As seen in the ShowTime original series, “Billions” to hedge fund managers, increasing assets under management, or having access to investor capital, serves as the single largest reason for the start and overall success of their hedge fund.
I caught up with Victor Park, co-Founder of the Salt Conference, which is a global event that attracts some of the most prominent leaders from around the world of finance, politics, public policy, science, and philanthropy to discuss and identify solutions and capitalize on financial opportunities.
Mr. Park is also the Principal and Founder of Alternative Assets, a vertically and horizontally integrated hedge fund capital raising firm. He has extensive financial background with Masters of Business Administration in Finance from New York University’s Stern School and experience working with companies such as Drexel Burnham Lambert, Morgan Stanley & Co., Daiwa Securities, and VZB Capital.
His knowledge has defined a new breed of hedge fund power brokers. Mr. Park gives us wonderful insight about the hedge fund industry first hand.
Q: What do you think of the show “Billions” and how does it relate to hedge fund Industry?
Victor: In my opinion, the show Billions is a sensationalistic dramatization about one thing – Whose is bigger.
I’ve been witness to and personally experienced a lot of surreal moments in the hedge fund industry and most of the tension center around the dynamic of “Whose is bigger.”
-Whose brain is bigger
-Whose wallet is bigger.
-Whose rolodex is bigger.
Q: What do you do?
Victor: I’m an agent in the hedge fund business. I create hyper present moments that update belief systems and increase levels of consciousness. I then effectuate an emotional transfer of certainty.
Q: Could you be more specific?
Victor: I handle the dreams and lives of some of the most focused minds in the hedge fund industry. As an agent, I am the single service provider that can make a hedge fund manager’s dreams come true by raising money for them. I’m most known for co-Founding Salt Conference with Anthony Scaramucci.
“What’s most important is your ability to take information, process and monetize it. As an information processing and monetization “being,” the game changer is finding out what they didn’t know, that they didn’t know, they didn’t know.” -Victor Park
Q: What is a hedge fund?
Victor: A hedge fund is an “information processing and monetization vehicle.” A hedge fund manager takes information, processes it, and figures out a way to monetize information through 10 distinct investment strategies. In general, these strategies are “absolute return” oriented and are designed to make money regardless of how the overall market does.
Q: Why are there some many billionaire hedge fund managers?
Victor: Hedge fund managers understand we are in the “information age.” In the information age, it’s not important how many people you have working for you, or if you’re a charismatic, likeable or a relatable person. What’s most important is your ability to take information, process and monetize it. As an information processing and monetization “being,” the game changer is finding out what they didn’t know, that they didn’t know, they didn’t know, or what they thought they knew, but didn’t know, they didn’t know. Folks in the upper echelons of the hedge fund business are information addicts searching for game changing data points.
Q: Which character in “Billions” best approximates you and your role in the industry?
Victor: Eh, there isn’t really one. As it relates to Hollywood characters, I’m more of a thinking man’s Ari Gold or Jerry Maguire. In terms of my role in the process as an agent, good representation comes from just being passionate about somebody, having a connection and understanding of their goals despite any tension or philosophical differences. Some of the scenes in the HBO Series “Entourage” capture a lot of the dynamics in the hedge fund industry.
Q: How did you get started in the hedge fund industry?
Victor: I stumbled upon the hedge fund industry during the mid-90s through some friends that ran a hedge fund at the time. I’ve since grown up with a lot of folks who now constitute an influential group of folks in the industry. But for me, it was kind of a social acceptance thing as I started on Wall Street and got kind of confused as to why I didn’t feel successful or as well liked as much as I did in hedge fund circles.
Q: What do you look for in a hedge fund manager?
Victor: One thing – a lucky guy. I’ll take a lucky guy any day of the week.
I know a lot of hard working, smart and creative guys that do fine. But to have that career year, what I call a “one and done,” I’d always bet on a lucky guy. In general, the best hedge funds to work with philosophically are those NOT in the business for the money. Instead, the industry prefers the hedge fund managers that are on some sort of a self-actualization mission as a great investor.
Q: What advice do you have for people looking to break into the industry?
Victor: I’d say take a humble approach as it’s an insular community and there’s an academic and philosophical learning curve. Also, a lot of rolodexes from other finance industries do not readily translate into the hedge fund community. As a newbie entrant to the hedge fund industry, I’d assume there are already many well entrenched players in the hedge fund business. With Wall Street contracting, I see of lot of ex-Wall Street entrants to the hedge fund industry expecting to make an immediate impact. Given impressive Wall Street backgrounds a lot of these folks tend to take contemptuous attitudes to veteran hedge fund investors and asset allocation professionals referring to them in a derogatory manner as “box checkers.” This sort of approach/attitude tends to back fire.
Q: Tell us what being a power broker to the hedge fund industry involves?
Victor: Thank you for including me in that category, but I’m not sure I’d qualify. However, as a function of my network of friends and friends of friends, I do feel we offer a unique bird’s eye view of industry dynamics.
Q: How much do you charge?
Victor: There’s a number managers can afford. Given the proliferation and growth of this industry, I think that in general you get what you pay for as the best will get bandwidth constrained. Hence, discount fees will probably get you discount service. Premium fees should get you premium service. Nobody said winning would be cheap.
Q: How has being an entrepreneur helped you in dealing with any issues your manager and investor clients may have?
Victor: One thing that makes hedge fund industry unique is the overwhelming number of entrepreneurs that constitute the industry who started their own firm with their own money on their own dime. As an entrepreneur, particularly when working with non-entrepreneurial folks, I always find myself saying: “Write this down…” “Stay with me on this…” “I know where that’s going – do you see where that’s going? “There’sa huge philosophical and motivational difference between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs. We should be all focused on game changers and our own growth and transformation to the best actualized versions of ourselves we can achieve. It’s hard to get non-entrepreneurs to think this way. Instead, folks bring out the blame throwers, play the victimization card and look for the chicken soup or positivity more than be process and results oriented. In my mind, as an information processing and monetization being, there are no failures, only outcomes.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind we live in a world that is a spectrum of probabilities and scenarios as I find a lot of folks think of things as black or white/all or none. As an information processing and monetization being I see things more as data points that exist along a continuum of outcomes. Ironically though, I think there are two basic types in this business. Those who “walk the walk” and those who “talk the talk”. Those who “walk the walk” are too busy walking the walk to stop to “talk the talk.” Those who “talk the talk” are typically looking for someone to talk into walking their walk. Hence, if someone seems to always wants to meet to “talk the talk”, he’s probably not one to “walk the walk.” Instead, he’s trying to talk you into walking his walk.
Q: What morning rituals do you do?
Victor: I make a point of getting out of bed the moment I wake up. I then start by getting into “state” by priming my body through a quick but rigorous whole-body circuit on weight machines to generate an endorphin high. Then I take vitamin supplements that cleanse internal organs and remove arterial plaque and calcium deposits from my arteries. Then I have a coffee which constitutes my breakfast. The rest of my day tends to hyper present moments to varying degrees of quality.
To me, I don’t mind tension or volatility as these moments can lead to break through and progress. And of course, I much prefer being in the zone on cruise control. But net a productive day for me tends to keep me mentally distracted from the useless and un productive mental chatter our minds generate.
Q: What advice would you have for folks trying to break into the hedge fund industry?
Victor: Primarily, it’s a mindset. To this point, I’d say strive to seek opportunities and not security as most folks get stuck due to fear of the uncertainty.
In the hedge fund business, you don’t have to be great to start, but you must start to be great. And do something different – don’t conform – instead transform.
Secondly, when you run out of gas, and you will at times in this business, take a “duty driven” approach in serving the important people in your life as this service mindset will get you thru the tough times. But remember, surviving is not thriving.
Lastly, believe that information will power your transformation as a lot of folks get trapped in their own networks or knowledge base. If you keep doing what you’ve done, then you’re going to get what you got. So, better to get comfortable with discomfort as when we know better we do better.
Q: Where are you from originally?
Victor: I get that question a lot. I would tell you I grew up as a working class catholic from divorced Korean immigrant parents. After attending college in Connecticut, I moved to NYC and went to Business School at Stern. If you’re going to paint me with a brush, I’d say consider me a neurotic New Yorker.
“In the hedge fund business, you don’t have to be great to start, but you must start to be great and do something different – don’t conform instead transform.” -Victor Park, Co-founder of the SALT Conference
Visit SALT Conference website at www.saltconference.com & www.alternative-assets.com