Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Loser And the Hedge Fund Boss: My Conversation with a Millionaire - Part I

Last  year I came up with a crazy scheme that brought to me in contact with a New York based Hedge Fund manager (Hedge Funds are like loosely regulated mutual funds for rich people).

For a long time I loved the idea of investing money. When I was a teen I read "the Intelligent Investor" a book written by Ben Graham who was Warren Buffet's guru and mentor.

When I was in college my mother gave me $500 to invest, I found a small stock that I thought was grossly under-priced, I pulled the trigger, and literally within a few weeks it went from two to nine dollars in a single day.

My mother urged me to sell but I was convinced I was a market genius. I didn't sell and the price went down. It was still two or three times what I originally paid but I lost interest and went on with my college experience (isolation, grandiosity, good metabolism, no sex, no car and an abundance of junk food).

Fast forward to last year when in despair over my dead-end job and my dead-end life (come to think of it... ALL lives are dead-end) I decided to market my untapped market genius to the hated one percent.

Since I don't have any financial education, no Ivy League diploma, no industry contacts, no capital... nothing, I decided to circumvent the process and go directly to the top.

I came up with a plan.

I wrote a letter pretending to be a representative of a secretive Russian oligarch, it was written in a style of a paperback spy thriller,
 After ending his employment at the highest levels of the Soviet government [my client] decided to take a dive into the thriving and chaotic world of Russian entrepreneurship that emerged in the smoldering, gray ruins of the socialist empire. 
This venture resulted in my client becoming one of the wealthiest people in the world. If you ever thumbed through various Forbes lists, you have likely glanced at his name, left your fingerprint on his glossy image. If you visit his office you will see a nicely framed image of my client standing next to an enigmatically smiling Vladimir Putin. The photograph is displayed prominently in the same way religious objects are used to scare away evil spirits.   
But the depravity of the human condition that he has witnessed has left the man I represent with a deep and profound appreciation for privacy.  
Privacy, my client says, guards you from the gaze of humanity. And when people gaze, with their eyes come their desires, their needs, their greed, their capacity for destruction, their jealous lust to be you or to destroy your happiness even if they can't have it for themselves. 
Yeah, stuff like that.

At the conclusion of this titillating one-page intro, I wrote that we conducted extensive research and were ready to commit to your firm, but before transferring the money, "we want to outline our ideas about investing...to make sure that we have a common understanding of the financial markets."

On the next two pages I laid out my ideas about investing with the emphasis on the psychology and philosophy of a successful investor.

I finally came clean on the fourth page, I told them who I was and that I hated my job. I wrote that I knew that I could succeed in this field and that if they gave me a chance it would be an opportunity of a lifetime for me.

The conclusion read, 
This letter is a ridiculous idea, which I hope will work. But it was written without a sense of entitlement. Maybe you had a time in your life when even the most preposterous initiative is worth a try because it brings about a small possibility of change.
Over the next few months I printed about two hundred of those babies, found a list of hedge funds online and gradually -about four to ten letters at a time- I mailed them out.

Out of all these letters I got a trickle of responses, around six or seven. Half of these were generic "thank you for applying with us" bullshit HR letters but a few were more substantive.

One was an email exchange with a guy called Greg who was an analyst at a hedge fund where an unimpressed manager received my letter. Greg never identified his employer and was not in a position to offer me a job (unless he misrepresented who he was to me) but he did offer career advice and we bantered about the efficient market theory over email.

Then I received a personal email from a second in command at a hedge fund -the manager of which is a billionaire- he said that he did read my letter till the end and found it very amusing ("Dance, funny Russian monkey! Dance!"... that's not a direct quote) and that they would keep my information of file should the need arise.

Since this went nowhere, deductive reasoning has led me to the conclusion that in the succeeding months this firm did not find itself in need of Russian oligarch impersonators.

Finally I was nearing the end of my list of hedge funds that I obtained from a website called Insider Monkey.

It seemed that my chances of becoming an insider monkey were slim indeed, but since dropping off these letters became the only thread of hope in my life, I didn't want it to end. So I took a pause. a really long pause that continues to this day.

A wrinkled paper printout of the remaining funds still lingers on my shelf but I dread the day all the addresses will be marked off, so this list of funds with their goofy, pretentious names sits there in peace, unmolested by my grandiose ambitions.


A few months after I halted my "give Ivan a chance" campaign, I was enjoying the most treasured time of my workday: lunch. Since I worked the late shift, lunch fell on the evening.

I was sitting in my car listening to some depressing audio-book and puffing on my electronic cigarette. This was as close to nirvana as I could get, but it was about to get even better.

My android phone uttered some noise indicating the arrival of an email. Since I made the mistake of signing up for Democratic party's email chain, I expected the letter to come from my buddy Barack warning me about some war on women that Republicans have declared or some shit like that and hitting me up for five to ten dollars in contributions.    

When I lazily glanced into the new email, I did a double-take. The email came from a secretary of a hedge fund boss announcing to me that he read my letter and would like to speak on the phone when he had an opening in his schedule in two weeks. 

I distinctly remember that moment because I got out of my car and walked around the empty parking lot and looked at the gigantic office building where I worked. I referred to this building as the plantation and now someone was offering me a way out...


(Attention spans are short on the internet; and with my wildly optimistic estimate of my regular readership at four to five people, I don't feel that I am in a position to tax it much further).

1 comment:

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