Soros Fund Management has reduced most of its macro wagers, moving away from the strategy that made George Soros a billionaire – and inspired a generation of traders who looked to profit from big moves in currency, bond and commodity markets.
Dawn Fitzpatrick, who joined New York-based Soros Fund Management as chief investment officer in early 2017, has been cutting the strategy over the past year, citing fewer opportunities. She withdrew money from external macro managers and cut allocations to the firm’s internal team, according to people familiar with the changes.
Adam Fisher, who is Soros’s director of macro and real estate, now has an allocation to macro investments of about US$500 million, said the people, down from about US$3 billion last year. The amount could be increased in the future if conditions improve, one of the people said.
At Soros, the macro team lost between 4 and 5 per cent this year, while the firm on the whole is up slightly, according to the people. This month, Soros cut several members of its macro staff, including Nuno Camara, who managed money in emerging markets, and Timothy Durnan, a macro trader. The two men couldn’t be reached for comment.
Michael Vachon, spokesman for the US$25 billion Soros Fund Management, declined to comment.
For much of Soros Fund Management’s existence, the firm has been synonymous with macro investing. In 1992, Soros and his chief strategist Stan Druckenmiller made US$1 billion shorting the British pound, cementing Soros’s reputation as a preeminent speculator.
This week Mr Druckenmiller, who worked for Soros from 1988 to 2000, spoke in a Bloomberg Television interview about how much harder it was to make money in the current environment.
“I made 30 per cent a year for 30 years. Now, we aren’t even in the same zip code, much less the same state,” he quipped of his recent returns.
Mr Druckenmiller said macro managers have struggled because volatility in the markets has spiked in spurts, rather than as part of a trend.
“We’re getting volatility, particularly with Trump, but with no trend,” he said.
PointState Capital, a US$10 billion macro firm run by traders who once worked for Mr Druckenmiller, lost 12 per cent through November, primarily on wrong way stock bets.
Even so, after years of macro funds producing sub-par returns, losing investors and being forced to restructure, some managers have made money this year. Billionaire Alan Howard gained 37 per cent in May alone, while Jeff Talpins has continued a winning streak with a 26 per cent return through November.
Mr Fisher, who was hired in 2017, previously ran the US$2 billion CommonWealth Opportunity Capital, which he closed to join Soros. He will spend more time on real-estate investing at the firm now that the macro allocation has been cut.
Ms Fitzpatrick has been refocusing the business since Soros, 88, transferred the bulk of his wealth to his Open Society Foundations late last year. She’s rejiggered portfolio construction, risk allocation and the time horizon of investments to reflect the fact that most of the money no longer belongs to Soros and his family.
In October, Ms Fitzpatrick spun out Soros’s 25-member private equity team, which oversees about US$2 billion. She pledged to allocate up to US$2 billion more to the group, led by 20-year Soros veteran David Wassong and Ravi Yadav.