Ray Dalio is a monster, suggests a new book. Is it fair?


The tome opens with Ray Dalio laying into an worker he apparently knew to be pregnant. He calls her an “fool” time and again, till she runs from the room sobbing. The founding father of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, was supposedly “delighted”. His “probing” of this lady was proof of his dedication to “truth-seeking” at any price. The meltdown, which had been recorded, was uploaded to a library of agency conferences. He had it edited right into a clip to be proven to future workers.

That is simply the primary of many damaging titbits in “The Fund”, a brand new ebook about Mr Dalio by Rob Copeland, a reporter on the New York Instances. The ebook’s narrative builds to 2 factors. One is that Mr Dalio’s “rules”, a philosophy he described as being centred on “radical transparency”, are actually little greater than time-wasting instruments which he makes use of to bully workers. The system requires conferences to be recorded, for workers to rank each other and for them to add complaints onto a platform. That is speculated to foster an “concepts meritocracy” however as an alternative leads, at finest, to petty gripes about how the peas within the cafeteria are too “wrinkled” and, at worst, to a tradition of concern. Mr Dalio is meant to have manipulated this method in order that his opinion all the time mattered most.

The second is that there’s “no secret” to Bridgewater’s success. Mr Dalio’s a whole bunch of analysis employees write experiences he doesn’t even learn. Mr Copeland claims Mr Dalio made all of the investing choices himself, or with some enter from lieutenants. Removed from having a codified algorithm, as he tells shoppers, he makes use of hunches and easy “if then” statements reminiscent of: if rates of interest fall in a rustic then it is best to promote its forex. These labored, the story goes, for some time, however the rise of high-frequency merchants and quantitative funds, which regularly observe market “momentum”, eroded his edge. Returns for Bridgewater’s flagship “Pure Alpha” fund have been fairly paltry for the previous 10 or 15 years.

The conclusions of the 2 intertwine: the cult of Bridgewater is pointless. Bridgewater’s workers have time to waste on nonsense as a result of the investing course of is straightforward, actually. Mr Dalio might need been a gifted investor—since 1991 he has earned $58bn for individuals who have purchased into his funds—however his efforts to codify funding guidelines and tradition have been a waste of time. His legacy will fade.

Mr Copeland’s deep reporting unearthed damning tales, however they appear to have been advised in order to put Mr Dalio within the worst potential mild. Take, for instance, a passage the place Mr Dalio invitations Niall Ferguson, a celebrated historian, to Bridgewater. Mr Dalio equipped Mr Ferguson with a duplicate of his ebook, which provides a sweeping concept of financial historical past and a mannequin of “the financial machine”—just for Mr Ferguson to inform the assembled employees that there was no means of modelling historical past since fashions couldn’t account for the “caprices of decision-makers”. Mr Dalio started shouting at Mr Ferguson, who quickly left. Mr Copeland writes that Mr Dalio then despatched spherical a ballot asking who gained the controversy (Mr Dalio triumphed).

It’s one in every of many anecdotes which might be speculated to reveal that Mr Dalio is unprincipled. Removed from listening to unfiltered criticism he makes use of his energy to silence others. However apparently Mr Dalio later solicited recommendation asking whether or not he had behaved inappropriately. His workers implored him to not invite individuals to Bridgewater simply to shout at them—recommendation to which he’s mentioned to have listened. Mr Dalio’s radical transparency is likely to be unusual and misguided, however maybe he isn’t a hypocrite.

The ebook’s arguments about Mr Dalio’s funding course of are more durable nonetheless to swallow. Macro funds that observe traits are a dime a dozen, and few come near touching Bridgewater’s file. As for the erosion of his edge, the earliest momentum funds have been established within the Eighties, earlier than Bridgewater arrange its first funds. They grew within the Nineteen Nineties and 2000s, when his edge was as sharp as ever. How Mr Dalio achieved what he did is one thing of a thriller. Maybe a few of the magic may have been codified or captured. It was price attempting, anyway.

Mr Dalio dismisses Mr Copeland’s ebook out of hand. He has written that it’s “one other a kind of sensational and inaccurate tabloid books written to promote books to individuals who like gossip”. The hagiography of Mr Dalio already exists: he penned his personal story in 2017. Mr Copeland appears to have written its foil, which may discover solely the sick in Bridgewater’s founder. The ebook is price a learn—however solely with that in thoughts.

Learn extra from Bartleby, our columnist on administration and work:
How to manage teams in a world designed for individuals (Nov sixth)
How to get the lying out of hiring (Oct thirtieth)
Would you rather be a manager or a leader? (Oct twenty third)

Additionally: How the Bartleby column got its name

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