Point72 mines social media to lure traders

SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference 2011...Steven Cohen, founder and chief executive officer of SAC Capital Advisors LP, speaks during the SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Cohen said the selloff in commodities makes this a good time to buy. Photographer: Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg©Bloomberg

Steven Cohen is having to compete harder for talent, as the “war” to attract the best traders has intensified

Steven Cohen’s comeback plan has already seen his family office restructure incentives, shuffle management and attempt to reshape its culture. Now Point72 Asset Management, the sequel to his hedge fund SAC Capital, is making a move into social media.

SAC ballooned from $ 25m in assets in 1992 to a $ 15bn enterprise with returns of 30 per cent a year. That record caught the attention of regulators, who spent a decade investigating allegations that SAC’s success was fuelled by an unfair advantage. In 2013 the hedge fund pleaded guilty to insider trading and paid $ 1.8bn in fines. Mr Cohen was not charged with any offence, but he is banned from overseeing client money until 2018.

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“Steve Cohen’s brand was hurt a lot during the insider trading investigations, and he is working very hard to improve his image,” said Don Steinbrugge, founder of Agecroft Partners in Richmond, Virginia.

Mr Cohen is having to compete harder for talent, as the “war” to attract the best traders has intensified with the industry’s expansion and the decline of average returns. Hedge funds grow by generating performance or by gathering assets, or some combination — but because it cannot manage client money, Point72 only has one of those options.

Point72 is now marketing itself in a more public fashion, as part of efforts to overhaul the SAC image. After first setting up a website in February 2015, Point72 has since April been honing its presence on LinkedInFacebookGoogle+, Glassdoor and soon Twitter.  

“We have to reach the talent where the talent is,” said Jonathan Jones, Point72’s head of investment talent development. “As an employer today, if you’re not active and present on social media, then you’re doing it wrong.”

As part of its recruitment efforts, the company has started “Point72 Academy” for new college graduates, hosted the undergraduate-focused non-profit Smart Woman Securities in April, and in May had a one-day “Sophomore Summit”.

“There was persistent residue of the idea that we are a cut-throat culture,” said Point72 spokesman Mark Herr. “The good news is the reputation is getting better.” 

Until the 2012 Jobs Act, US hedge funds were restricted from marketing themselves to the public. Since the regulations were loosened, however, many have relaxed tight-lipped traditions to actively manage their media presence.

A few including CitadelBridgewater, and Balyasny Asset Management have posted their own videos on their websites.

While Point72’s 70 portfolio managers have an average tenure of 7.5 years, 80 per cent of managers are “homegrown” — compared with 80 per cent in 2008 that were “imported”.

Those figures have put pressure on Point72 to hire young talent.

“Social media gives us an opportunity to provide a window into Point72 in a way that we haven’t in the past,” said Becca Beacham, who heads the group’s digital efforts.

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