Voice of Experience: Julia Mord, Hedge Fund Analyst

julia-pic.JPGFor this Voice of Experience article, The Glass Hammer focused on Julia Mord, a young woman on the rise at a New York-based boutique investment management firm.

Julia is an Investment Analyst at a private investment office that manages money for a high net worth family. The firm manages two alternative investment portfolios that invest predominantly in both private equity and hedge funds. She is one of five investment professionals in the small office, which includes a fund manager, two analysts, an accounting manager and an intern.

College and Early Work Experience in Finance

Julia attended college at the University of Chicago and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics in 1998.

After college, Julia moved to New York, where she worked at Ernst & Young in their Strategic Advisory Services group as a business analyst. In this capacity, she worked on numerous corporate strategy projects, helping companies assess new market entry strategies, which included developing e-commerce capabilities. She left E&Y at the end of 2000, when the company sold its consulting arm to Cap Gemini. Julia considered going to business school then, but decided that she wanted to get a few more years of industry experience under her belt first.

In late 2000, Julia joined Knight Securities (now Knight Trading), a NASDAQ market-maker in Jersey City, NJ, as a Business Development Associate. From 2000-2001, she helped develop a plan to launch a restricted stock trading desk and investigated whether the firm should acquire a self-clearing capability. There, she began working with a mentor who helped launch Knight Securities Japan, a previous joint venture, and helped him develop a business plan to broaden the firm’s business in Japan.

In 2001, Julia followed her mentor to Jefferies, a middle market investment bank serving small and mid-cap companies. At Jefferies, Julia worked in the Portfolio Trading group, initially in a business development and marketing role and then in a trading and research capacity. She worked on creating proprietary trades, building out automated trading strategies and disseminating research to clients.

Julia worked at Jefferies for three years before deciding that it was time to head back to business school. Julia explained, “I was fortunate to have many different work experiences, some of which complemented each other. But I had to think about what direction I wanted to take my career in.” She considered developing her sales or quantitative trading skills, but ended up concluding that she wanted to pursue her interest in investment management.

Pursuing an MBA at Wharton

Julia chose to pursue her MBA at the Wharton School in part because of its strong alumni network in investment management, which includes the Wharton Hedge Fund Affinity Group, a professional group that regularly meets and brings in speakers from the hedge fund world. Most importantly, she chose Wharton for its emphasis on the co-curricular experience and its dynamic student body. “I was impressed by the strength of the leadership curriculum and the chumminess of the student body,” said Julia, when describing her Wharton experience.

At Wharton, Julia co-chaired the Wharton Women and Business Conference, an annual event held in November that provides students, alumni and faculty with a chance to network with other women across a myriad of business careers, who can serve as role models and offer advice.

Julia spent a summer working at Blackrock in an investment management position between her first and second years of business school. This experience affirmed her interest in the field of investment management and helped her hone her ideas about what type of organization would be the right fit for her after graduation.

Julia knew that she didn’t want to be a research analyst, but thought that she would enjoy working for a limited partner managing a broad portfolio, like a private equity fund or a hedge fund of funds. Julia explained, “I knew I wanted to do something in investment management on the limited partner side but I didn’t want to be at a huge global investment firm. Ideally, I thought that I would like to manage investments for a foundation or a university endowment.”

Julia graduated from Wharton in 2006 and headed to New York to look for a job in investment management. She worked her alumni network and talked to as many people as she could in the field she was interested in. Though she initially planned to look for a job at a foundation, she broadened her search to include small family-run investment firms and fund-of-funds. She conducted informational interviews with heads of foundations, talked to people in investment consulting and started interviewing at investment firms. Julia found her current job through a posting by a recruiter on a Wharton job board shortly after graduation.

Helping to Manage a Hedge Fund of Funds Portfolio

Currently, Julia works as an analyst at a family investment firm that invests in both hedge funds and private equity funds. In that capacity, she helps to identify new investment opportunities for the firm’s portfolios. She also monitors the firm’s existing investments and meets with hedge fund managers to discuss the status of those investments.

One of Julia’s primary tasks is to conduct statistical analyses to assess the risks and potential gains or losses associated with each investment. In addition to investing in hedge funds, Julia occasionally advises her client on issues relating to real estate purchases and private equity opportunities.

A typical day in Julia’s life looks something like this. She gets into work and checks out what is happening in the markets by reading the Wall Street Journal and other trade publications. Then, she thinks about how this news might affect the hedge fund managers in their portfolio. She is not as concerned as how the news might impact the funds on a daily basis, since the firm’s investments are locked in for a certain period of time, but she tries to analyze the long term impact on the funds. Julia creates statistical models and analyzes data in order to make recommendations about new investment opportunities or funds where the firm should redeem its investments. In a down or volatile market, Julia explains that she and her team try to identify investment strategies that can most capitalize on attractive valuations.

Each week, Julia meets with anywhere from three to ten hedge fund managers. She then writes up the notes of her meetings, and conducts analysis on the firm’s current and potential investments. She also regularly attends industry conferences to keep up with new developments in her field. However, no two days are exactly alike, which is one of the reasons that she enjoys her job.

Julia sees many benefits to working in a smaller office. “Working at a smaller firm allows you to get more involved in different areas within the firm and to take on more responsibility,” Julia said. Also, Julia explained that, while a smaller fund might not have the technology resources and infrastructure of a global organization, “if you can identify gaps in resources and areas to improve, then often you can recommend and implement changes without too much red tape.”

In terms of work/life balance, Julia explained that working at an investment firm like hers offers many benefits for women, though they are traditionally underrepresented in the market. “The industry is small, and you get to know people well and develop relationships,” she said. Options for telecommuting and flexible work schedules are increasingly available at many hedge funds and hedge fund of funds, because managers want to hang on to top talent.

Asked what she likes best about her job, Julia said, “my job is always interesting, and I am constantly learning something new.”

When this dynamic career woman isn’t working, she enjoys outdoor hobbies, including backpacking, traveling, running and cycling.

Advice for Women Interested in Working at a Hedge Fund

Julia offers this advice to a young woman pursuing a similar career path:

  • If you don’t have direct experience in the type of job you are applying for, make the case for how the experience you do have lends itself to the job you are seeking. Be creative and think of unique ways that the skills you have can qualify you for the position.
  • Experience in sales and trading, investment banking, capital markets, structured finance and equity research are all fields that you can draw on to make yourself marketable to a hedge fund or fund of funds. Try to gain some experience in one of these fields before moving to the buy side.
  • Hedge funds and private equity groups are often small organizations and perfect jobs don’t open up that often. So, be persistent and determined.
  • But, be willing to expand the scope of your search, and don’t get too fixated on a specific job or a narrow area. Try to take a broad view of the kind of jobs that you would be qualified for and don’t limit yourself.
  • Think hard about your career plan and pursue a job you have a passion for.

If you have any questions for Julia about her career, or comments about her profile, feel free to leave them in the comments section of the discussion board.