In the latest episode of Citadel Conversations, Brett Swenson, Chief Operating Officer of the Americas, discusses how Surveyor Capital’s focus on “common goals” enables investment professionals to succeed at the firm.
Brett Swenson on Accomplishing Common Goals at Surveyor Capital
Yarra Square Partners returned 19.5% net in 2020, outperforming its benchmark, the S&P 500, which returned 18.4% throughout the year. According to a copy of the firm's fourth-quarter and full-year letter to investors, which ValueWalk has been able to review, 2020 was a year of two halves for the investment manager. Q1 2021 hedge fund Read More
Welcome back to Citadel conversations. I'm Todd Barker filling in for Ed O'Reilly. With me today is Brett Swenson who is CEO of the Americas for Surveyor Capital. Brett thank you for taking the time to come and talk with us today. Thank you boss for having me. We'd love you to walk through your role Surveyor in the CEO's seat.
I think the CEO's role is a very unique role across the Surveyor across Wall Street. It really touches all aspects of the business so I work on everything from the recruiting onboarding and development of investment talent to investment process managing relationships across the street and everything within the back office so it really is a very broad spectrum and every day is different.
So Brett you joined us 18 1/2 years ago from the sell side. Originally the business development role. Can you talk to us about what originally attracted you to severe growing up in Chicago and I always heard about citadel.
I had known people that had graduated going off to work there and all of them are respected. And I found to be very smart then moving into the cell side. I had clients that were working that set it out with global equities. So I got another taste of a smart group of people but in a different context. So when I got the call from a friend to come join the firm I knew as I said I could learn. I didn't really know what the business Feldtmann analyst role meant but I knew it was going to be building something from the ground up. If I wasn't a good student and be a good place to be.
What were some of the biggest surprises you had to join in.
Corvair I would say the fact that again you have a lot of very smart people who are competitive who are wired that way. But there was a lot of collaboration and teamwork needed to accomplish a common goal. So again you have specialists across the firm who have a very specific expertise and if you are willing to ask the questions and be vulnerable and learn across each of them you can learn a ton. So the zero sum game you actually do need the collective group to get the outcomes you want.
So over time your role has changed. Most recently in the CEO role. Walk us through some of those changes and developments over your career.
So when I first joined I spent all of my time really on diligence so understanding what made a good investor within the Citadel framework and specifically for software then as different opportunities came up and I felt that I could really add new things to my toolkit. I really took every opportunity I could. So after I've been here for about four years I actually moved down to Dallas when we were really building out the Dallas office. Then moved back to New York when we were building out New York. Even more broadly once you joined in 2016 I spent a lot more time with you and the teams on investment process performance attribution structuring teamsetc. Then after that I settled on a CEO role. But I think every incremental move I made gave me a new perspective a new tool a new set of relationships to actually helped me excel in a CEO role.
Given that perspective you've had over the years would love your insights on what allows our team members to perform and execute at such a high level so consistently.
I think the most common trait that I see across the most successful people here is just a thirst for knowledge. They're consummate students and ever curious people so they like to figure things out. They're self-aware they're almost self diagnostic to understand what they're good at so they can really optimize for that. I also think that people care people work very hard and because of that care they want to be successful here. They want their colleagues to be successful and people really do depend on one another to actually be successful and that I'd say mutual trust and reliance is a very important part of it.
What are some of the key initiatives that you're working on this year that are going to drive further improvements in the business.
So I was talking to the group in technology and we're talking about some of the tech integrations and just really what are we trying to build and we came to the conclusion that we're really trying to put something together where an analyst or any investment professional feels like they can't do this job as well somewhere else because there's operational alpha. There's so much power in the platform itself that provides such a unique ability to operate at a higher level. That thinking of doing outside these walls just really is impossible and being at the forefront of that. So I'd say a lot of it's technology integration how you use that within your research process and how you understand what you're good at and developing careers here for a longer term. So with that knowledge knowing what you need to improve on knowing what you're good at.
Brett thank you so much for taking the time today talking to us about your role there. And I'd also like to thank you for all the hard work you put in. Joy worked with someone more.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it. I've learned a ton from you. And I hope to continue doing.