Working With The Best – Bob Olman

Bob Olman is a noted speaker on careers in capital markets and the founder of Alpha Search Advisory Partners (, a top recruiting firm to the alternative investment community, based in NYC with offices in London and Singapore. This is the first of a two-part discussion with him.

What’s your favorite interview question?

“Give me an example of a trade idea you put on in the past year that you were correct on, and one that you were wrong on; what was the approach and how did you develop your position?”

What is distinctive about working with the very best candidates in the market?

What makes a candidate good is their success in trading their strategy. Working with the very best candidates in the market is a double-edged sword. They are easy to place because their successful track records speak for themselves. If they have been successful, however, they often have very little reason to leave their current employer, as they are typically well taken care of.

What are the distinctive challenges of building or moving an entire team?

Among the challenges is that there is often a weaning process in the transition. Not every member of the team will be invited to the new shop. There are not always enough chairs, even for those who are invited by the PM. The new employer may wish a slimmed-down team to start. While this doesn’t derail the hiring process, we feel there is an onus on us to assist all team members in enhancing their careers.

How much international mobility is there among hedge fund professionals?

There is international mobility, as long as moving from one country to another does not affect the PMs trading strategy. There have been many PMs who have left the United States to live and work in the countries whose markets they trade. There has been an influx of quantitative professionals from overseas that are being employed by hedge funds in the United States.

For what roles is it currently a candidate’s market?

To some degree the market dictates what roles are in most demand right now. Due to recent volatile conditions in the marketplace, losses due to turmoil in the subprime market, and the collapse of some high-profile funds over the past years, there is a growing need for funds to hire Risk Managers.

Risk Managers in highest demand are those who can assess risk exposure on a firm-wide level across a number of strategies and portfolios, since at many funds the trading desks operate in silos where one PM does not know what positions the other PMs in the fund are getting into. The highest comp goes to the risk managers who can look beyond the reports and VAR, who can understand the subjective nature of the investment process, and further, who can identify correlations amongst the various portfolios.

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