stretches I like without any market distractions.
Complete Series – How to Start Your Own Hedge Fund:
- How to Start Your Own Hedge Fund – Introduction and Overview
- A Day in the Life At Your Own Hedge Fund
- Part 1: Raising Capital and Launching Your Fund
- Part 2: Hedge Fund Investment Strategies and the Technical Side
- Part 3: How to Hire Your Team and Build an Organization
- Part 4: What If Your Fund Doesn’t Work Out, and Exit Opportunities
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