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Hiring Middle Officers – The three key attributes to look out for

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By David Fernandes, Head of Middle Office – HedgeGuard

When I joined HedgeGuard at the beginning of 2015, our outsourced Middle Office service was composed of 4 people (including myself). Now, a couple of years later, the growth of our activity has seen the team expand to 10 people with members in Paris, London and Beirut.

We work with a variety of asset managers and hedge funds, covering a wide range of strategies. One of the challenges met by the portfolio managers we speak to is the hiring of operational staff. They are the first to admit that they are skilled investors but not necessarily the most experienced middle office recruiters.

As our activity has grown and evolved so has our recruitment process. Here are some of the key points we look out for when looking to hire new members to our middle office team.

1/ Team Spirit

Yes, it sounds obvious but it is sometimes easy to focus on a candidate’s personal strengths and demote their capacity to interact with the team to second place. Team spirit is particularly important within a middle office team as individuals are faced with a continuous flow of information that leads them to interact with other team members, departments and market counterparties. Therefore, our hiring process is not handled solely by the hiring manager but by the rest of the team as well, recruiting is everyone’s business.

2/ A desire to challenge and build

As a fintech firm focused on the buyside, automation, scalabilty and process improvements are at the heart of our operational activity. In this respect, experience in various coding languages and financial skills are always strong advantages. However, in addition to these technical qualities, it is a team member’s ability to challenge and constantly refresh their perspective on things that is key. Both funds and middle offices teams are confronted with a proliferation of data that is more and more complex to handle. We are looking for people who aim to improve efficiency by pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone, challenging the processes in place and bringing new ideas to the table. The ability to conceptualize but also build and execute these ideas is key.

3/ Failure and Analysis

A page straight out of the Silicon Valley Hiring Book here, and it’s true, a valid diploma from the school of Hard Knocks and the failure(s) that led to it are at times the most productive learning experiences. On and beyond the failed result, it is the path that led to it that we focus on when meeting candidates. The Middle Office team faces a multitude of challenges each day. These can be purely operational or technical but there are also, as underlined previously, human challenges as well.  How can a candidate call upon his/her past experiences to better address these? What end result have they visualized and how efficient are they in their path selection to reach it? At the end of each interview I like to observe a candidate’s own introspection by asking them to assess their own interview, apply a rating and explain their reasoning behind it.

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