Career Insights

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Working in Hedge Fund vs. Private Equity – What’s the Difference?

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When I was at J.P. Morgan, I thought about this debate along with most analysts around the bullpen. “What do you think it’s like working at a hedge fund vs. private equity?”

Venture capital and entrepreneurship hadn’t taken off then. Hedge fund and private equity were the 2 paths that seemed the most logical for those who wanted to stay in finance.

I leaned towards private equity. I was in distressed debt investing at the time working with private equity funds. They bought and sold distressed investments from us, which was very interesting work through the financial recession.

But after a while, the stress of bankruptcy negotiations and legal proceedings finally got to me. Having worked in the field for 3 years, I knew exactly what private equity associates did and what their career trajectories looked like. I wanted to get there.

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How to Get a Million Dollar Hedge Fund Bonus

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Just the other day, a friend told me that he made over 1 million dollars in hedge fund bonus last year. He’s the guy Occupy Wall Street has been protesting against.

The surprising thing is, he isn’t the first person to tell me that he broke the 1 million dollar hedge fund bonus ceiling. 3 other hedge fund analysts told me the same last year.

So how do people in their late twenties and early thirties make over a million dollars at a hedge fund? Who’s paying out this kind of dough? Let’s find out.

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Can I Move from Fund of Funds to Hedge Fund?

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The short answer is that it would be difficult to go from a FoF to hedge fund.

Fund-of-hedge-funds are intermediaries that help investors pick out the good hedge fund performers from the bad. Relationship-building is the key to success at the senior level, and fund analytics at the junior level.

The skills needed at a hedge fund are fundamental research and modeling. Unfortunately, fund-of-funds don’t provide the opportunity to practice these skills…

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What is the typical buy side career path to becoming a portfolio manager?

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The typical buy side career path usually starts for someone a few years out of school, typically with 2 years of experience. Unlike large banks with comprehensive training programs, funds are smaller and don’t have the training resource to teach someone analytical finance from the ground up.

Which brings us to the typical route that will get you from your college graduation to a hedge fund portfolio manager…

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