The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Robyn Grew, Man Group CEO, is below.
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ANNOUNCER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.
BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, another extra special guest, Robin Grew, President of Man Group, $145 billion publicly traded hedge fund in the UK, and soon to be Man Group’s CEO. This is a fascinating conversation about business growth and leadership and management and how to run a team. How to recruit and retain the best people and how to use technology as a tool to give you an edge, not just in investing but in the ability to offer clients various solutions improving your efficiency, effectiveness and productivity as a company.
I — I found this to just be a fascinating masterclass in running a giant financial organization. And I think you will also. So with no further ado, my conversation with Man Group’s incoming CEO, Robyn Grew.
ROBYN GREW, PRESIDENT, MAN GROUP: Thank you for having me, Barry.
RITHOLTZ: I — I have been looking forward to this for a while. And when we first booked you, you were like a junior analyst. Then suddenly in the ensuing weeks, you get tagged to be CEO. That has to be a little bit of a surreal experience.
GREW: It is nothing short of surreal. This is obviously new news for this particular podcast, and it is — you hear the words that people say, you know, it’s an honor and it’s a privilege. And it sounds a little trite. I mean you find yourself in one of these rare positions where somebody is asking you to take on the CEO. And I have to tell you, I mean it very authentically, it’s an honor and it’s a privilege. And it is slightly surreal.
RITHOLTZ: And — and to — for a little context, maybe for some of the audience in America who may not be that familiar with Man Group, this isn’t like a startup. This traces its roots back to 18th century sugar trading, right? How old is Man Group?
GREW: Well, it’s 240 years old. Put it that way, 1783. And you’re right, it traces its way back to sugar trading and at one point being the monopolistic supplier of rum to the Royal Navy, which — and in those days, that was important because everybody had a ration in the Royal Navy, and everybody wanted to use it.
And it’s the journey isn’t’ it? It’s the journey of organizations to continue to be relevant. So, 240 years ago, there’s a conversation I have with people which is, if we didn’t keep changing, we’d still be making barrels on the side of the River Thames and trading sugar and hoping that the Royal Navy still needed a lot of rum. So that’s not where we are today. But the roots are deep. And now we, you know, we’re just shy of $145 billion of assets on the management across the entire credit curve.
Trading through our CTAS and Quant and discretionary and private markets, reaching investors all over the world.
RITHOLTZ: So, we’re going to spend a little more time delving deep into Man Group’s practice. Let’s start with your background.
RITHOLTZ: Which doesn’t quite go back 274 —
GREW: Thank — thank you very much for that.
RITHOLTZ: You went to law school. Were the plans to become a solicitor or a barrister? That’s not the thought process of someone who wants to go into finance.
GREW: You — you’re spot on. I actually qualified as a barrister, which is the fun words of I went to the bar. People use that all the time to describe me. And you’re right, I had thought I was going to be an advocate, quite frankly, a barrister, you know the one with the wigs and gowns, that you see on TV.
My — my roots were very more reasonably humble. My dad was a public GP, you know, in the National Health Service in England and my mom was a public school teacher. And quite frankly, I didn’t know what financial services was.
It was this — this thing that existed somewhere else. And so, when I went to law school and went to the bar, I had every — every thought that I was just going to be a barrister and be another vocational professional in my family.
RITHOLTZ: When did it enter your mind that, hey, this finance stuff looks kind of interesting?
GREW: It entered my mind when very early on I found myself in a position where I was looking at brief that had come to me. And it was yet another sort of sketchy criminal defense piece, where I had to go and interview a client who had been arrested because he had been out on bail and escaped bail.
And I went to a very old magistrates’ court in London, at Bow Street. It’s very close to Covent Garden and very old cells. And the doors of these cells were built for men. And you — you, Barry, you have the benefit of seeing how short I am or tall I am.
RITHOLTZ: You’re five foot nothing, right?
GREW: I’m five foot nothing. And so I couldn’t see through the little window. I just couldn’t reach it. Right, I just wasn’t able. So, the guards had to actually stand, sort of open the door and stand on either side of me. And they were worried about me because my client was so out of his head on whatever it was he had taken, that they were actually worried for my safety.
And I went home that night, and I went, do you know what, I might not want to do this forever. This might not be — this might not be a good idea. And I thought, I know what I’ll do, I will go into commerce. That’s what I thought. I’ll go into commerce. I’ll go into business. And then I will go back, and I will be a commercial barrister where they don’t have to get this into cells and see whether —
GREW: — I’d be worried about the safety that have to do with people like me now. So that’s — that’s what the plan was. And so, it was a plan to get into this space, get experience from being an insider, in business and go back. And I got hooked. I just never went back.
RITHOLTZ: What — what was the first job in — in commerce, so to speak?
GREW: In commerce? So, there was an advertisement in the newspaper. That’s a thing. That’s how old I am. There was an advertisement in the newspaper for Fidelity. And I thought, well, that sounds interesting.
They wanted — they wanted to have new kind of graduates, postgraduates type people to come and do a round robin. And that’s also an expression that gets used with me a lot. And so I applied and I sent in a letter and I said yes, it sounds terribly interesting. Can you give me a shot at this?
And I got invited to this interview thing. And it was a thing. So I turned up, and there are 150 people in a room.
RITHOLTZ: Right. Cattle call.
GREW: It was a cattle call. And I – totally new to me and I had no idea that this is what happened. So I just chatted to everybody I met. I just chatted —
RITHOLTZ: Online while you’re waiting to go for the interview.
GREW: Yeah, you just — you don’t know when you’re being interviewed or when you’re not being interviewed quite frankly.
RITHOLTZ: Oh. Okay.
GREW: I was one of the come and meet these people. And it was, I had a great time. I’m a chatty kind of individual. And off I went round the room, chatted for a couple of hours and then left and, you know, drove home. And I was rung the next day, and they said we really — really — would you like to come and join us and I said, well, yes, for sure. Let’s do that then.
And I bounced around. Yes, I did some legal stuff and rank stuff but I, you know, I went in on the weekends when we did the stock certificate count.
GREW: And counted share certificates, that it was that long ago. And I did early tech kind of pieces. I manned client call phones. I did everything. And it was a bit of a blast. It was this kind of thing of being in the center of Fidelity’s brokerage arm at that point. Not its asset management, its brokerage piece. And then —
RITHOLTZ: This — this is late ‘80s or early ‘90s?
GREW: Yeah, and — and then I was, necessarily (inaudible) — and I was called into — I was called in ’91 so – in that ‘90s period. And then I was called by a headhunter, by a recruiter, who said, listen, there’s this — spent a couple years at Fidelity by this time — there’s a role at this thing called LIFFE or LIFFE.
GREW: Um, and they really need somebody who understands a criminal law. And they need it because when they conduct interviews, it’s undertaken under this police and criminal evidence act (ph) thing. We — in other words it’s done in a way that whatever is said in that interview could be brought as evidence in a court.
And I said, well, I know — I know that bit of it. I’ve done — I’ve done that bit. And so I turned up to LIFFE.
RITHOLTZ: What was the commerce side of LIFFE?
GREW: So, it’s an exchange. It’s an open outcry exchange. In fact, at that time, the biggest open outcry exchange in Europe and we had — it was a time when LIFFE was biggest in the bond contract (ph).
RITHOLTZ: So, I have to ask, why the concern about future criminal evidence? It seems sort of at odds.
GREW: I know, right. So, what happens is, when you work in an open outcry (ph) environment, there are trade practices —
GREW: — that get investigated. And those trading practices are quite — they’re fun. They’re interesting and they’re complex because it’s all about hand signals.
RITHOLTZ: Right. And everybody’s word is their bond or their gestures, their bond.
GREW: Exactly right. And so, you’re looking at, at that point, very forward thinking videotaped evidence.
GREW: You’ve got pit observers. And you are trying to piece if there are malpractices or going on, you need to piece that all together. And so, at that point, you are building a case. You are running a market (ph) investigations team, which is looking at ensuring proper conduct.
From a regulatory perspective, you are the regulator. You are managing the efficacy of those markets, and across futures and options.
And so, I went to an interview. And they said how much do you know about futures and options? And I said, not a lot. In fact, I said, and there’s a chap who I’m still in touch with who repeats this at regular intervals to my embarrassment, he says, you said you know a postage stamp and you know really large writing. That’s how much I know. But I’m a super quick learner.
GREW: And, for good or for bad and for my benefit, they hired me.
RITHOLTZ: How long did you stay with LIFFE? Or LIFFE as in —
GREW: LIFFE — a couple of years, just over again. And then I got another call.
GREW: I know, this seems to be a process.
GREW: So, I got a call and this one was ultimately from a recruiter who’s working for Lehman Brothers, an investment bank, a bond house.
RITHOLTZ: Another one that’s a few hundred years old as well.
GREW: Another one that —
RITHOLTZ: At least was.
GREW: Was a few hundred years old. Again, set up by, you now, brothers and all the rest of it. So, and that was another conversation where they were looking for somebody, quite frankly, who had some sort of futures, options, star LIFFE (ph) experience, because they wanted somebody to go and sit on a fixed income floor.
RITHOLTZ: Right. And I want to say the criminal background turned out not to hurt either.
GREW: No, they — thanks for that. We’ll talk about that later, Barry. So, the — so the sense of again, another opportunity just sort of thrown in my way. And as I joined Lehman Brothers, it was the first time that Russia had a — had a little bit of a crisis.
RITHOLTZ: ’98, something like that.
GREW: Correct. Correct, spot on. And I was thrown at a, okay, we now need to know what have we got in Russia, what’s our exposure, what are our legal contracts, how does this work? And I was one of many, many people. But it — it talked about landing and the rubber hitting the road.
GREW: And at that point Lehman share price had its first sort of crumbs moment. And that was fascinating to just be in the inner workings. Baptisms by fire, I sort of enjoy — I shouldn’t probably admit that.
RITHOLTZ: That’s the phrase that popped into my head as soon as you described —
GREW: It is — it is sort of baptism of fire. And it was something which was phenomenal to actually be part of but for the fact that you’re living it. Does that make sense?
GREW: As an academic exercise, marvelous. When you’re in the middle of it, you – you’re kind of so caught in it. And I ended up on working on the fixed income floors until —
RITHOLTZ: You’re working in London not in New York at the time.
GREW: Correct, working in London. And again, the first time I’d worked in the South Side. And that’s where I sort of feel I had my biggest growth and my growing up was in that Lehman Brothers phase. In part because I again benefited from being in the mix when we were the second bank that was raided by the Japanese regulators after they’d gone into Credit Suisse.
And the Japanese regulators were having a tough time with cross collateralization and issues about whether there were balance sheet accounting issues.
RITHOLTZ: Is this how you ended up living in uh, Tokyo? Is that right?
GREW: It is — it is.
RITHOLTZ: And how long were you there for?
GREW: So, well, for the year of the first year of the investigation, I flew back and forth to London. This is becoming a theme with me, flying back and forth to London.
GREW: And then after that another two and a half years where we actually lived in Japan. Fabulous.
RITHOLTZ: Tokyo, it’s supposed to be an amazing city.
GREW: It was extraordinary and brilliant. And the things you learn when you live overseas, I’m not sure I can ever really put on value on those experiences. Being responsible for a region in which you are very much alien in that space.
GREW: Where you have to learn cultural cues in ways that you’ve never had to understand it before. Where you’re navigating different countries and different relationships between those countries, which — all so tricky. Lehman had its headquarters for AsiaPac unusually in Tokyo.
GREW: Most of us had a kind of Hong Kong piece —
GREW: — or Singapore piece and then ex-Japan piece of it. That wasn’t how Lehman did it. So being responsible for AsiaPac was — from a Tokyo base, was brilliant.
RITHOLTZ: Huh, quite fascinating.
RITHOLTZ: So, you were very successful at Lehman. You kind of worked your way up the ranks there. What else did you focus on outside of putting out fires in Japan?
GREW: Well, after running and building up that, sort of, that team, I hired my successor. By the way, fabulous thing to do, I suggest everybody does that actually. I mean genuinely, we can talk about it later. But that ability to hire tremendously strong, quality people around you, is I think been an enormous opportunity to provide you with opportunity to move on and do more.
So, I got a call. I got a call from the U.S. who said, hey, how do you fancy coming to the U.S.? And that again was to work at Lehman’s headquarters — fabulous opportunity. So off we went from Japan to — to New York.
That was a cultural change.
RITHOLTZ: Yeah, to say the very least. Lehman was very much a hyper aggressive, macho culture, Dick Fuld’s nickname was the “Gorilla.”
GREW: It was.
RITHOLTZ: What was it like working in that sort of, you know, very much bro culture?
GREW: And I’m — and I’m slightly worried I’m going to disappoint you with this answer. But it was fabulous. I had the best time. And I never encountered that sense of being overwhelmed by a — a masculine overtly bullying kind of culture. In fact, some of the early work that I did on diversity and inclusion was at Lehman in New York.
GREW: And was sponsored by people like Joe Gregory, who was just a real champion of that — of that content. So that, maybe I’m — maybe I’m thick skinned or something. But the truth of the matter is I loved it. I enjoyed it. And I think Lehman was — I owe a lot to my experiences in that organization.
RITHOLTZ: As much as Lehman spectacularly crashed and burned in the financial crisis, everybody I know who worked there really liked it. It was a pure meritocracy.
RITHOLTZ: They didn’t care if you made money, it didn’t matter.
GREW: That’s right.
RITHOLTZ: And, yeah, it was a little sharp elbowed. It was a tough place to work. But people who came through that said it was the best experience professionally of their lives.
GREW: Absolutely right. And you know, they had a phrase. which I still use. You know when you get to that point in — in investment banking, you ended up with those loose sites, with, you know, various things that you’re supposed to, you know, mouse (ph) match with something as well.
RITHOLTZ: Sure, all the little banking things, yeah.
GREW: All the little banking things from whatever. And they had one phrase, and I — I still use it which is be smart, be dumb. And it’s kind of a curious —
RITHOLTZ: Be smart, be dumb.
GREW: Be smart, be dumb. And what that retranslated into was, if you don’t understand something that is going on, if you’re in a meeting and you don’t get it, if you’re outside of the meeting and don’t get it, say something. Actually, ask the question. Because you’d be surprised how many people can answer the question by the way.
GREW: But also, it’s okay not to know everything. It’s the only way you learn. And I still use that.
I might have it — I don’t quite have it on a Lucite anymore, but I absolutely believe that to be the case. If you don’t get it ask the question. I’m not supposed to know everything in the room, that’s not the point.
But I would like to understand what’s going on.
RITHOLTZ: Huh. Really, really intriguing. So, let’s talk a little bit about the history for those listening who might not be familiar with uh, Man Group.
What is its focus and specialties? Who are its clients?
GREW: So, Man is a — as you said hundred million – 145-billion-dollar hedge fund. It’s there to –to and loan only (ph). It’s not just a hedge fund, it’s not just doing long shortcuts (ph) or loan only (ph).
It’s got private markets, it’s through the credit curve it has core business engines which are driven by styles.
So, we have large comp businesses. CTA and um, equity comp businesses. We have a discretionary business, what some of you might have already been familiar with in GOG, we have private markets business which is focused really on real estate.
And the — that — that — the single family real estate ownership piece.
Um, and community housing, and then we have something called solutions. And the solutions piece is the piece where we work with in effect our institutional clients or institutional client business, but those institutional clients are pension funds, their endowments, they are looking after the pensions and the savings of real individuals. The individuals that might — mom and dad right.
The doctors, the teachers, the metal workers in Holland, wherever they may be. And we partner with those institutions to return value. And that’s our early goal.
When we come in, in the morning, we think about who the real underlying clients are here. And how we partner and make sure that we’re returning Alpha. We’re an active manager and that solutions piece is how we create the spoke solution.
So, we’ll take elements or particular strategies from each part of our discretionary strategy and match it with con strategy and return it to clients because we understand and we work with them on their portfolio, the exposure, what they need to achieve, their risk management to create something that is a spoke for them.
RITHOLTZ: So that’s very interesting because the typical funds is this is our strategy —
GREW: Take it or leave it.
RITHOLTZ: Right, that’s pretty much it. You sort of have a one foot in the um, financial planning, asset management side and another side in actual fund management. What are the advantages of marrying those two together?
GREW: I think the reality for me is that more and more institutional clients need something in a separate managed account. They want something that’s bespoke to them, and the portfolio risk or construction that they need answers to. These are long strategic relationships where we are investing time and effort in partnership within these institutions to understand what their portfolio construction needs to look like or what they want to achieve.
And then we are part of helping them understand that. And helping them deliver a solution that we can provide to them to address certain issues. And maybe it’s the combination of strategies, maybe it’s a combination of strategies with additional transparency or additional liquidity?
Maybe it’s leverage, maybe it’s a tele protection, maybe it’s an overlay hedge, maybe it’s any number of these things. The capability that Man has to do that, is what we have spent time and energy and money on. And technology on.
Let’s be clear, we talk about tech and I’m sure we’ll cover it later, we talk about how we deploy tech, and we think about tech within that quant space. But we deploy technology throughout the organization to give us scale and capability, that we use to service our clients.
RITHOLTZ: So, let’s stay with that, before we get to the tech side of it, all the entities that you referred to various uh, foundations and institutions and pensions, many of them have a future liability. Meaning they have an obligation to pay out a certain amount of money to a certain class of beneficiaries at some point in the future. So, when you’re describing bespoke strategies, I’m assuming your targeting those future liabilities for each of those — those entities?
GREW: It can be that it can be anything that they want in reality. We are much more about understanding client needs. And remember they have, as you know, vast portfolios.
Trillions of dollars that they are putting into that. We’re part of that and doing it abs — understanding what they’re trying to achieve, is less efficient potentially for them. So, let me give you an example of what I mean by this.
I was um, speaking to a couple clients, in the last couple of days and they were talking to me and they say listen, what we would really like to do is sit down with you and there are two or three areas and I was like terrific, what do you want to talk about? And they said, well, first of all we’d like to understand data and how you manage data and how you manage your technology in that? I said great.
And then they said the second thing is, we’d really like your help in understanding our portfolio construction and whether what we think it’s doing is what it’s doing or whether we’ve got correlation where we didn’t think we’d have correlation. Or how we’re positioned. And I said sure, we’ve got tools that can help you do that.
And then the third thing they said, I really want to talk to you about how you’re achieving diversity and equity and inclusion.
GREW: And I was like —
RITHOLTZ: That comes up in these conversations?
GREW: And so, I was like, okay, we can talk to you about that too. The point is, it’s not just about delivering a fund, here’s a product let me flog it to you. It’s about a much deeper relationship for us and it’s about delivering all of the firm, not just part of the firm.
And that is important to us because I think we do a better job. And by the way, I’ll put this in there as well, we believe in making our, you know, our clients smarter and better because they make us smarter and better in return. There’s a – there’s an interesting piece on a Podcast listening to Fran Lebowitz actually the other day and she was talking about the massive loss we had in the ‘80’s with the AIDS crisis of artists.
And she made this really great point which is, it wasn’t just the artists we lost, we lost the audience. We lost the decerning audience in that process too. And I — it resonated with me about how we think about Man.
We want our clients to be smarter and better, and equipped with what we can give them because they hold us as we hold ourselves accountable. They’re the better audience that makes the better performance.
RITHOLTZ: Huh, really quite interesting. So we’ll circle back to diversity, inclusion, ESG a little later. Let’s stay with technology for a minute.
How is Man deploying new technologies, what are you using in your quant work, in your — your trading and how does this, um, infiltrate the entire organization?
GREW: Well, it – it’s a similar one, let me say, you know we view technology and the adoption of AI technology as a fundamental part of innovation. And it’s useful across our entire organization, in the investment process, but also through trading and execution. It’s used in every single juncture.
We’re constantly looking to align the latest technology and latest techniques with our underlying investment for philosophies, not the other way around. Does that make sense. So, it’s one of the tools that make us better at delivering what we do.
And new technologies aren’t replacement. They’re for me — they’re rather a compliment to what we are trying to achieve. And we are never going to be reliant on one technology. This space is moving so quickly.
GREW: It’s about adopting the new, finding its application, seeing whether we can gain alpha from it whether it makes us smarter, allows us to monetize something which reduces cost, whatever it may be and making that happen. I think AI can do much for example, then just automate. Um, it — it’s innovative, it can increase productivity, we use it as part of our processing of data of our large data, of looking at our models, looking at portfolio construction.
Um, it — we have used it for example for ESG prediction metrics. Let’s look about whether where we see weather cycles. Where we look at it um, use it in your linguistic programing to look at — to make sense of sentiment in um, annual reporting from example.
GREW: So many different applications by nature, as you know Barry, we are open source, um, space, we love it. Our developers love it. I mean I wish I was as smart as a developer, but our developers love open source. It makes them better. When you look at GitUp —
GREW: Which is one of these mechanisms which I’m sure most people know, I think we’re number two on GitUp, but it’s this sense of open-source technology um, where we use it as much as we can or we — we withing the organization but we’re always interested in what else is out there. So, we’re not frightened by tech development, we want to use it, but we don’t depart from philosophically where we start and what we need it for.
RITHOLTZ: Yeah there — there’s been a little bit of a backlash against things like various AI and – and chatbots etcetera. To me it’s always been a tool, all this technology is a tool that makes people more productive, more effective, more efficient. Uh, I’ve never thought hey, ChatGPT is going to put all of us out of business it — it’s something that can be used to the betterment of our work product, and it sounds like that’s integral to Man’s philosophy.
GREW: I kind of agree. ChatGPT is clearly the greatest disruptor we’ve had in the last year. I mean, it’s been — it’s been given some really quite momentous uh, bylines as well. But it’s certainly a massive disruptor from my perspective, if you think about it negatively, you’re missing the mark.
GREW: It’s — it’s —
RITHOLTZ: I’m sure it hallucinates occasionally, but —
GREW: But — but, well I was going to say something, who doesn’t, but that’s not true. Um, but it’s also not going to be the first or the last piece of AI technology. This isn’t well, I’ve got ChatGPT, therefore we’re done.
RITHOLTZ: We’re done. Right.
GREW: That’s not going to happen, this sort of semi-hysterical fear of it, I think is all wrong. There is — there are undoubtedly going to be benefits for us being able to use technology to capture large data sources, look at what we’ve done and I, you know, I’m talking to a man at Bloomberg’s so you will know this. We talked about open architecture a minute ago, and look at what we’ve done with this ArcticDB.
So, this is a piece of technology that was developed at Man Group, which in effect is a super charged database. You know, it’s able to process large chunks of data which we’re all trying to deal with in a much more efficient and effective way. We actually open sourced it back in 2015, um, it’s first version, but in one of those moments where you’ve got to be careful you’re not drinking your own Kool-aid a little bit.
GREW: We – I mean we talk about tech all the time, we went to Bloomberg and said we have this cool piece of kit, um, would you like to take a look at it? And we came to Bloomberg because if there’s one place that has a phenomenal tech —
GREW: Space and a Ka trillion developers, and all the rest of it, it’s Bloomberg. So we came here and we were testing ourselves. Back to that audience thing.
GREW: show me how, whether we can be better at this and show me where we’ve kidded ourselves, is this really – is this really the thing?
GREW: And after months and months it’s now in the hands of Bloomberg and it’s being —
RITHOLTZ: Oh really?
GREW: Endorsed as that as a program that is in the mix and is part of the Bloomberg offering in that space. So, we — we checked our audience. We worked out we weren’t drinking the Kool-Aid.
But it shows you sort of the way that we think about tech. and how we think about it as something that makes us all better, but I will be super clear, it’s only part of what we have. We have a million models, we have our own technology, we have our own philosophical investment ideas within each of our engines and we use tech to make us better at that.
RITHOLTZ: Huh. That sounds quite fascinating. Let’s discuss the major divisions at Man Group.
I want to try and wrap my arms around, first what is Man AHL?
GREW: Okay. So, think of, we have two, let me do it a slightly different way. We have two quant engines. One is numeric and one is AHL.
CTA, macro, big trading hub.
RITHOLTZ: When I hear CTA, I hear commodity trading.
GREW: That’s where it’s originally coming at, from, but it’s much more than that. And then equities, resprimia (ph), Maloney (ph), piece and numeric which is also quant. GOG, third engine.
Discretionary, human beings, people like you and me and by the way, the way I started at the firm was through GOG. That was an acquisition which is something that we — you know is part and parcel of how Man has grown over the years. So, GOG, discretionary portfolio management.
Um, then you have what is FRM MSL. So that’s that solutions piece, we talked about earlier, although FRM was, and you’ve spoken to Luke before, so the fund to funds business. Um, which was also an acquisition, but that’s rolled into lucia (ph) as well and we have still got a fund to fund business where people might have thought in the past that that was a dying part, not so much, people need some help when it comes to their selection also of uh, managers that are out there and that is still something that we are part and part of.
And then the fifth piece is that private market space where we have that real estate piece that we talked about earlier and we within each of those engines we also have credit offerings as part of that.
RITHOLTZ: Huh, really quite fascinating.
RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s talk a little bit about your approach to leadership. You’ve managed to distinguish yourself in a very competitive field. Tell — tell us how.
GREW: Here’s the answer everyone, it’s not true. Um, I — I tell you and perhaps this is a way of thinking about it, what I have done perhaps is the better way of saying, do I and how I distinguish myself. What I’ve done is taken every single opportunity, that has come my way. And I —
RITHOLTZ: So, no master plan and this just, you just stumbled blindly from one gig to the next, is that —
GREW: I mean — I mean that’s the perfect way of summing it up. The um, the way of summing it up is this, if you’d have asked me 25 years ago, do you think you’ll be the CEO of an investment management company, I would have laughed.
GREW: I would have laughed. I didn’t have a grand master plan. What I did have was a somewhat insatiable desire to learn and have some fun doing so that I loved being a fixer, I loved being put on planes, or being sent into areas to solve things.
I have innately hired people around me and built teams of highly credible quality people, um, who I have empowered and who I have loved to partner in achieving whatever it was that we needed to achieve better, faster, smarter than before.
And that — that empowerment piece is huge. The ability to not have to be the smartest, in fact, let me do it a different way. If I am the smartest person in the room —
RITHOLTZ: You’ve done something wrong.
GREW: I — I worry, I mean that’s not okay. Um, so on that basis, leadership style, hire brilliant people, put great minds around you. Put people around you who are willing to disagree with you or better still stop you from careening off a cliff.
If you’re headed in the wrong direction, I can’t tell you how many times that, that is just as important as sort of the rugby tackle TE’s bit. If you’ve suddenly got yourself into a frame of this is where we’re going and I have enormously benefited from that style of management which is inclusive, it’s about delegation, it’s about empowering people to sometimes be really horrible.
RITHOLTZ: So, let’s stick with the delegation and the empowerment because those are key themes. You don’t sound like you’re a micromanager, you sound like you tell people this is what we want you to do, tell us what you need to get it done and now go do it.
GREW: That’s our job. As great leaders I — I — that sounded arrogant. I don’t mean —
RITHOLTZ: Any leader.
GREW: Any leaders —
GREW: I think any great leader, any capable leader, maybe that’s a better way of phrasing it, any capable leader, that’s one of the hallmarks it feels to me. Migrate people, empower them. If they can’t deliver, if you’ve got the wrong person, change the person. Don’t micromanage.
Don’t find the fix in making it, you do the job or somebody else.
RITHOLTZ: Swap the people on board.
GREW: That’s right. And so that has always been — I always find that really smart people want that. They want to be given the keys, they want to run these things and the smartest people know when they don’t know.
The most frightening person is the person who doesn’t know that they don’t know. The best person who works for you is the one who goes, yep, don’t know the answer to this, leave it with me or we got to find the best solution here, not the perfect solution here.
You’ve got to be able to move dynamically. You have to be able to think. You have to be able to find solutions and it be execution divine if you’re working with me.
RITHOLTZ: So, you clearly have great insights and leadership skills, but you’ve said you’re surprised that you got named CEO of this large financial firm. Why the surprise?
GREW: I was —
RITHOLTZ: By the way I’m calling you out for a little false humility here. Defend yourself.
GREW: Defend, excellent here I go – on goes the Barrister —
GREW: Making cracks so we can get on. Let me say I — I think there are tremendously strong people. We have a great bench of senior management at Man Group.
It is a bit of a privilege, and it sounds a bit trite, just happens to be true that we have a phenomenal bench of high-quality people. I don’t want to assume and didn’t want to assume that I’d be named the CEO. I am thrilled, let me tell you that I am going to be the CEO for the first of September.
But it’s — there are so many capable individuals that it doesn’t do you any harm to step back and recognize the skills and the qualities of those people who you have worked with and who you want to work with going forward.
So, that was, that has been something that I think has held me in good stead actually to have perspective and to keep my feet very firmly grounded. I think what perhaps surprised me in reality and yet it shouldn’t have done was the press coverage that the announcement garnered —
RITHOLTZ: Meaning, and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I’ve read everything you’ve written. You were genuinely surprised people focused on you as a woman taking the CEO. I mean this is still a pretty — especially in finance, look there is a gender parody in business, generally and finance lags business and hedge funds lag finance.
So why so surprised?
GREW: At this point, I think this is where I call myself out and say why — you can’t go well obviously when you put it like that. I think perhaps I was so focused on the job. I was so focused on this being something that I looked at internally rather than I perhaps focused on the external ramification or impact of it. And it’s humbling when that happens, and it’s been heartening and, in some ways, overwhelming, and brilliant all at the same time.
And of course, you get — one gets a thousand emails and a thousand messages and all of those things and some of the most touching are those from people who — who are really just saying, you know thanks — thank you Robyn but thank you Man for breaking that. For giving us somebody who is underrepresented, and it means that we all think we now, we’ve got more people, one more person sorry to — that’s broken through that barrier.
Whatever that barrier may look like. And that was — that was touching I have to say.
RITHOLTZ: It — it’s also when you’re on the inside, you see the changes that others won’t see manifest for years or decades, so you’re aware that things might be a little better than they appear from the outside. So maybe there’s a little surprise there. I have to mention at this point, that by the time you become CEO on September first, the Chairman replacing John Cryan, uh, will be Ann Wade. You’ll be not only led by women, the firm will be led by two women.
There — there’s nothing like that in the hedge fund universe at all.
GREW: It’s phenomenal, um, and Ann is a superstar. I’m very, very lucky to also work with board, we’re very luck to work with a board at Man that is — that is brilliant and engaged and highly qualified. And that with Ann has been, again, the master of transition, the master of how we think of succession at Man has been very deep in the way that the board has thought about the succession of the chair has also been a very, very in-depth, assessment and analysis.
Buy happens stance we are in this position with Ann and myself, I’ve got to tell you it’s going to be brilliant, but it’s not because we’re women, it’s because we’re the best people to take these roles.
RITHOLTZ: So, let’s talk about the best people, the firm is 144.7 billion in assets. Let’s round it up to 145 as much as my compliance people hate when I do that. How do you guys’ plan on growing the assets, do you have any targets in mind?
Do you want to get to 200 billion. Is it a trillion-dollar firm a decade from now. What are you thinking about?
GREW: And it’s — it’s a great question, it’s also an early question let’s be clear. So um, I’m going to perhaps not give you the satisfactory answer you want. Nevertheless, you’d expect me to do exactly just what I’m about to do.
The firm is brilliant, I mean it has a cracking core business and my number one job apart from anything is not to break that because that is value and it’s real and it will continue to grow. We will continue to see the value of technology and we have 35 years, 40 years of quant and data and tech behind us and we will continue to invest in that space. We will continue to look for opportunities in an MLA format.
We’ve made it very clear to the market. Um, can’t guess what they’re going to be. Couldn’t tell you if I did know.
But I can’t guess what that’s going to be. What I will tell you is it will additive, and it will be additive for our clients. Ultimately this is about having deeper and better client offerings.
It’s that piece about the solutions that we talked about earlier. How do I ensure that I’ve got each of the components that can provide a better offering for our institutional clients. And we’ll grow that. U.S. massively important to us.
Deep capitol market, you’ll absolutely see us putting effort and time into building our presence here too.
RITHOLTZ: Looking forward to that. Tell us a little bit about your background in environmental, social and governance-based investing.
GREW: It certainly has become a little bit controversial here but yes, so let me talk — let me talk about our background. We — in the early 2000’s we had our first sort of um, involvement in creating on thinking about climate and signing up to various supplies of information when it came to climate data. Um, and but it really, let’s be clear, it’s ESG as a concept has really hotted up, if I’m allowed to use that phrase.
GREW: With ESG. In the last —
RITHOLTZ: No pun intended?
GREW: No pun intended, maybe a tiny pun intended. In the last five years or so, where you see the massive change in the European regulatory environment. We have these article eight and article nine funds which are responsible investing funds, you know, you have to have a certain percentage of responsive investing and um, investments within them that can differ between article nine and article eight.
Um, where we’ve moved away from exclusionness where things are becoming more complex and where data points are becoming more interesting and where um, drive investment decisions. We have certainly seen an uptick of investment interest in RI in Europe. There’s almost a point where you can’t have a conversation with somebody in Europe without the client, without there being an RI piece to it.
RITHOLTZ: RI meaning?
GREW: Responsible Investing.
GREW: My apologies. And so ESG RI interchangeable in this space. Um, but — but a comment I would say more generally is, since when didn’t we take into account governance and risk in investment decision making?
That’s — that’s the bit that I find quite interesting here. So when I answer your questions, I answered in the format of what you’re really asking me which is the ESG kind of concept.
GREW: When actually, you extract governance, and you say do we look like a governance of issuers.
GREW: Who doesn’t?
RITHOLTZ: It’s a risk screen if any.
GREW: It’s a risk screen. And so, the way that we think about ESG at Man, is not as an evangelical point where I soap box you into saying what is right and wrong. That’s not what we’re here to do.
We’re here as product providers, solution providers to our clients. And so, if a client comes to us and says I want to have a portfolio which has – which uses its impact. If I want to look at biodiversity, if I want to invest in, and his has not happened by the way, but you know, it only boards which, I only want to invest in publicly listed companies where 50 percent of the boards are made up of diverse candidates.
Doesn’t happen, but these criteria, that’s where we are placed. Now, the difference that Man has is that what is happening is that there is a chunk of data out there that is holy inconsistent, highly complex, multiply sourced, and damn right contradictory. And what we can do with that is apply those 35-40 years of data science, quants and tech capability.
I can throw 500 people at that if I wanted to. Well, we don’t need to, to understand what the signals are in that space. But it isn’t that everything that we do at Man Group is now, has to be ESG, it’s what do clients want. And we certainly have clients who will only want something that is responsibly invested in some format, and we have a lot of clients who don’t.
RITHOLTZ: When you say the data is contradictory, there’s been some studies that have shown that ESG doesn’t generate any form of alpha or alphaperformance, very often tied to how well oil companies are doing because if you pull those out it’s a major component. And there’s others that say we’ve mentioned the risk component, hey, if you have a lot of companies with bad governance, they have a disconcerting tendency to blow up and crash. Uh, how do you reconcile these different data points or is it all in the framing and the definition of what ESG is or, what diversity and inclusion means?
GREW: Well, it — it great question Barry. I think what you are pulling out there is the complexity of the questions let alone the answer. So, fundamentally, yes it has something to do with strategy. If you were in a growth strategy last year that had ESG —
RITHOLTZ: Didn’t matter.
GREW: Didn’t matter. If right, so, some of this is also about extracting the ESG factor not just understanding and understanding it as against the strategy that ESG was attached to. Absolutely, you’re finding, if you’re a hydroelectric company, and where your hydroelectric base is, is now suffering from drought, every year.
If you are a wind company and wind patterns for the last few years have been off considerably. These are climate change, but they take into account effectively the effectiveness of your business.
GREW: Now, so — so how do you — how do you extract the various points of that to make it a decent thesis. And the argument is what is it that you want to achieve as a client? What are you after?
And are you willing, and some points of this, is the discussion out there that happens with some clients, is — is it all about P&L? Is it about alpha capture or is there a willingness here to actually say, actually, I’m more interested in, I want P & L, I want alpha capture and I actually want social impact. Or I want climate impact, or I want decarbonization.
The other piece of this is, there are absolute strategies which are about transition. And transition is about recognizing the journey, between where we are between carbon and greenhouse gas vs. where a company might be going. So, you will have, and we have had clients who say I am interested in, I still want to look at all the gas and fossil fuels, but I’m interested in the transition.
I’m interested in who is really putting money to work to transition from those fossil fuels into radiopuls (ph) for example. So, a complex question which then begets some fortunately, a complex answer.
RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about diversity and inclusion. How do you think about that as a manager and then how do you think about that as an investor?
GREW: We turn a mirror on ourselves, let’s be clear. You know that — that’s important, we continue to put every effort into seeking and having difference in our organization. I mean real difference as well. I think this piece about, I’m not really interested in the person who is different on the outside but actually went through all the same educational processes and the same training. I think we need difference —
RITHOLTZ: By the way, it’s funny you mention that. But there was just a study recently and I don’t remember if it was the Times or Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg, that had the story, the vast majority of economists were working in finance, went to the same six grad schools. So, what does it matter how they look, it’s the same widget coming out of the same factory.
GREW: And we’ve got to get comfortable as well, let’s be clear. We have to be comfortable with discomfort. If you want real diversity —
RITHOLTZ: Say that again, comfortable with discomfort.
GREW: Comfortable with discomfort. When you are in a room and you can connect over your whatever it may be, it doesn’t really matter what your connections, your school or your experience in life, where you, your football team, your and by that I meant —
GREW: Soccer. Anyway, that thing, that — that’s what we do as human beings. As human beings we try to connect with each other, that is how we smooth the conversations and how we move things forward.
Actually, when you have real difference in the room it feels kind of uncomfortable. It feels a little bit jarring from time to time. Well, what do you mean you don’t understand, or you don’t get that or that wasn’t an easy conversation.
We gravitate as human beings towards easier conversations where we find commonality. And what we’re asking of our organizations is to make it a little bit more friction full not friction less in that space. But I am 1,000 percent, I shouldn’t say that I know it’s a bad phrase, I’m 100 percent —
GREW: Um —
RITHOLTZ: Thank you so much for that by the way, because my question is always, why 1,000, why not 2,000?
GREW: Why not 2,000. 100 percent sure that we need, and there is a war for the best talent. And if we think, if the premise that — that only the best people come from um, certain demographics.
RITHOLTZ: Your tribe.
GREW: Your tribe.
GREW: Is when you say it out loud, nonsense.
GREW: So, how we get people into our organizations that feel, look and have difference and how we ensure that we give them the space to be that different in our organizations that’s the criticality to it. That bit of, yeah — yeah, it’s okay, we’ll have you and then please can you be like us. You’ve got to know how to create an organization which actually gives people the space to be different, because that’s what you’re getting them for.
It’s a bit like an acquisition where you understand the commercial reality of it, you buy something because of its commercial differentiation and then you bring it in, and you try to squish it into something that degrades that commercial benefit. It’s the same with people, we’ve got to bring people in, you’ve got to let them fly and you’ve got to be comfortable, perhaps being a little bit more uncomfortable than you were before.
RITHOLTZ: All the academic studies say if you want to avoid group thinking, if you want better decisions, the more diverse the group the more likely you are to — to reach a better decision. So even that discomfort, there’s some academic research that supports it right?
GREW: Absolutely, over and over again you see the academic research and yet, it think there’s an arrogance that we’ve had in our industry a little bit, which has been that great people will come to us. And then we suddenly woke up a little while ago, especially as tech became so incredibly important to all of us, that there were other options for these very smart people. That they didn’t have to come and work at hedge funds, or maybe they weren’t interested in finance, what? How could that possibly, what, how could that be Barry? You and I —
GREW: Shocking right?
RITHOLTZ: I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m a recovering attorney myself, so I — I get it.
GREW: Right? So, it was attorney’s anonymous where you go to, anyway that aside. The so — so we suddenly found ourselves believing that we are great, therefore great people will come.
GREW: And actually, not so much. The — the — that — those new generations have many more choices on how to deploy that expertise and actually, they look at us and they say why would I come and work for an organization where you don’t look like me, you don’t feel like me, you don’t understand me, and you’ll make me do stuff I don’t want to do. And by the way I’ve watched billions and I’m – I’m this is the difficult part of the podcast, I just made a funny face, but the point being, we have to do, and we’ve had to do a much better job I think in — in joining up the dots for that brilliant talent that’s coming through.
About what we do and why we’re valuable and why it matters that we do what we do and why they are important part of ensuring financial security for millions of people who have worked very, very hard their whole lives and deserve a high-quality return on their pension.
RITHOLTZ: So, I’ve always imagined the competition for the best talent is between financial companies. What you’re really saying is finance is an entity collectively has to compete against other —
RITHOLTZ: Fields and institutions.
GREW: Every day of the week. Every day of the week and maybe it’s startups, maybe that piece or maybe its Tesla or maybe it’s Facebook or maybe it’s Google, maybe it’s any number of these other spaces that are tech enabled and where their doing this their — their PR — their PR is better, has been smarter than ours and you know that piece where we use — where people skate board in the office bit, you know and I think we’ve had to be a little bit smarter and a little less scathing and a little more humble to ensure that we really are the employer or the industry or version of that choice for the best and brightest. And that includes people who are different, and they look at financial services and they don’t see difference.
RITHOLTZ: So let me dredge up a quote of yours.
RITHOLTZ: That I thought was quite fascinating. You told somebody recently and I believe it was after you were named incoming CEO, “I’ve never been in the majority, whether because I was a woman, and or someone who proudly identifies as part of the LGBTQ community and that can create challenges and means that prejudice has been in a reality for me at different points in my career.” How does that affect how you run a company, how you engage in recruitment and how you think about diversity and inclusion?
GREW: I think it’s given me insight. I think when you live it, when it’s your lived experience, you know it and you feel it. I think also I am now in a position and have been, I guess, for the last few years of being proof positive that people who are different can — can be in senior positions and can now run companies.
I think that the prejudice for me, just kind of made me more punchy and made me more determined to succeed. So I think it makes me better at understanding what it feels like when you don’t belong. When you’re on the outside of conversation.
When the culture of an organization genuinely isn’t inclusive. And that it’s not about checking boxes, it’s about investing in your culture and your organization in a way that’s very, very authentic. I — I’m lucky in many ways, I never struggled with the I shouldn’t be this, this isn’t what society wants, I’m never going to succeed.
I don’t know what happened, but that bypassed me. Luckily. And so I’ve always been the way I really am today and that has been extraordinarily good for me in large part, but it’s not been without issue. I just think that I’ve overcome those issues which makes them something that I’m alive for other people.
That in my organization and beyond, those struggles are still real.
RITHOLTZ: Huh, really, really quite fascinating. Let’s jump to our favorite questions that we ask all of our guests, starting with what have you been entertaining yourself with, what are you listening to or watching or streaming?
GREW: So, what I — I — Guilty — Guilty, what I’m watching. I have — I love Ted Lasso.
RITHOLTZ: What’s not to love, it’s a delightful show.
GREW: It’s a brilliant show and I think that it — it seems to, it’s the feel-good thing we kind of all need at t the moment, it feels to me as well. So, Ted Lasso —
RITHOLTZ: I don’t even think that’s a guilty pleasure, the acting is great, the writing is so sharp.
GREW: It’s fabulous. So sharp.
RITHOLTZ: And people who like it are embarrassed, and go I like Ted Lasso. Why shouldn’t you like it, it’s fantastic.
GREW: I find myself quoting Ted Lasso. What — perhaps not Ted Lasso himself but there are definitely points where I may be channeling some of the other characters. Definitely. Podcasts, I — I — well, obviously it would be wrong, Barry for me to not say you.
GREW: Stop — stop. But — but I — I do find — some of the series very useful. I find some of the Goldman stuff very useful.
GREW: But I also find when I dip into, you know, Talk Easy, or I’ll dip into Dark Shepherd from time to time because it’s really interesting, hearing some of that sort of outside (inaudible). You’re finding yourself with somebody different, asking people like us different questions.
RITHOLTZ: Really intriguing. Tell us about your mentors who helped shape your career.
GREW: Goodness. This isn’t an exception speech. But I’ve been super lucky through every part from — from my university days through here’s — here’s something I’ll admit to. There is not one company that I have worked for or regulator that I worked for where I’m not still in touch with, my old bosses. And that is because they took the time to work at who I was and then they put me to work.
And I will forever be grateful for that willingness to step back, not take a box, but invest in me as an individual and then work at what I was good at and then make it better. And so, there’s not one person through any part, you know, but I would say one of the most transformational mentors or allies or sponsors or whatever, is Luke. I have had enormous benefit from having his confidence and he has pushed me like no one else.
RITHOLTZ: Huh. Really — really quite intriguing. I very much enjoyed my conversation with him also, fascinating person.
GREW: He is, he’s —
RITHOLTZ: Really fascinating.
GREW: He’s everything and more.
RITHOLTZ: Huh. Let’s talk about some of your favorite books and what you’re reading lately.
GREW: So, living in Japan, gives you a bit of an insight on many things so, any Japanese author, um, Murakami, anytime Murakami puts anything out I read it then I read it again.
RITHOLTZ: I’m assuming you’re reading the translated version in English not in the original.
GREW: You know, I wish I was that smart. I tell you something actually about it, really good point. The translators of these books, aren’t they gifted?
GREW: I mean, because it’s not just a word – it’s not like put it into Google and see what you get. It’s —
GREW: It’s everything and that is fine. That is just an extraordinary capability. So anything in that sort of Murakami space. What’s open on my bedside table right now, is the I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it. But is Orlando. And —
GREW: There is something extraordinary about that transformational through time, through gender, through experience. There’s something that’s really quite fascinating. I’m not saying it’s an easy book to read, I’m just saying it just happens to be the one I reopened a month ago and I’m still going through.
RITHOLTZ: Interesting. And now we’re down to our final two questions. What sort of advice would you give to a recent college grad who was thinking about a career in finance.
GREW: Do it. I would — I mean — I think if, don’t expect it to be what you think it is. experience it without any form of prejudice in some ways or without any form of expectation. I would also say go for it in a take the opportunities.
What finance does which is I had not anticipated, but is why I’m still in it, is it’s fast, it’s intellectually demanding, it has reached beyond its real estate footprint, it has impact, it is topical, it covers geopolitical risk. There isn’t a part of the world or society it doesn’t impact and if you embrace it, on that basis, the opportunities are actually endless. So, be yourself, go for it, don’t think too much about ladders and what your next title is or whatever that stuff is. Just immerse yourself in it and take every opportunity that is given to you.
RITHOLTZ: Really interesting advice. And our final question, what do you know about the world of investing and finance and hedge funds for that matter that you wish you knew 25-30 years ago when you were first starting out?
GREW: I don’t think I wish I’d known anything. I think that my slightly wide eyed, slightly intrigued, slightly uneducated start point in finance was almost a gift. Because my expectations weren’t there, because I didn’t need to know because I just was hungry to learn. Because I didn’t really think about corporate structure or what my next job was.
GREW: And it was freeing, and I look back on my career and I look back on the experiences and I look back on the people, some of whom still work for me. And I — I’m not sure I’d change that. And so I’m okay with where I was.
RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. Robyn, thank you for being so generous with your time. This has been absolutely intriguing.
We have been speaking with Robyn Grew. She is the incoming Chief Executive Officer at Man Group.
If you enjoyed this conversation, well, be sure and check out any of the other 500 or so we’ve done over the past eight years. You can find those at Spotify, iTunes, YouTube or wherever you find your favorite Podcast.
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I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack team that helps with these conversations together each week. Bob Bragg is my audio engineer, Atika Valbrun is my project manager, Paris Wald is our Producer, Sean Russo is my head of research.
I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.