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What's it like to work for Mike Platt at BlueCrest Capital Management?

If you want to work for a family office that was previously a hedge fund and that’s run by a mysterious figure from Preston in Lancashire who’s kind to his mother, then good news: Mike Platt is hiring at BlueCrest. The Financial Times reported earlier this month that Platt intends to hire 30 portfolio managers, to add to the 170 “pods” it has already. The new hires, some of whom are already in process, will reportedly focus on areas like macro, commodities and systematic strategies. 

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Anyone heeding the call of Platt will probably understand the number one reason for working for him: while most hedge funds pay their portfolio managers 20% of profits, BlueCrest pays 30%. BlueCrest only manages Mike’s money these days, so there’s no need to share the upside with external investors. 70% goes to Mike and the organization; the rest goes to the portfolio manager who generated the pnl.

It's a formula that appeals. Platt’s recent hires include Zachary Sandler, a former Deutsche Bank rates trader, who joined BlueCrest last month from Brevan Howard, Mark Orsley, a global macro portfolio manager from Tudor, and Mark Bowden, a former macro portfolio manager from Millennium. Talent from the big multistrategy funds clearly finds BlueCrest appealing.

People at BlueCrest can be loyal. Platt started the fund with external investors nearly 24 years ago. Some of his acolytes, like Manuel Aranzana, the Geneva-based head of systematic trading have been there nearly as long. 

Nonetheless, Platt can be a hard task master. Writing nearly 10 years ago, the Financial Times quoted Platt as saying his ideal hire is one who, starts work at “seven o’clock on Sunday morning when his kids are still in bed, and logs on to a poker site so that he can pick off the US drunks coming home on Saturday night.” It’s not clear whether this applies to Platt’s son Marcus, who also works there. 

Portfolio managers at some rival firms inform us they’re discouraged from working for BlueCrest by Platt’s reputation for being “a character.” – “He’s ruthless and a strong personality,” says one. “He can be a volatile person and if he doesn’t like a position he will blow you out of it.” 

Nicholas Moore, a former head of rates trading at Merrill Lynch who joined BlueCrest in 2011, described the necessity of pandering to Platt in a court case last year on the tax treatment of BlueCrest’s partners. “Essentially we have one client, which is Mike,” said Moore in his testimony. “So he is the CEO, he's the CIO, but he is also the client….he's able to move the goalposts…. If he changes his mind or has a strong opinion then obviously, needless to say he's something of an expert, he expresses that.” 

This apparent tendency for micromanagement hasn’t gone unnoticed. One headhunter agrees that Platt has a reputation for being “tricky,” particularly if you’re a portfolio manager operating outside the macro and fixed income strategies that Platt knows best. Multiple sources say commodities portfolio managers have quit BlueCrest after being stopped out for reasons they didn’t agree with. However, the court was told last year that BlueCrest portfolio managers are simply automatically stopped once their PnL reaches -5% of their capital allocation.

Despite the gripes, there’s also widespread agreement that if you can handle Platt, BlueCrest is a good place to be. “He’s tough, but if you can manage his personality then BlueCrest is a place where you can do phenomenally well,” says one source. 

Anyone expecting to join BlueCrest and get 30% of their PnL in year one might want to check their contract, though. While BlueCrest does pay 30%, sources say it’s not that simple: only one third is paid in the first year, with the remainder spread evenly over years two and three. If there’s a drawdown in those years, it can allegedly be clawed back again.  

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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