Anyone living in New York City is familiar with the stereotypical "finance bro" — the young guy with a job on Wall Street who acts as if he never left his frat house.
According to former entry-level employees who spoke to Business Insider, you won't find many of these people at Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund.
If we're talking about personality stereotypes, said one person, then you're more likely to find an entry-level employee who's "nerdy" and introverted.
And there's a much higher chance they don't have the finance background of many of their Wall Street counterparts.
Hedge funds have always been somewhat removed from the world of Wall Street banks, but Bridgewater is in a league of its own. Nestled in the woods of Westport, Connecticut, the firm operates on a system of "radical transparency" established by its founder, Ray Dalio. Over the past 40 years, Dalio has established a set of investment and management principles that constitute the machinery of his 1,700-person firm with $150 billion in assets under management.
Dalio's management and life insights are known simply as the "Principles," and every employee must become familiar with all 210. "Pain + Reflection = Progress" are words to live by at Bridgewater, and all employees learn to "probe" each other, which entails questioning each other's logic in a stoic, unfiltered way. Most meetings are recorded digitally on an audio or video file, and each week, one of these videos is used in a companywide email for training purposes.
Needless to say, this environment requires a certain type of personality, and Dalio doesn't limit his recruiting efforts to like minds from the financial world. On the company's website, college internships and jobs for new college graduates are broken down into management, investment, and technology associate roles, and it's made clear that none require a financial background.
"We look for individuals with extraordinary intellectual capacity and curiosity, as well as the ability to rapidly learn and apply new concepts," the job posting for an investment associate reads. "We seek diversified educational backgrounds for our team and therefore encourage applicants from all academic disciplines to join."
Financial experience would become more valuable for higher-level investment positions, but the general ethos applies to senior-level hires as well. For example, Dalio hired Silicon Valley veteran Jon Rubinstein as co-CEO earlier this year partially because Dalio valued Rubinstein's mentorship by Steve Jobs.
The site also includes a video testimonial from a senior employee, identified as Bob E., who says he studied botany before joining Bridgewater after graduation.
A former employee said that to them it felt like the more an entry-level candidate wanted a traditional finance career, the less likely they were to get a job at Bridgewater. This person said that as graduation approached, they felt at a loss for what to do next, thinking that only a "weird" company would accept them for their eclectic background.
Brian Kreiter, Bridgewater's head of client service and marketing and cohead of its core management team, told Business Insider he wouldn't go so far as to say that the company avoids young employees with traditional finance backgrounds, but that its approach allows for a much more diverse set of backgrounds than you may find elsewhere.
"We think of people in terms of the building blocks of their values, their abilities, and their skills," he said. This means that recruiters will be searching for the top students at elite colleges, even if that person studied art history or psychology. While this isn't unheard of — Steve Cohen's family office Point72 recruits some fresh graduates with liberal arts backgrounds if they are interested in learning about finance — Bridgewater takes it to the next level.
Bridgewater would not reveal how many people it hired 2015, but said that 10% were directly from campus recruiting, and that entry-level employees with nonfinance backgrounds are enrolled in a 15-month program where they learn in a classroom setting, typically for two three-hour sessions each week. Bridgewater's unusually large size and resources for a hedge fund allow it to invest so heavily in training and education.
"From a values perspective, we're trying to understand the way the world works — that's what our business is — and so we're really interested in people that have a sort of deep curiosity, people that have the patience to understand deep and complex systems," Kreiter said. "Now, whether those are biological systems, or economic systems, or political systems, it doesn't really matter. Somebody who has an interest in and an ability to understand that deeply is interesting to us."
If you have firsthand knowledge of what it's like to work at the world's largest hedge fund, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can offer anonymity.
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