Business_news Inside $8.3 billion Balyasny’s Anthem training program, where aspiring portfolio managers are handed hundreds of millions of dollars to prove they can cut it

Business_news

Bill Wappler, the director of research at Balyasny Asset Management, leads the firm’s training program, called Anthem, which turns senior analysts into PM’s.

Balyasny Asset Management


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  • Balyasny Asset Management runs a 12- to 24-month training program, called Anthem, designed to transform senior analysts into portfolio managers.
  • It’s a small and demanding program: Just 10 PMs have emerged successfully since it began training up analysts four years ago.
  • Trainees get to manage hundreds of millions in assets while overseeing small teams of their own analysts.
  • Bill Wappler, Balyasny’s director of research who leads Anthem, gave business Insider a rare peek inside the program.
  • Visit business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

At Dmitry Balyasny’s $8.3 billion hedge-fund manager, ambitious senior analysts from both within the firm and outside it have had a clear path to becoming a portfolio manager: the four-year-old Anthem program.

Run by Bill Wappler, the program — named after an Ayn Rand book — can run for anywhere from 12 months to two years. Only a select few participants have made the cut so far. 

Just 10 people have graduated from the program since its first cohort of analysts in 2016; a total of 37 have entered, and 17 remain in the program, while 10 have left the Chicago-based firm altogether.

“They join the program for usually one reason: They aspire to have their own portfolio,” said Wappler, the director of research for the firm who leads the Anthem program. He formerly worked for billionaire Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital as associate director of research, handling analyst training and development

Wappler sees the program as a success, having produced multiple graduates who are managing hundreds of millions in assets for the firm. What’s more, each year since it started training analysts four years ago, the program has inducted progressively larger numbers of enrollees.

At the same time, Balyasny’s performance in its flagship fund has outpaced its multi-strategy rivals through the first seven months of the year, recording 20.5% according to Bloomberg.

Current PMs-in-training are based in locations around the world, from Hong Kong to London to the US. Wappler walked business Insider through how candidates are selected, how the firm eases them into running their own money, and what determines who ultimately makes the cut. 

Business_news Learning to trust

The biggest thing to teach a senior analyst is not how to invest, but how to trust.

Every person who enters the Anthem program is a successful investor in their own right, Wappler said, and the firm looks for candidates with at least six to seven years of buy-side experience. But the biggest change in becoming a portfolio manager is managing people, not money.

Senior analysts are known for checking every figure and being airtight on their findings. When in charge of a team, those same people have to give others responsibility they once handled themselves.

See more:The head of professional development at Steve Cohen’s Point72 lays out how to climb from fresh college grad to portfolio manager at the $16.3 billion hedge fund firm

“You have to help these people learn to trust their analysts,” Wappler said.

“The difference between a portfolio manager with a smaller portfolio, say $200 million, and one analyst, and a portfolio manager who has a portfolio of $1 billion and a team of five is typically not their investment skillset or their research process. The difference between those two people — they’re both good investors, they’re both good at research — the difference between those two people is their ability to manage the team, and to scale, and to efficiently leverage the people working from you.”

It’s a tale that can be applied to most any industry — a boss who is micromanaging, and untrustworthy of their own staff.

“If every time your analyst gives you an analysis or a model or some work product, if you assume you have to recheck every fact or recheck every number, is number 1, you’re not going to get any leverage so you’re defeating the purpose of having an analyst. And number 2, the analyst is going to sit back and say, ‘Wow, this guy is not really fun to work for,'” he said.

“This is where analysts run into trouble in the Anthem program often.”

On the investment side, they are in constant communication with not just Wappler — with whom every trainee meets with one-on-one once a week — but the rest of the firm. Wappler said trainees meet with Balyasny’s portfolio manager development team to learn how best to construct a portfolio and manage risk, as well as with global head of equities Jeff Runnfeldt and the founders of the firm: Balyasny, Scott Schroeder, and Taylor O’Malley.

Business_news A high-stakes program

The boss isn’t looking over your shoulder in this program — the senior analysts who were already working for Balyasny and promoted internally to the program end their work on their team to focus solely on building out their own portfolios and teams.

And Anthem trainees are given control over portfolios and people. With portfolios eventually ranging from between $200 million to $250 million in initial allocation — with some growing to roughly $400 million by the time the program is complete — trainees also hire one to two analysts and get a budget for data and technology infrastructure.

See more:How Cornell’s investment banking program trains MBA students to think like analysts before even setting foot on Wall Street

For their first few months, they run about 10% of their initial allocation — which works out, roughly, to be between $20 million to $25 million — so that they can gradually get comfortable with the training software, Wappler said. By their first earnings period Anthem trainees are running roughly half of their allocation, and then quickly ramp up after that.

“I don’t want to see any fat-fingered errors,” he said, but if they do happen, it will be with a $20 million book instead of one 10 times in size.

Business_news Not everyone makes the cut

Some senior analysts might come into the program with lofty goals, only to have those hopes dashed if they can’t prove that they’ve got PM chops.

All in all, 37 people have been hired into Anthem, but just 10 have graduated so far in the course of the four years that it’s been operational.

Eight people were hired into the Anthem program in 2016 — just three graduated, and five left. Two years later, in 2018, six people were hired; three graduated, and three departed.

In 2019, 16 people were hired, 13 of whom are still undergoing training. And this year, five have been hired, though not all have begun, Wappler said.

See more:Billionaire Bill Ackman says he thinks of Pershing Square more like a private-equity shop than a hedge fund when it comes to hiring staff

Ultimately, that breaks down to 17 people who are currently in training, with 10 successful graduates and 10 who left Balyasny altogether.

Of 13 still in the program from 2019, it’s not clear how many will become full-fledged portfolio managers, but Wappler said he — and the firm’s founders — watch candidates closely for one particular warning sign. 

“If we get a sense that an Anthem PM has plateaued at whatever level, that could result in us making the difficult decision to remove them from the program,” he said.

“Dmitry is a huge believer that in order to stay relevant in this business, you need to be constantly evolving and constantly looking for ways to improve.”

Read more:THE GATEKEEPERS: 12 headhunting firms to know if you want to land a hedge fund or private-equity job


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