Bobby Jain’s Complex Hedge Fund Debut Spawns Fans, Doubters

Inside the elegant Breakers Palm Beach resort, Bobby Jain made his multibillion-dollar pitch. His audience: the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, steward of one of the world’s great petro-fortunes and, to Jain, a perfect client for his new hedge fund.

Bloomberg
Updated10 Jul 2024, 12:03 AM IST
Bobby Jain’s Complex Hedge Fund Debut Spawns Fans, Doubters
Bobby Jain’s Complex Hedge Fund Debut Spawns Fans, Doubters

(Bloomberg) -- Inside the elegant Breakers Palm Beach resort, Bobby Jain made his multibillion-dollar pitch. His audience: the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, steward of one of the world’s great petro-fortunes and, to Jain, a perfect client for his new hedge fund.

His vision — laid out in the hotel’s seafood restaurant — was ambitious, even unprecedented. He would hatch a giant, fully formed hedge fund that would trade a half-dozen strategies and employ hundreds of people globally from day one. It required quickly finding gifted traders amid an expensive talent war, building complex infrastructure over months and raising enough investor money to pay for it.

Failing to achieve even one of those lofty targets could tank the whole thing before it ever got started. Even Jain has likened the maneuver to landing three airplanes at once.

Many investors sat on the sidelines, skeptical of the deviation from the typical hedge fund playbook of starting small and building from there. While Jain initially set out to hit a record of as much as $10 billion, he later halved that goal.

But Jain, a onetime acolyte of Millennium Management founder Izzy Englander, won votes of confidence from key investors including the Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund, which ultimately handed him about $1 billion. He raised $5.3 billion in total, the biggest launch since ExodusPoint Capital Management’s record $8 billion debut in 2018.

Interviews with about two dozen people with knowledge of Jain’s fundraising effort give an inside look into how the former Millennium co-chief investment officer pulled off one of the biggest-ever hedge fund launches earlier this month. It took a charm offensive with sweeteners like fee breaks just to reach his pared-down goal — showing how investors’ appetite for multistrategy hedge funds has plunged amid middling performance, long lockups and rising costs at other funds.

Getting investors on board was just the first step. What follows will test Jain, 53, as never before.

“There are a lot of moving parts, and this hasn’t been done before with this level of portfolio managers across multiple asset classes and strategies,” said Jon Caplis, founder of hedge fund research firm PivotalPath. “Clearly, a lot of thought and capital has been put into this launch. Still, the first few months will be closely watched.”

Clients who did back the firm say their investment is ultimately a bet on Jain, who helped Millennium push into new strategies and develop its central risk book. Now, he must prove he can deliver Millennium-like results without the resources of one of the world’s largest hedge funds.

Even in the best of times, fundraising and hiring for a new hedge fund are challenging. But this is one of the toughest climates in years. Potential clients have less cash on hand due to a prolonged deal drought that has crimped private equity payouts, and hedge funds are vying for scarce talent. 

Moreover, Jain’s vision is more ambitious than most other debuts — and he’s under a brighter spotlight.

The firm, Jain and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority declined to comment.

Complex Task

Jain — who, along with other employees, is kicking in $200 million — has told his investors that starting off big is the most efficient route to building a multistrat. 

If a hedge fund bolts on strategies over time, it can duplicate systems, manpower and expenses, his thinking goes. Jain has concluded that his firm can avoid those inefficiencies by setting up a central operating system that’s already prepared for all of its strategies. He’s hoping his fully built-out firm will be able to add assets and talent in the future without incurring substantial operating costs, those familiar with Jain’s thinking said.

“We are building a single, cross-asset, modern operating platform — a rare feat in the industry,” Jain wrote in an investor document seen by Bloomberg. “While this is more intensive at launch, it avoids the inherent challenges, complexity and cost apparent in a sequential build.” 

Jain Global is offering a hedge-fund smorgasbord with more than 40 portfolio managers: It will delve into macroeconomic themes and arbitrage strategies and trade not only stocks and credit instruments, but also physical commodities. It will also explore private credit, such as synthetic risk transfers that take exposure off banks’ balance sheets.  

In perhaps its most complex task, Jain is building a computer-driven investing business. 

“It’s really tough to start a new quant business,” Bartt Kellermann, founder of the Battle of the Quants conference, said in an interview. “You need three main ingredients, and they’re all expensive: the hardware, the data and the talent.”  

Jain’s firm will meld two approaches as it builds its own quant unit. Traders will get paid based on how much profit each one generates, as those who work in independent pods do in firms like Millennium. At the same time, they’ll work together on models and share infrastructure, in the manner of a more collaborative firm such as D.E. Shaw.

While Jain Global expects every business to broadly contribute to returns in line with its expected allocation breakdown right away, some investors say they expect it could take years for the quant unit to carry its weight. The firm hasn’t given clients performance targets, but some investors say they’re hoping to see returns of at least 10% in its first full year.

Jain concedes the difficulty of executing a complex launch, and has offered sizable fee discounts to make up for the risk, according to people familiar with his thinking. Clients also received what’s known as future capacity — if they like what they see, they can invest more later. And Jain granted them the option to participate in potential future investments alongside his firm. 

Some clients appreciated the firm’s more investor-friendly legal provisions – and its attractive liquidity terms. After Jain Global taps an investor’s cash, they can get the money back in three years, versus as many as five at multistrat rivals.

Despite the reassurances, Jain’s debut has invoked memories of ExodusPoint. Launched about six years ago by fellow Millennium alumnus Michael Gelband, that firm is still struggling to get its quant and equity businesses off the ground and has posted mostly mediocre returns despite gathering $8 billion at its inception.

Leery of an underwhelming performance, multiple investors say they plan to stay on the sidelines for at least a year until Jain shows he can deliver.

Some commented on the absence of high-profile star traders known for their track records at rival shops. Jain is intentionally eschewing massive payouts for such talent, which would get passed onto investors.

Other backers who met the firm’s hires said they were impressed after Jain threw open his doors and gave them broad access to his portfolio managers and business heads, as many new funds do.

Syril Pathmanathan, who ran D.E. Shaw’s synthetic risk transfer portfolio, is building Jain’s SRT unit. Heading the quant business are David Willmor and Peter Bolland, who worked together at one of Schonfeld Strategic Advisors’ most successful external pods.

On the fundamental equities team, some portfolio managers may get a cut of profits from the firm’s so-called center book, where the firm amplifies some bets. Millennium and Citadel, by contrast, keep those profits for themselves. Jain, like some peers, won’t defer compensation.

The biggest multistrats have an edge over Jain Global, relying on hundreds of pods — often larger and more established — to generate trade ideas. There’s less margin of error with Jain Global. With far fewer teams, each one faces more pressure to excel.

Still, Jain doesn’t aspire to grow as large as those $60 billion-plus giants. He hopes to reach as much as $12 billion over time, and as the firm nears that goal, will assess whether more cash could affect returns.

Cerebral Philosopher

In an industry known for prickly personalities, Jain’s charisma and desire to be liked stand out, according to those who know him. He has told people he hopes that one day his clients will want to hug him, the way some of Millennium’s clients did during his time there.

He also has a reputation for developing teams, managing elaborate businesses and seeing the big picture of how these units work together. He has been described as cerebral and almost philosopher-like, a person who thinks in matrices and complex patterns, jumping between minutia and macro ideas.

But he often struggles to communicate those ideas in a straightforward, succinct way, according to multiple investors who have met with him. In at least three cases, potential clients have walked away frustrated, or with mistaken or unclear ideas about his goals.

Jain started at Englander’s firm in 2016, joining as the founder’s first-ever co-CIO.

In 2022, rather than passing the reins to any one person, Englander decided to create an office of the CIO to help manage the firm — which had grown in size, scale and geography. 

When it became clear he wouldn’t run Millennium, Jain opted to launch his own firm.

Now that he has, the stakes are high. Jain has 12 months to put investor money to work and show that his new team can generate impressive returns.

If he does, gobs of cash could flow in from investors watching from the sidelines, one client predicts. But he’ll have to prove himself quickly.

“Investors are not happy with the best multistrategy funds right now, given the fees they’re paying,” said Brian Payne, chief strategist of private markets and alternatives at BCA Research and former investment officer for the Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois. “The bar now is higher for everyone.”

--With assistance from Katherine Burton and Dinesh Nair.

(Updates with context on multistrategy hedge funds in 29th paragraph)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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First Published:10 Jul 2024, 12:03 AM IST
HomeNewsBobby Jain’s Complex Hedge Fund Debut Spawns Fans, Doubters

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