Meeting Hannes du Plessis, Citadel Quant Analyst and Portfolio Manager

  • Q: How did you get involved in financial services - was it always something you wanted to do?
  • A: Quite randomly after a career in classical music. It was not at all on the radar when I set out.

  • Q: Making a good investment decision - does this involve both objective and subjective factors - what are these?
  • A: The ideal is to distill the subjective into the objective via an iterative process of conjecture and refutation. But you never start with anything objective, that’s not how the human mind works. Jesse Livermore told us that “it is the guessing that makes a man [sic] sharp… If it wasn’t for the guessing, then we will all have plodding minds like bookkeepers”. This principle drives the scientific method as well. But good decisions ultimately come from the distilled version of the subjective. Preferably after some time in the barrel.

  • Q: We now have many years of equity market experience - but how the equity market behaves seems to continue to surprise us - are these surprises real or do we have short memories?
  • A: The market lives to fool most of the people most of the time, and the ‘most’ circulates through the whole and leaves no-one unscathed. Remember that the equity ‘market’ is a kind of weighted average of everyone’s behaviour – an immediately after the fact recording of action that has just taken place. Its recursivity will always lead to surprise, no matter how good the memory.

  • Q: What have been your best and worst financial moments?
  • A: Worst: Not getting the dynamics of the link between the USD and commodity prices quick enough in 2008. Best: Getting it very quickly in the middle of 2008.

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