2016 Forty Under Forty

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Michael AshmorePrincipal, Hedge Fund Management
Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System
(New York, NY) 35
Michael Ashmore
(Art by Lauren Tamaki)

“He has strong intellectual curiosity, digs deeps to get things done,and is an excellent team player.”

Name the most noticeable generational divide in investment style between sub-40-year-old investors and baby boomers.

We write algorithms scraping Business Insider articles, while the baby boomers still run their NHL fantasy pools on paper spreadsheets.

Your least favorite part of being an asset owner is...?

When I walk into a room, and all the marketers look at me as if I have $1,000 bills tattooed across my forehead. My advice to marketers: Treat investors like humans—not ATMs—and you’ll have a much more constructive conversation.

The manager you don’t currently work with whose brain you’d most like to pick for an hour is...?

Seth Klarman of Baupost Group.

... and where would that meeting take place?

Over dinner, followed by a book signing where he autographs a copy of Margin of Safety for me.

Describe the weirdest interaction you’ve had with an asset manager.

I came out of a conference once, and a hedge fund manager cut right to the front of a long taxi line of allocators, jumped in a car, and sped off. Or, I have a friend who left a meeting to use the bathroom, and returned to find the marketing guy rifling through his briefcase.

What asset class or investment troubles you most right now—and why?

Commodities and emerging-market countries dependent on China’s old economic model for growth. It’s so difficult to price value in these assets today, after an approximately 20-year commodity boom.

Name your favorite food and drink.

Summer: Barbecue and a cold beer. Winter: Tartiflette (a traditional French dish of potatoes, cheese, and onions) paired with a great value 2009 Bordeaux.

What’s the wildest institutional portfolio you’ve seen?

Does the largest private real estate development project in the history of the US count as ‘wild’? [Ed. Note: Yes.] Then it’s OMERS. Along with Hudson Yards by Oxford Properties (the fund’s real-estate arm), we recently bought London City Airport with Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Alberta’s sovereign fund, and the Kuwait Investment Authority. In alternatives, we’re always asking, “Is hiring external expertise the optimal route, or can we run this strategy internally?”

Name a cultural aspect of asset management that gets under your skin.

Lip service. Many people find it easier to speak about beliefs than act on them.

Donald Trump is ________.

Not like Canadian politicians.

Name your four-member investment dream team for your own family office.

Ray Dalio (Bridgewater), Donald Sussman (Paloma), an unnamed Asian hedge fund manager, and David Tepper (Appaloosa). I’d equal-weight the portfolio to each of these guys, and retain firing privileges for myself.

What’s the biggest investment or career misstep you’ve made?

Investing in an economy-size bucketof hair gel in my mid-20s.

What should be an investment trend, but isn’t (yet)?

There are exchange-traded funds that trade the global water utilities, but I’ve yet to see a freshwater commodity futures product. Perhaps I watched Mad Max: Fury Road a little too recently.