Jim Simons was also a management genius. Here are his guiding principles


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While his trading and quantitative analysis strategies have been heavily scrutinized, he has also shared several management and leadership lessons over the years. In 2010, he laid out five “guiding principles“:

1. “Do something new; don’t run with the pack. I am not such a fast runner. If I am one of N people all working on the same problem, there is very little chance I will win. If I can think of a new problem in a new area, that will give me a chance.”

    2. “Surround yourself with the smartest people you can find. When you see such a person, do all you can to get them on board. That extends your reach, and terrific people are usually fun to work with.”

    3. “Be guided by beauty. This is obviously true in doing mathematics or writing poetry, but it is also true in fashioning an organization that is running extremely well and accomplishing its mission with excellence.”

    4. “Don’t give up easily. Some things take much longer than one initially expects. If the goal is worth achieving, just stick with it.”

    5. “Hope for good luck!”

    During a 2022 speech at an event organized by the Abel Prize for mathematics, Simons echoed those five principles and also noted that RenTech hired statisticians, physicists, astronomers, and mathematicians in its early years, adding that “I like to say that you can teach a physicist finance, but you can’t teach a finance person physics.”

    In fact, RenTech rarely hired to fill a need and instead sought top talent with the assumption they would find ways to improve its quant trading, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s Gregory Zuckerman, who wrote a book about Simons. But his ability to motivate all those brilliant minds also stood out. A former senior executive told Zuckerman that “It’s not his genius. It’s his ability to manage genius.”

    Zuckerberg also said Simons maintained a flat organizational structure at RenTech that encouraged collaboration and transparency. That philosophy also extended to RenTech’s compensation, in which employees were paid based on its Medallion Fund’s results rather than focusing on individual achievements.

    “By Wall Street standards, Jim wasn’t greedy,” another former executive told Zuckerman. “So senior guys were mostly very happy and didn’t fight with each other.”

    Simons resigned as RenTech’s chief executive in 2010 and retired as chairman in 2021, while turning more attention to his philanthropy.

    In a series of talks at MIT in 2019, he reflected on his career, highlighting the people he brought onboard along the way.

    “My biggest contribution was to hire great young people into the business,” he said. “We have great leaders, and they carried on. They haven’t missed a beat.”



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