Eisler Capital: The 'intellectually honest' hedge fund paying millions
When Edward Eisler left Goldman Sachs after 17 years in 2012, his first instinct - much like the first instinct of Ken Griffin at Citadel - was to go to into private equity. But Eisler, who previously co-ran Goldman's markets division, had his intentions thwarted by fallout from the 2014-Russia-Ukraine crisis. In early 2016, he instead launched Eisler Capital, a London-based macro hedge fund with nearly $1bn under management and 12 employees. Nearly eight years later, Eisler is still at the helm of his pseudonymous fund, but the operation beneath him has changed dramatically.
After years of growth, Eisler Capital now employs around 270 people and has $4bn of assets under management. There are offices in London, Paris, Milan, Malta, Jersey, New York, West Palm Beach and San Francisco. And Eisler is no longer simply a macro hedge fund: since 2021, it's been transforming itself into a multistrategy hedge fund in the style of the big beasts like Millennium and Citadel.
That transformation has occasioned some heavy hiring. In the past year, Eisler's investment teams increased in number by 50% from 40 to 60 and three new offices were opened (Jersey, West Palm Beach, and Malta - for control staff). New internship and graduate programs were launched. The strats team alone increased its headcount by 60%.
This expansion has led to some well-publicized comings and goings of portfolio managers, but Eisler insiders say it's unfair to portray the fund as churning through staff or a particularly harsh employer among multistrategy funds. All multistrategy funds impose strict risk limits on portfolio managers (PMs) and all can be intolerant if those limits are breached. “Risk limits are a source of debate and not a gilded cage," says Eisler COO Chris Milner, of Eisler Capital's approach to managing its PMs. "It’s about someone’s process, whether they have followed that process, whether the outcome is predictable as a result of following the process given the environment they are in."
Eisler's expansion seems to be producing results. In the year through to the end of August, Eisler Capital reportedly generated returns of 4.2%. This was less than the 5.5% achieved at Millennium between January and August, but more than the sub 1% returns achieved this year by the struggling Schonfeld.
Newly released accounts for Eisler Capital Management Ltd., also show net profit at the UK business rising 59% in 2022, to $46.4m last year. Higher profits fed into higher pay. In 2022, Eisler Capital Management paid its average UK employee $1.2m (£1m), up from $227k the previous year; the highest paid director received $4m, more than double the amount allocated to the highest paid director for 2021.
Eisler Capital Management Ltd's highest paid director was likely Edward Eisler himself, although it could also have been Sam Wisnia, head of Eisler's burgeoning strats team and the fund's deputy CIO. Wisnia, who is a former head of strats at Goldman Sachs and the architect of Deutsche Bank's risk and pricing system, is said by some former PMs to be difficult to deal with, although one insider disputes this portrayal of the French quant. "He’s incredibly fair and he’s intolerant of politics. If you do a great job and you display intellectual rigour in debate, you love Sam," says the colleague, speaking off the record. "Personally, I think he is brilliant but I am not naïve to the fact that he can be very direct. He is extremely inquisitive and bright, and people can be intimidated by that, but at his core, he is deeply fair.”
In a measure of Wisnia's appeal, many of the Eisler's strats are loyal to him personally, having worked with him first at Goldman, then at Deutsche, and now at Eisler. Milner himself worked with Wisnia at Goldman, where Milner was a former head of fixed income currencies and commodities sales strats.
Milner says Eisler's ethos, embodied by Wisnia and reflected in the fund's broader approach to management, is simple: “There is a focus on meritocracy and the intellectual honesty necessary to take what can be difficult decisions.” Sometimes those decisions lead to people leaving; sometimes they don't. "There are people who have reached their stop or got very close, but we understood their processes and believed in their strategy. We sat them out for a bit, and then we reloaded,” Milner reflects.
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