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What does it take to get hired by Citadel? Meet its chief people officer L.J. Brock

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Hedge funds are closing at record rates, but Citadel – the $26bn multi-strategy fund run by Kenneth Griffin – is still building its team.

Griffin said earlier this month that Citadel was on the ‘offense’ when it comes to bringing people through the door, and the closure of competitors means that there’s “a lot of really good people we want to bring into Citadel”.

Citadel has been making some big hires this year. In the past two months, it poached portfolio manager Jennifer Pollak from struggling hedge fund Folger Hill Capital Management, Sebastian Barrack as new head of commodities from Macquarie and Eric Felder, the former head of global markets at Barclays, as senior managing director, fundamental strategies. In London, Citadel has been steadily building its headcount throughout 2017, bringing in senior portfolio managers and traders from both investment banks and other hedge funds. Recently, it named Diego Megia, the former head of European rates at RBC Capital Markets, as a senior fixed income portfolio manager.

All of this recruitment is rubbing off – Citadel was the top hedge fund in our 2017 Ideal Employer rankings, knocking Bridgewater Associates off the top spot.

What does it take to get into Citadel? We asked L.J. Brock, chief people officer at the hedge fund who joined in April last year from technology company Red Hat, some questions.

Can you describe the Citadel recruitment process? How many interviews? Who do people interview with?

We have a very intensive and rigorous talent acquisition process. We ensure that our business leaders, recruiters and candidates have an opportunity to assess the probability of a great match between our business needs and the candidate’s capabilities and interests. With regard to number of interviews, we are far more concerned with having quality conversations and interactions, vs. quantity.

What qualities do you look for in a new recruit?

We look for individuals who share our passion for solving challenging problems. Intellectual curiosity, innovative thinking, ability to work on a team and a drive to succeed are all critical factors for anyone to be successful here. The potential and desire to develop and grow into the next opportunity is also something we always look for in great candidates.

What are your hiring priorities for 2017?

Our talent strategies evolve with the needs of our businesses, and we always need great talent to fuel growth. Overall, we continue to hire across each of our core strategies (Equities, Fixed Income and Macro, Commodities, Credit and Quantitative Strategies), but with a strong focus in Equities and Quantitative Strategies.

What advice would you give to someone who has ambitions to work for Citadel?

Apply! We have many great opportunities, but even if there is not a strong match today, we are always keen to build relationships with interesting and talented people. Many of our hires are the result of connections made before the availability of an opening.

How do you retain and motivate your staff once they’re hired?

We give people of all experience levels the opportunity to take on significant responsibility quickly, which we believe motivates them and helps them grow. We are also committed to supporting this growth by providing robust training and development resources that employees can access at all time. Additionally, we constantly evaluate our teams and our talent, and retaining top performers is central to our ability to succeed.

What’s the typical career path at Citadel?

We look for talented people who are self-motivated and believe that there is no limit to their growth potential. For example, Todd Barker, head of Surveyor Capital, joined Citadel with two years of full-time experience. One year after joining, Todd pitched an idea to extend our business and ultimately led the effort, eventually becoming head of one of our largest investment businesses.

How do you feel about the perceived lack of talent on the market for hedge funds now? How are you addressing this?

We are constantly looking for new opportunities to engage with talented candidates, even before they graduate and choose their career paths. For example, we recently launched a series of 18 datathons, which we are holding at top universities in the U.S., UK and Ireland. These competitions are helping us identify talented individuals across STEM disciplines and education levels. Our goal is to develop multi-year relationships with these candidates and show them that Citadel can provide the challenging and rewarding career opportunities they are looking for.

Do you have a graduate programme? If so, can you provide details in terms of number of recruits, recruitment process and what qualities you look for?

We have campus and graduate recruitment programs across a number of our business units and technology functions. Like our lateral recruitment process, we look for intellectual curiosity, innovative thinking, a team orientation, and a strong drive to succeed.

Do you still view investment banks as a valuable source of talent? If so, why? 

We often consider investment banking candidates for Associate opportunities, as these candidates often have the transferrable skillsets required for successful careers in investing. Investment banking provides robust technical training, exposure to financial products and fundamental business analysis, as well as the experience of working in a team environment and interacting with leadership.

What advice would you give to early stage career professionals in banking hoping to move from banking to a hedge fund? 

Leverage the tools, resources and training available to you in your investment banking program, gain valuable deal experience, and take time to prepare for the interview process. While technical skills are important, successful investors are also intellectually curious and share a passion for public markets and generating investment ideas.

View the complete 2017 Ideal Employer Rankings

Contact: pclarke@efinancialcareers.com

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