HF Corporate Strategy Roles Spike in Turbulent Times

Goldman Sachs, top strategy consulting firm alums, entrepreneurs heavily favored candidate backgrounds.

Necessity — sometimes a catchphrase for a fund's poor investment performance — is the mother of invention.

And as hedge fund managers were making essential corporate decisions this year, they’ve been hiring full-time corporate strategists to work closely with their senior leadership to reshape existing business strategies, identify and execute new initiatives, and help define the company’s long-term trajectory and identity.

Relative to most investment management firms other than family offices, hedge funds have wide latitude on their investment mandates, and they’re certainly not holding back on exploring the frontiers of what’s possible.

For instance, there’s renewed interest in whether to enter or exit private equity/private investments, venture capital and cryptocurrency markets; whether to visit or revisit insurance and reinsurance businesses that burned many hedge funds in the past; whether to add a retail (versus institutional-only) focus to a firm’s client base, or maybe a separate market-making business; whether to overlay current investment and operations teams with quantitative and artificial intelligence/machine-learning capabilities.

Then there are issues like succession planning for aging founders who may want the firm to survive them as a private or public company; some are considering whether to transition to or from a family office, while others would perhaps simply like to find a graceful way for their companies to wind down as they pursue other interests.

Corporate Strategy Hires (past 12 months)
Current Firm Current Role Prior Firm(s) Prior Role Employee
Balyasny Asset Management (BAM) Chief of Staff and Strategy BAM, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Senior Associate, Corporate Strategy Drew Tannenbaum
Citadel Strategy & Special Initiatives Manager McKinsey & Co. Business Analyst Kiran Chilamkurti
Cowen Investment Management MD and Head of Strategy Reservoir Capital Group, Goldman Sachs Partner Elizabeth Flisser Rosman
CQS Head of Corporate Development and Strategy Mediobanca Vice President Ian Fitzsimons
Man Group Head of Strategy Investment Management Barclays Investment Bank, McKinsey & Co. Vice President Martin Fest
Millennium Management Business Strategy Associate BCG Project Leader Andrew Holmberg
Point72 Asset Management Associate Director of Strategy Point72, McKinsey & Co. VP Strategy John Mongan
Quantopian VP of Investment Product Strategy InsightSquared, Goldman Sachs Director of Product Management Caroline Sherman
Senator Investment Group Chief Strategy Officer Senator Investment Group Client Relations Director Jenny Wood
Two Sigma Investments VP, Business Innovation and Growth McKinsey & Co., Goldman Sachs Engagement Manager Kate Lewis
Two Sigma Investments Manager, Business Innovation and Growth OnDeck Capital Senior Manager, Credit Analytics Jordan Rubin
Two Sigma Investments TSIQ: Strategic Planning & Operations Two Sigma Ventures (Entrepreneur in Residence), Bowery Financial Managing Director Ben Weiss

Source: HFObserver Industry Moves Database, data sample.

Corporate strategist hires are still largely a $10 billion+ fund phenomenon as in years past, but this time around two key differences seem to indicate that these roles are here to stay, in good times and bad. Until about three years ago, many corporate strategist mandates shared an opportunistic nice-to-have-if-we-find-the-right-person level of urgency and were basically for funds doing very well on the performance front. Several firms hiring strategists today are coming off a string of mediocre annual returns. In addition, the hiring this time around includes a fair share of promotions from within, especially of key personnel.

Other hirers are simply looking to ensure they are best of breed and always forward thinking, with the advantage of relatively solid investment returns. Some firms, like Two Sigma Investments, which led all corporate strategy/strategic planning hiring in 2017 with over a half-dozen recruits, have reached a scale where they now hunt for two levels of strategy talent, one for the overall company team and one for a specific part or product of the firm’s business. Two Sigma also recently hired chief of strategy and capital development Susan Soh, a former partner at Perella Weinberg Partners, for its new illiquid private investments spinoff Sightway Capital.

Meanwhile, the corporate strategy hat is often simply worn by the firm founder(s) and/or other key executive team members, without the associated title.

Heavily favored talent pools include bankers from top investment banks like Goldman Sachs and staff of top strategy consulting firms like McKinsey & Co., the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bain & Co. Firms like Two Sigma Investments and Quantopian also hired entrepreneurs as part of their mix. Two Sigma hired Ben Weiss, a former Two Sigma Ventures Entrepreneur in Residence who worked for several start-ups over the past 10+ years. Jordan Rubin worked for online small business lending company OnDeck Capital prior to joining Two Sigma. Quantopian hired software company InsightSquared’s director of product management Caroline Sherman, though she also worked for Goldman Sachs prior to earning her MBA from Harvard Business School.

Titles for these roles can vary from Strategic Planning to Corporate Strategy, Corporate Development and Business Strategy to Investment Product Strategy and Business Innovation, but the responsibilities are largely similar. Role levels range from analyst to the coveted “chief” spot. Differences in responsibilities, if any, typically pertain to the relative mix of strategy versus operational versus execution/implementation work, and the focus on innovation(s) versus addressing current client needs.

These corporate strategy roles are different from portfolio strategy roles, which are typically focused on financial markets and are client-facing, and can directly impact a firm’s investment decisions (see HFO article). Corporate strategy roles also differ from business development roles, which usually have a strong marketing/sales component and may sometimes also refer to a recruiting role for senior front office talent.

The HFObserver Industry Moves Database is compiled daily from publicly available sources and information sent to HFObserver (click here to access full listing of monthly job moves — subscription required). This report includes only nonadministrative full-time investment management roles. This report does not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary departures.