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GAIM International – Inside investors’ minds

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This year’s GAIM International at the Meridien Beach Plaza in Monaco is a star-studded affair. The industry talent expected to congregate looks set to reflect the dazzling depths of the Mediterranean breaking just offshore.

Such luminary names as GLG Partners’ chief investment strategist Jamil Baz, Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard University and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, principal of Universa Investments – and of Black Swan fame – will be speaking. Not to mention countless panel discussions featuring the likes of Gavyn Davies of Fulcrum Asset Management, Jane Buchan, CEO of PAAMCO and end investors ranging from Barclays Pension Fund to the Ohio State University.
It promises to be a fun few days, and of course the networking opportunities will be vast.

But rather than dwell on the minutiae of the event program, let’s get an insight into the type of people who will be attending. GAIM International’s organiser, ICBI, has made this possible thanks to a series of ’30 seconds with…’ blogs on its website. As ICBI’s Senior Conference Director, Victoria Chatterton, confesses in her own blog:

“I am a bit of a history geek so I am really looking forward to Niall Ferguson and Jamil Baz’s session on the limits of macroeconomic policy – I will certainly be taking notes!”

The room is likely to be packed to the rafters for the discussion, which takes place at 9am on the first day (Tuesday 19th June) – so don’t hang around too long eating croissants!

“I really enjoy the buzz around this event and the opportunity to meet so many interesting people. It’s mindboggling to think about how many business cards are exchanged in the space of the conference and how many new industry connections are made,” says Victoria.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s keynote speech, also delivered later that day at 12pm, will provide the audience with insights ‘on some useful properties of barbells’ – one suspects it’ll have nothing to do with weightlifting!

To get an idea of the different personalities one can expect to meet at GAIM this year, the following are the responses of a pension fund investor and a family office investor.

Rusty Guinn works in the Investments Division, External Public Markets, at the Teachers’ Retirement System of Texas. With a dose of realism Rusty thinks the biggest challenge facing an investor today is remaining skeptical about his ability to time entry into opportunistic trades. In Rusty’s view the asset class that holds the most opportunity right now is volatility; in particular a willingness to sell it for large, well-funded capital pools with limited liabilities.

Neal Berger is the president of Eagle’s View Asset Management. Neal runs his own family office money as well as that of other family offices and invests across a range of hedge fund strategies. Being in the business of investing in ‘best of breed’ talent, finding capacity in managers “who are truly producing alpha is the greatest challenge we face as investors today”, writes Neal. Rather than picking a traditional asset class per se, he believes that, as a structure, hedge funds hold the greatest opportunity now and for the future simply because it has attracted some of the brightest minds in the world.

When it comes to reflecting on what has been his most successful ever investment, Rusty replies: “My wife’s engagement ring.” We hear you Rusty!

Neal’s response is a little more considered. He attributes investing his own capital into building his hedge fund advisory and FoFs business as his greatest investment. One can get wealthy investing in hedge funds says Neal, but get even wealthier by investing other people’s money as well and earning a performance fee (based on client profitability).

A little known fact about Neal which he shares in the blog is that he made a USD100,000 weight loss bet with ace poker player Phil Ivey…and ended up winning the bet. A cautionary note – don’t accept any similar such challenges with Neal over a glass of champagne at GAIM, it could be costly.

The person Rusty most respects in the industry is Kevin Coldiron, a quant from ACI who doesn’t actively seek unnecessary complexity and, as Rusty puts it: “A guy that is shamelessly transparent about what he is doing and why in a part of the hedge fund industry that treats that like a disease.”

Neal’s choice is a higher profile figure, that of Izzy Englander, the founder and CEO of multi-strategy fund Millennium Partners. “He is a pioneer in the industry and has a rare ability to truly recognize a strategy or manager with an ‘edge’ and to manage that talent effectively,” says Neal, as well as having no hesitation at letting go of a losing trade or manager.

Interestingly, when it finally comes to asking who they’d both most like to have dinner with, Rusty’s choice is dead, Neal’s still very much alive.
“Benjamin Franklin – and I’d rather listen to his stories than my questions,” says Rusty.

“I’d like to sit with Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and try to convince him to get the band back together to play at my next high school reunion. I’d basically be the coolest guy on the planet if I could accomplish that,” says Neal.

If you’d like to hear more from Rusty, Neal, Niall, Jamil, Nassim and the other 200 investor and manager speakers at GAIM International this year, Hedgeweek is happy to offer a special 15% discount on registration.

To take advantage of this exclusive 15% saving, please click here


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