Page last updated at 23:48 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 00:48 UK

What is it like working for a hedge fund?

By Anthony Reuben
Business reporter, BBC News

It makes a certain amount of sense for a hedge fund to be based somewhere leafy, but even by usual standards, Tony Tresigne works in a quiet spot.

Tony Tresigne
What you've seen over the last few months is different to volatility because you've seen an almost systematic collapse of the financial system
Tony Tresigne, Lionhart Investments

Hedge funds tend to be based well away from London's financial hotspots such as the City and Canary Wharf, in districts such as Mayfair.

But his employer, Lionhart Investments, is based next door to the golf club in Wimbledon.

It is a relaxed environment on the edge of Wimbledon Common, where at least one mobile phone network has no signal at all, but do not let that fool you.

"I have a mobile phone that rings all the time - and on family holidays, it quite often becomes a source of contention," he says.

"It's a standing joke with my wife that every time I go on holiday, something catastrophic happens in the markets that requires my presence on conference calls.

"If I say that my five-year-old son knows how to use a Bloomberg screen, you'll know what I mean."

Managing risk

The idea of a hedge fund is that it will judge itself on the absolute amount of money it makes for its investors, not the amount it makes relative to the way markets have gone up, as would be the case with other funds.

The way it does that is that people like Tony identify investments such as shares, which they believe will rise or fall significantly.

Then they take out other investments to hedge against the risk of other factors coming into play, such as the overall market falling.

In that way, a hedge fund manager can isolate the effect he or she is predicting and make money if it happens, almost regardless of what else is going on in the market.

Enjoying volatility

That is the theory in a normal market, but market conditions have been very unusual of late.

"I'm from more of a trading background than a research background, so I do love volatility - it's my favourite days in the office when we get volatility," Tony says.

Tony Tresigne
Much of the morning is spent wading through e-mails

"What you've seen over the last few months is different to volatility, because you've seen an almost systematic collapse of the financial system.

"Volatility is Bear Stearns moving 7% in a day, not falling 100%."

There is certainly the impression around the office that there is no frantic trading going on.

The funds are currently in a defensive state, with the amount of money borrowed low and everyone concentrating on their research.

"You can be the best sailor in the world, but if you get in a force 10 gale, your mast might break," Tony says.

"You have to recognise when you're moving from a point where you're actually trading to where you're, in the vernacular, punting - where you really have no idea where things are going to end up."

Normal day

Tony generally gets to the office at about 0630 in the morning.

Like most hedge funds, there are no ties to be seen. Jeans and untucked shirts are the uniform.

The office is small, shared with the other European trader, researchers and the staff paid to talk to the investors, who have given them at least $1m (500,000) of their money to trade with.

Like many office workers, the first job in the morning is to wade through the e-mails that will have turned up during the night.

"The vast majority of the mornings are really about controlling information flow," he says.

"When you come in in the morning, you'd really be inundated with information from hundreds of sources."

He also needs to catch up with what his colleagues at the fund's other offices in Toronto, New York and Singapore have been up to.

'Money to be made'

He specialises in trading in companies in what are called special situations, such as restructuring programmes or takeover deals, so the next thing to do is look at any big deals that have been done.

"You can look at it and say, 'Well, I understand the regulatory process, I understand the people involved in this, I can look at the valuation of the company and say that there's a chance of a counter-bid,' so there's money to be made."

Once he has focused on areas in which he's interested, it is time to move onto the next stage.

"A lot of what special situations is, is talking to people, because you never really know what's going to be important for a particular deal."

He may speak to brokers, analysts or journalists, or he may call on the services of consultants, industry insiders or technical experts.

He also looks for companies that he believes have been incorrectly valued by the market.

He says that happens particularly often in diversified companies.

"You may find if a company that's involved in property, for example, has an asset that's not directly related to property, property investors may miss it."

Running home

At the end of the day, Tony runs home through the park.

It is easy to see the attraction of the relaxed surroundings.

"It allows the traders who are developing the strategies to get away from the noise," says investor relations manager Greg Froese.

But hedge fund traders can never really be relaxed, because they tend to have so much of their own money invested in their funds.

Privately, older traders say that the current market conditions are a good thing for them, because they have highlighted the value of their experience.

Nonetheless, many in the industry will be relieved when things settle down a bit.

"I feel in certain points, this market has become so unpredictable as to almost cease to function as a market," Tony complains.

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