Role: Investment Associate, Client Service
Background: Nina is a third-year Investment Associate, working primarily with clients in the Asia-Pacific region. She recently transferred to Client Service after spending her first two years at Bridgewater on the equities team in Research. She joined Bridgewater full-time as a returning intern after graduating from the University of Chicago.
What is a recent project that you’ve really enjoyed working on?
In my final six months on the equities team, I was involved in the first round of an ambitious research initiative. I was focused on my own research, but was also working closely with a group of Investment Associates who were driving related projects, in addition to partnering with our investment engineers and technologists to understand what kind of technology we needed to support the kinds of research we were trying to complete. It was really exciting to be part of something that was new and inter-departmental. We tackled challenges in a collaborative way, from the level of understanding what kind of technology we should prioritize as a business, to the level of how we were dealing with our individual research questions and whether they were improving our holistic investment process.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Two things: First, the people. I’ve made great friends at Bridgewater, and in general, I’ve found my colleagues to be thoughtful, hard-working, and engaged with the world around them.
Second, the constant learning required at Bridgewater. To put this in perspective: I came to Bridgewater straight out of college, with no experience in finance other than the 10-week internship. Having majored in computational and applied math in college, I hadn’t thought that I would end up at a hedge fund. With that as my baseline, the amount of learning and growth that I’ve experienced over the past three years has been incredible. It’s remarkable, looking back, to see how much my ability to tackle increasingly complex challenges has improved. In the moment, I always feel like I’m sprinting toward a finish line that’s too far away – so when I take a minute to reflect and look at my progress, it’s really satisfying to see how much better I’ve gotten.
What is an interesting business challenge that you’re trying to answer?
I just moved to Client Service. Before, when I was on the equities team, my work was very much centered on the question of: How are we understanding the world and translating that understanding to investment decisions? In Client Service, I’m trying to answer questions like: How do we partner best with our clients and help them reach their goals, given the unique circumstances they face? As I’ve started working closely with our Australian and Pacific clients, it’s been exciting to explore a different part of the investment landscape and seek answers to client-oriented investment questions, which range from bigger-picture (What asset allocation makes sense for our clients given the current investment environment?) to more implementation-focused (How should our clients hold that allocation, and what is most practical for them?). Definitely seeing and applying what I’ve learned to real client problems has been a cool experience for me.
What is a failure you’ve faced, and how have you handled it?
Investment Associates take on a range of work and there’s a notion of developing as an “investment generalist.” Coming from a computer science and math background, I was a lot more comfortable with the analytical side of things, and so I kept putting off tasks that were less in my wheelhouse, mainly synthesizing and communicating my results. My manager perceived that I was procrastinating on certain tasks, not because I couldn’t do them – but rather, because I chose to keep putting them off. He gave me the advice that I just needed to jump into the difficult work, because that was the only way challenging things would get easier over time. It was pretty helpful coaching and helped me improve my discipline around tackling difficulties head-on.
What have you learned about yourself from working at Bridgewater?
Bridgewater has helped me learn about what I like in different kinds of work. I’ve discovered that I really value intellectual stimulation and the ability to work on different kinds of questions. Honestly, I also discovered that I find finance and investment interesting, which was definitely not a foregone conclusion at the onset.
Looking ahead, what projects are you most excited to tackle?
I'm excited about teaching our first year investment class. For context, Bridgewater believes in hiring and teaching people what they need to know to be a community of investors. This starts with our internship, where our interns spend approximately 50% of their time taking a crash course in economic fundamentals. For full-time, all first-year Investment Associates go through an intensive yearlong investment class that covers topics like economies, markets, and portfolio construction. After completing the class my first year, I started to take on a teaching role – and I’ve discovered that I like it a lot.
What makes teaching the IA class so rewarding is that I get to be part of someone’s first year at Bridgewater – an instrumental year that involves discovering investment content, getting to know our community, and seeing our culture in action. I get to know the students in my class as people and help develop them as investment thinkers. This is both a challenge and something that feels really important to get right. When I think about the coaches and mentors I’ve had here, they’ve made a huge impact on me, and I want to pay it both forward and back.