Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Attention Investors: Here's Your Competition-Bookmark this Link

The Hedge Funds World post (immediately below) got me thinking about Jim Simons, who is
a) not a parvenu
b) probably won't be attending HFW this year.

Richard Teitelbaum at Bloomberg wrote a wonderful story. Give yourself fifteen uninterrupted minutes to get an inside look at a pro.
From Bloomberg:

On a hot afternoon in September, Renaissance Technologies LLC founder Jim Simons is too busy to take a phone call. It is, he says, from Cumrun Vafa, a preeminent Harvard University professor and expert on string theory, which describes the building blocks of the universe as extended one-dimensional filaments.

``Get another time when I can talk to him,'' Simons tells his assistant.

Then he mentions that the next day, he'll be meeting with Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, to discuss autism research. And he's slated that Saturday to host a gala honoring Math for America, or MFA, a four-year-old nonprofit he started that provides stipends to New York City math teachers.

``I'm undoubtedly involved in too many things at the same time,'' Simons says in his 35th-floor office in midtown Manhattan. ``But you make your life interesting.''

...Renaissance is on fire: Its Medallion Fund -- which uses computers and trading algorithms to invest in world markets -- returned more than 50 percent in the first three quarters of 2007. It had about $6 billion in assets as of July 1.

Simons registered that performance as subprime and related markets were collapsing, sending two mortgage-related hedge funds run by Bear Stearns Cos. into bankruptcy. The turmoil pummeled the Goldman Sachs Global Alpha Fund, a rival to Renaissance's funds, which fell more than 25 percent during the same time. Morgan Stanley's computer jockeys lost $390 million in a single day in early August.

...More than 200 employees, of whom about a third have Ph.D.s, work in East Setauket. Another 100 are based in Manhattan, San Francisco, London and Milan. ``He creates an environment where it's easy to be creative and works hard to keep the bullshit level to a minimum,'' says former managing director Robert Frey, who worked at Renaissance from 1992 to 2004.

Even without the new commodities fund, Renaissance's assets have more than doubled in a year from about $16 billion on Sept. 30, 2006. That growth has catapulted Renaissance past such titans as Daniel Och's Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, Ray Dalio's Bridgewater Associates Inc. and David Shaw's D.E. Shaw & Co. to become the world's largest hedge fund manager, according to data compiled by Hedge Fund Research Inc. and Bloomberg.

...``There are just a few individuals who have truly changed how we view the markets,'' says Theodore Aronson, principal of Aronson + Johnson + Ortiz LP, a quantitative money management firm in Philadelphia with $29.3 billion in assets. ``John Maynard Keynes is one of the few. Warren Buffett is one of the few. So is Jim Simons.''

Aronson credits Renaissance with validating the entire field of quantitative investing and proving that the freedom accorded to hedge fund managers to short stocks, borrow money and invest in myriad instruments can produce results that far outstrip typical market returns.

Simons, standing just under 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds (84 kilograms), has trod an unlikely path. A former code cracker for the U.S. National Security Agency, in 1968 he became chairman of the mathematics department at Stony Brook University, part of the New York state university system. He built the department into what David Eisenbud, former director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California, calls one of the world's top centers for geometry....MUCH MORE