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Steven Cohen's $11 billion hedge fund is targeting college sophomores in its recruiting efforts

Julia La Roche

Point72 Asset Management, the $11 billion family-office hedge fund led by Steven A. Cohen, has begun targeting college sophomores in its recruiting efforts.

On May 20th, the fund will host its inaugural Sophomore Summit, a one-day investment education program for a highly select group of undergraduate sophomores held at Point72’s Stamford, Connecticut headquarters.

“The idea for the program was to identify 20 of the most promising sophomores in the country and introduce them to our industry,” said Jonathan Jones, head of investment talent development for Point72. “It’s really part of our effort to reach out early to candidates who show great promise.”

During the summit, the students will engage in a hand-on learning experience alongside Point72's investment professionals where they’ll go over the fundamentals, learn how to develop an investment thesis, and pitch a stock idea.

For its inaugural summit, Point72 received approximately 400 applications from students at 40 different universities from a variety of different academic backgrounds.

“We were very deliberate about the fact that we were looking for students with an interest in markets and investing. We really wanted to focus on students motivated around research,” said Jones, noting that they had students majoring in molecular biology, computer science, physics, political science, as well as the traditional finance and economic majors.

Point72’s step toward targeting top tier talent earlier on is unprecedented in the hedge fund space. Traditionally, the path to a hedge fund job has been to spend two years after college in an investment banking analyst program before making the transition to the buy-side.

These days, however, hedge fund recruiting has been facing its own unique set of challenges as investment banking classes have been shrinking and more young workers have been forgoing Wall Street careers for lucrative tech jobs in Silicon Valley. In other words, there’s a shortage of top talent.

With recruiting from the sell-side under pressure, some funds have turned to grooming or “farming” their own talent. Point72 in particular has been investing heavily in developing its own talent.

A year ago, the fund launched its namesake Point72 Academy, a 15-month paid program that trains college graduates for potential analyst positions at the firm. The first class is now approaching the end of its training through the academy. They’re currently in the midst of rotating with some of the portfolio teams as a precursor to where they might be placed.

The newly launched Sophomore Summit is just one piece of a three-stage journey for Point72 recruits. College juniors are eligible for the full summer internship program. That program in turns builds upon the opportunity to join the Point72 Academy after graduation.

As a family office, Point72 manages the money of Cohen and some of the firm’s employees. The fund’s growth is based strictly on returns, or the P&L that the talent generates.

Speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles earlier this month, Cohen said that “talent is very thin” in the hedge fund space these days.

“Our view at Point72 is that talent is very thin. We winnow down the funnel to 2 to 4 percent of the actual candidates we might be interested in. Frankly, I’m blown away by the lack of talent. It’s not easy to find great people,” said Cohen.

To be clear, Cohen’s comments at Milken relate to the challenge of finding experienced and talented portfolio managers. However, analysts are just is important because investment ideas are born out of fundamental research and idea generation from research analysts. It’s exactly why the fund is focused on developing them.

“This is consistent with our desire to create the greatest opportunities for the greatest talent,” said Jones. 

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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