Did the Fall of Banks Create New Opportunities for Hedge Funds?

For several months hedge funds have been accused of luring top talent away from banks and other financial institutions. This is partially due to the fact that banks are not what they used to be; the salary, stability and bonus packages have greatly decreased. Hedge funds have been more than welcome to fill the void.

Thalius Hecksher, Global Head of Business Development at Apex Fund Services (an independent fund administrator), said that as the talent pool slips away from banks, it provides an “opportunity for Apex.”

“Top talent that has left banks is coming back to the market now, looking for new and alternative things to get involved in,” he said.

Apex recently opened a new office in Miami, Florida. “This is a small office,” said Vincent M. Sarullo, Managing Director of Apex Fund Services in the U.S. “We’re just starting out, and that’s how we grow our business globally — whenever we get into a new location, we start with an initial staffing and then grow as the business grows.”

Sarullo said that when he first arrived in Miami, Apex “had great assistance from the groups down there — the Chamber of Commerce and the FLAIA (Florida Alternative Investment Association) — [that helped us] make introductions into the universities in the area to attract staff, and it has been a wonderful experience.”

“We see that it’s definitely going to be an office that we will grow with quality staff,” he continued. “There are a lot of people that are graduating with finance and accounting degrees that don’t have an avenue to go and get hired. There’s not a lot of service providers that are hiring, so they’re looking to go and relocate and go to other places. Here I think we’ll have the pick of the litter of quality people coming from those universities to staff our office.”

Hecksher referred to the new Florida office as a “win-win” for everyone involved. “There’s a high-caliber of employment available in the Miami market,” he said. “In [the [past] they might have had to look outside of Florida for the right job, whereas we’ve opened a place locally. We’re giving the local students and graduates the opportunity to actually stay home and work in Florida for an international business.”

The branch may be small but Apex anticipates that it will grow in the not-too-distant future. When it does, Sarullo said that the company will look to fill “positions to perform the core job that we do.”

“So it will be accounting majors, finance majors, and then behind that of course the support staff — administrative people — to support the office function as it grows,” he said.

Desirable Candidates

One of the challenges Apex faces in hiring fresh talent is that it is very different from other companies. “Even from the accounting standpoint, people coming out of college, or even in industry, it’s a unique business,” said Sarullo. “It’s a unique type of accounting function in that even those who have had a few years in the hedge fund industry in some shape or form, those coming in have to start with a lot of learning. There’s a huge learning curve in not just our systems and how we do things but our overall operations of what we do. From hedge funds to private equity to real estate — we cover a lot of fund types and strategies within the alternative world.

“The thing that I value most in a candidate is their ability to demonstrate that they [know how to] think. Basically, a smart person who has the drive to learn more and add value and has a positive attitude — that is the most important thing to me.”

“We’re looking for folks who have good academics and a good background,” Hecksher added. “We also have folks who come up to us who basically demonstrate a very strong business aptitude. We want people on our staff to really understand the key objective of our client and their key strategies. We’re always thinking how we can better serve our clients. We look for entrepreneurialism and innovativeness in a [prospective hire].”

Further, Sarullo cited the differences between Apex and other administrators. “Our business approach — from the operational side — is a little different from a lot of administrators in that, if you look at most (not all) admin shops, you have different departments that handle different aspects of the fund,” he explained. “The way we have our service model, [we provide] one point of content where each of our fund accountants has six to eight funds that they’re responsible for and they’re responsible for the entire world of that fund.

“They have in-depth knowledge about everything that’s going on with those funds, and they do spend a lot of face time with the manager and the clients, so there’s a very tight bond that’s built between them. They really view themselves more as an extension of that manager’s team and not just someone who’s doing a process. It gives them the ability to learn about those managers’ positives and also their pain points to see an opportunity and identify an opportunity to help that manager grow and to help them with any of the struggles that they may be having.”

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