Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Point72 to Double Tokyo Staff to Meet ‘Enormous’ Opportunities

  • Cohen’s fund aims for more than 60 workers, up from current 30
  • Hedge fund starts intern program to attract young workers

Point72 Asset Management plans to double its Japan staff to more than 60 people in the next few years to take advantage of what it says are “enormous” investment opportunities.

Steve Cohen’s $11 billion family office wants enough talent to match “alpha” opportunities in Japan, Marc Desmidt, the chief executive officer of Point72’s international business, said in an interview in Tokyo. The hedge fund has tripled its Tokyo staff to 30 in the past three-and-a-half years.

“When we look at Japan we see an enormous opportunity in the alpha space,” Desmidt said. “It’s incumbent upon us to ensure that we have the right people, the best positioned, the best trained to seek those alpha opportunities out.”

Hedge funds and financial firms have found it hard to attract young workers in Japan, where two decades of muted market returns -- the Topix index is little changed from where it was 20 years ago -- have made tech startups and firms such as Google Inc. more attractive alternatives to managing money. To combat this, Point72 is offering 10-week internships and a 10-month academy program to recruit potential analysts. In 2017, the number of applicants for both programs surged to 8,200 from about 400 in 2015.

Point72’s expansion plans are a vote of confidence in Japan’s hedge fund industry, which lags behind regional rivals such as those based in Hong Kong and Singapore. Still, returns are rebounding so far in 2017 from the worst performance in five years in 2016, with the Eurekahedge Japan Hedge Fund Index gaining 7.2 percent in the first eight months of this year.

“In Japan, the reality has been that financial services and the investment management industry hasn’t attracted a lot of new and young talent,” Desmidt said. “When you face a shortage of supply, you have to grow your own. You have to appeal to young people to come in.”

Internships

At the first internship program in Tokyo this week, seven graduates with degrees ranging from agricultural science to biochemistry are getting a crash course in accounting, stock valuation and presentation skills. The best candidates will be selected for next year’s academy program where they will learn coding and financial modeling.

“I think about it like a tool belt,” Desmidt said. “It’s incumbent on us as a firm, and particularly if we want to keep people here and keep them relevant, that we equip them with the best tools and techniques.”

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The firm is also looking for people who can harness technological advancements such as artificial intelligence and deep learning to help make investment decisions.

“There is a lot of talk about blending the best of man and machine,” Desmidt said. “That’s what we are really trying to do at this organization.”

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