Goldman, AQR Alumni Start Niche Hedge Fund With Backing From Cliff Asness

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(Bloomberg) -- A new multistrategy hedge fund run by Wall Street veterans Brian Hurst and Elisha Wiesel began trading Thursday, focusing on offbeat strategies such as temperature arbitrage.

Hurst, a 21-year veteran of AQR Capital Management, and Wiesel, who spent 25 years at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., are starting Niche Plus as ClearAlpha Technologies’ first fund. With commitments of several hundred million dollars, it expects to have $1 billion within a year to deploy across 13 teams running 20 strategies.

“We’re focusing on what we call niche alpha strategies, which are going to be off the beaten path,” Hurst, 50, said in an interview at the firm’s Greenwich, Connecticut offices.

AQR co-founder Cliff Asness will invest in the fund, alongside Stable Asset Management and other institutional clients.

ClearAlpha joins a growing number of hedge funds using multiple teams, including two of this year’s biggest launches.

Investors have been flocking to these funds in search of steadier returns. Multimanager funds oversaw about $300 billion as of Dec. 31, an amount that more than doubled in just four years.

While most multistrategy firms rely heavily on trading stocks in developed markets, Niche Plus’s only traditional long-short stock play focuses on Middle East and North African shares.

More than half of the fund’s teams run their own firms while managing accounts for ClearAlpha, which has risk control over those portfolios. One specialized team is made up of former Swiss Re AG traders who run a temperature arbitrage strategy based on the weather.

A small portion of the fund will trade in more traditional strategies, but will be opportunistic, buying when others are forced to sell.

Unconventional Leaders

Hurst and Wiesel, the son of late writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, aim to break from traditional hiring practices. When they first interview portfolio managers, they refuse to look at their track records, instead questioning them about where they get their ideas, with the aim of avoiding crowded trades.

“People who are followers, you can suss them out,” Wiesel, 50, said in the interview.

At Goldman, Wiesel was chief risk officer of the trading division before becoming chief information officer, with about 9,000 engineers reporting to him. He started his career at J. Aron, moving to fixed income, where he worked on credit and mortgage analytics.

Wiesel also led Midnight Madness, an all-night charity puzzle hunt, first for all-Goldman teams, then with other firms participating.

When he met Hurst in early 2021, they bonded over their early stints as video game programmers.

The two overlapped at Goldman in the 1990s, but didn’t meet. Hurst, who worked for Asness at Goldman, helped to design and build the trading platform at AQR and managed more than $15 billion there.

ClearAlpha’s co-founder, Chief Technology Officer Sean Terretta, worked at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Bridgewater Associates.

ClearAlpha Technologies set up shop a year ago, and is open to developing other funds and business lines.

--With assistance from Katherine Burton.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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