Inside Eisler Capital: the ambitious hedge fund where you may not last
It’s a trope of the post-pandemic hiring landscape that the big multistrategy hedge funds are the new aggressive recruiters. Funds like Citadel, Millennium, Balyasny, Point72 and ExodusPoint have been paying very, very handsomely to pull traders from banks. And they’ve recently been joined by another generous hand at the table: Eisler Capital, the hedge fund transforming itself into a multistrat.
Formed in 2015 by Edward Eisler, the former co-head of Goldman Sachs’ securities business, Eisler Capital is not new to the Mayfair scene. It is, however, new to New York, where it opened an office in February 2021. It’s also new to being a multistrat: since the start of 2023, Eisler Capital’s main focus has been a circa $3bn multistrategy fund, $2.25bn of which it raised last year. Its earlier, macro-oriented fund, returned money to investors at the end of 2022.
$2.25bn of new capital is a lot of money, especially when leverage is added. Eisler has been hiring portfolio managers accordingly. Having recruited former Goldman Sachs partner Alain Marcus to help source new PMs in January 2023, it’s since added at least five new people, including Amir Fais, the former head of emerging markets trading at Goldman Sachs. Headhunters say Eisler has been making people offers they cannot refuse. One describes the amounts on offer as “lottery wins” and “ridiculous amounts of money.” But - as is often the case in trading, big rewards can be associated with big risks.
All multistrategy hedge fund moves involve an element of career jeopardy. As Natalie Basiratpour, a director at recruitment firm Octavius Finance, told us earlier this year, a lot of people who move to multistrats last less than a year there: "Some of these platforms only retain a small minority of the portfolio managers they hire."
To this extent, Eisler may be no better or worse than the rest: many people come; they don’t all stay. And when they leave, they often do so soon after arriving. A similar story exists elsewhere. Balyasny, for example, has just lost David Coratti to Moore Capital Management after little over a year.
Eisler declined to comment for this article, but the past few years have seen several quick exits. One of the most notable recent departures is thought to have been Damien Bombelli, a portfolio manager hire from Millennium who arrived at the end of last year and who is understood to have left again only recently. Other swift departures include Nadir Gmira, who left after nine months for Capstone last September, Owen Coughlan, who left within a year for Brevan Howard, or Alex Aits, a quant researcher who resigned for Winton within two years. Similarly speedy exits have occurred in sales functions: James MacGillivray, a former Morgan Stanley managing director and head of European hedge fund rates sales, joined Eisler in September 2022 after over 12 years with the bank. MacGillivray was gone again in February 2023 and now works for quant fund Qube instead.
MacGillivray and Bombelli declined to comment for this article, but some of those who’ve left are more vocal. There are allegations that capital allocations can be cut abruptly at Eisler, making anticipated high earnings hard to achieve. A headhunter who works in the sector claims the fund has a mixed reputation: “People who are doing well there are very well looked after and get all the resources. The ones complaining are often the ones who are booted out and they tend to moan a lot about it.”
Some of the gripes surround Eisler’s biggest beasts. Sam Wisnia, the ex-global head of strats at Goldman Sachs and architect of Deutsche Bank’s risk and pricing system who is deputy CIO at Eisler, can be a Marmite personality, inspiring those who he gets on with and intimidating those he doesn’t. Described in the past as being "brilliant but eccentric" with low EQ, Wisnia famously paid for people in his team at Deutsche Bank to fly to Washington in a private plane. Ex-Deutsche and Goldman people are allegedly among his favourites. Wisnia brought around eight DB strats with him, and last year he hired two more senior Deutsche Bank strats for Eisler's New York office.
Does this mean you should pass when you get the call from one of Eisler’s unusually generous talent scouts? Not necessarily. The fund has hired heavily in the past year and despite the exits, many more have stayed. There are non-monetary benefits, too, including an elite athletic coach to drive performance. “For some people, it’s a great place to work,” says one headhunter. “They have a lot of smart people working there, and it’s very well run, but others leave and question the culture.”
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