The quantitative hedge fund that quietly hires painters and poets
Long before investment banks became obsessed with hiring STEM students into every role possible, they had a strategy for hiring from liberal arts courses. Liberal arts students bring "left-field, blue-sky creative thinking" one MD opined nearly a decade ago. There was a place for economists and mathematicians, he said, but there was a need for liberal artists too.
Speaking on a recent podcast, Peter Bogart-Johnson, a former 'generalist associate' at the DE Shaw Group, who now works for Jane Street, says his ex-employer would seek out people with artistic backgrounds to work alongside its technologists and quants because they were, "smart, talented, creative people who might bring a slightly different perspective to the role."
Bogart-Johnson worked for DE Shaw research, the arm of DE Shaw that focuses on biomolecular simulations, but there are indications that the broader DE Shaw group, including the quant fund, has a similar approach. Painters and poets aren't hired into core quant roles, but they are hired into peripheral functions - newly hired HR associate, Devanshi Yadav, has won creative writing competitions, for example. VP Matthew Hittinger is the author of fiction like 'The Erotic Postulate.' And DE Shaw admin assistant William Armstrong, who's worked at the fund for nearly a decade, is a well-established fine artist specializing in 'emotional expressions of pain, suffering, sex and death with the aim of challenging the dominant social order.'
Peter Bogart-Johnson's own specialism is abstract expressionist poetry within the New York School. It includes observations such as, "For lack of experience, I cultivate nonchalance."
Bogart-Johnson says the DE Research group didn't have a deliberate hiring program for going after artists, it just liked them for "technical-adjacent" roles. "The notion was we’d hire these people, they would do this job, then they would go off and become famous writers and musicians, and they wouldn’t be here anymore. But a lot of us sort of got to like it, and stayed in this work over time," he added.
He himself quit DE Shaw in 2015 and joined Jane Street in 2020, where he works as a product manager. He still writes poetry and says that product managers also benefit from creativity and empathy. Products and poems both "have a beginning, middle, and end, you would hope," he quips.
DE Shaw just opened its generalist internships for 2024. Paying $9k a month in New York, it says they're open to students from all backgrounds, including art history and literature,
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