Book Review: Damsel in Distressed

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Damsel in Distressed: My Life in the Golden Age of Hedge Funds. 2021. Dominique Mielle. Post Hill Press.


In Damsel in Distressed, Dominique Mielle educates and enchants with a mesmerizing memoir of her life — not solely as a disciplined and consummate monetary skilled but additionally as an distinctive chief amongst hedge fund performers and innovators. None of that’s obvious because the ebook begins, when she describes her early years within the business and dazzles the reader with all of the alternatives that in these days represented low-hanging fruit for hedge fund buyers. Not solely had been the alternatives thrilling for her; they contrasted dramatically together with her earlier, grueling each day experiences as an funding banker, which impressed her to attend enterprise faculty at Stanford in hopes of shifting on to higher prospects.

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Mielle landed at Canyon Companions, LLC, and thrived there for 20 years, grappling with a plethora of investing challenges — from the wild journey of late 1998 to 2001 to the 2007–2008 world monetary disaster, and past. Her profession parallels the fast development in hedge funds, however she provides a particular issue: a eager means to determine alternative the place nobody else appears to, which emerged after she had served as an analyst in lots of conditions and industries.

Mielle tells vivid tales of research throughout industries and thru a number of bankruptcies that may delight analysts — regardless that lots of the corporations are gone for good. She honed her monetary creativity by relentless evaluation of conditions, together with rigorous danger evaluation, and she or he clearly recognized conditions that had been uncorrelated with any market or rate of interest. Readers will likely be cheered to be taught that Canyon administration understood her hypotheses and acknowledged their potential for producing a worthwhile institutional product.

Mielle gives wonderful perspective on the hedge fund business’s evolution. For one, she clearly addresses its emergence and its preliminary “identify” gamers within the early Nineteen Nineties. Her explanations allow the reader to grasp how these funds multiplied so quickly (by 2008). Hedge funds thrived on market and knowledge inefficiencies. A few of us bear in mind the pre-EDGAR instances that led to 1996. Earlier than then, we needed to look forward to corporations to disseminate outcomes or filings by way of fax or snail mail, and a few operators invariably obtained these filings earlier than others.

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Mielle lays out the modifications in compliance that challenged the business gamers as time handed, from Regulation FD (truthful disclosure) in 2000 to the 2010 Dodd–Frank Wall Avenue Reform and Client Safety Act, which took impact in 2016. The latter laws affected collateralized mortgage obligation (CLO) constructions by reworking a low-fee, capital-light CLO enterprise right into a low-fee, capital-intensive one. Mielle labored round this downside by inventing a special-purpose fairness fund that preserved the CLO’s integrity and profitability. Referred to as a capitalized supervisor automobile (CMV), it retained the fairness of the CLOs issued. The CMV retained a part of the danger, as required by Dodd–Frank, however it was not capitalized with the agency’s personal cash.

The creator addresses one theme repeatedly: The glory days of hedge fund investing have handed. Why? Up till roughly 2008, small, scrappy, nimble hedge funds might report outperformance and distinctive returns, materially exceeding the indices. Success, nevertheless, bred elevated fund dimension, which grew to become the enemy of outperformance. Competitors elevated, enabling buyers to press for more-advantageous, performance-based charges. Confronted with narrower revenue margins, the hedge fund business shifted to pursuit of asset development moderately than return.

The ebook accommodates many vivid pictures and not using a single web page of images. The primary one that may have many readers howling is the creator’s encounter with Invoice Sharpe. Mielle takes us again to highschool days we’d moderately overlook together with her description of the “Sensitive/Feely” Interpersonal Dynamics course at Stanford. Her expertise in Brest, France, is a hoot. Around the globe she went, taking each assembly significantly, being meticulously properly ready, by no means complaining, however subjected to quite a few large and little humiliations.

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Damsel in Distressed excels for a mess of causes. The ebook gives an genuine, firsthand account and relates an extended, rising, uninterrupted profession at a single agency in the course of the interval of quickest development within the hedge fund business. Its creator is an excellent and broad-minded participant who as well as is without doubt one of the business’s uncommon feminine leaders. She additionally proves to be powerful, good humored, and resilient, each in her profession and outdoors of it. I’m “distressed” to learn it for just one purpose: It’s the first substantial ebook I’ve learn authored by a number one girl in finance since Karen Firestone’s Even the Odds: Sensible Risk-Taking in Business, Investing, and Life in 2016.

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All posts are the opinion of the creator. As such, they shouldn’t be construed as funding recommendation, nor do the opinions expressed essentially mirror the views of CFA Institute or the creator’s employer.


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Janet J. Mangano

Janet J. Mangano, previously a senior portfolio supervisor with PNC Wealth, is in Quick Hills, New Jersey.



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