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Mar 10

NY Times interview with Meridee Moore

Meridee Moore founded Watershed Asset Management, a San Francisco-based hedge fund manging $2 billion.  Moore is a Yale Law graduate who moved into finance after 18 months at biglaw firm Simpson Thacher.

The NY Times article reveals some interesting answers:

Q. How do you hire?

A. We look at grades and scores, of course. We want the person to be competitive. Also, if the person has had a rough patch in his or her past, that’s usually good.

Q. Why?

A. Well, if you’ve ever had a setback and come back from it, I think it helps you make better decisions. There’s nothing better for sharpening your ability to predict outcomes than living through some period when things went wrong. You learn that events aren’t in your control and no matter how smart you are and how hard you work, you have to anticipate things that can go against you.

Q. What are some other screens?

A. We give people a two-hour test. We try to simulate a real office experience by giving them an investment idea and the raw material, the annual report, some documents, and then we tell them where the securities prices are. We say: “Here’s a calculator, a pencil and a sandwich. We’ll be back in two hours.” If an analyst comes in there and just attacks the project with relish, that’s a good sign.

Q. Is this one of those impossible tests, where you’re asking them to do seven hours of work in two hours?

A. Yes. But you’d be amazed at how well people do. After two hours, two of us go in and just let the person talk about what he’s done. The nice thing about my being trained as a lawyer, and never going to business school, is that I’m able to ask the basic, financially naïve questions, like: “What does the company do? How do they make money? Who are their customers? What do they make? How do they produce it?” That throws some people off.

Q. What else do you ask job candidates?

A. I try to ask something that inspires the person to talk a little bit about their family, whether it’s their brother and sister, their parents, where they lived. And usually it’s, “Why do you want to be in San Francisco?” And they’ll say, “Oh, well I have an uncle in the East Bay.” And I’ll say, “Oh really? What does your uncle do?”

I find that guys who have had strong relationships with women — whether it was their mother, their sisters, a teacher — tend to be secure in who they are, and tend to do well in our business.

Q. Why is that?

A. Well, they have to work with me, for one thing. And they have to be able to challenge others and have me challenge them without taking it too personally.

The other question I ask is if they’ve ever been in anyone’s wedding party. If someone has asked them to stand next to him on the most important day of his life, at least one person thinks they are responsible. It means they’ve been able to establish and continue a relationship. It’s not always true, but if you build strong relationships with people, you tend to go into a management meeting or a negotiation and come out of it with some respect. You go into it thinking: “I’m going to leave this situation better than I found it. I don’t have to kill everybody to get to the right result for myself.” These are good qualities in a person and a partner.

Q. What’s your best career advice to somebody just graduating from undergrad or B-school?

A. Find a mentor. And it doesn’t have to be a mentor who looks like you. They can be older, a different gender, younger, in a different business, but someone you admire and respect, and just attach yourself to that person and learn everything you can. I’ve done this my whole career. It is so valuable, especially if you choose a good one and they end up teaching you everything and then rejoicing in your success.

Actually, the whole of NYT’s Corner Office section has some pretty interesting reading.

  4:18pm  •  Business & Finance  •   •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment