Maneet Ahuja: The World of Hedge Fund HeavyweightsBy Lavina Melwani • Sep 30th, 2012 • Category: People
Roaring Twenties: This is the fifth in a series on people in their 20′s whose impact has been felt in fields ranging from medicine to finance to the non-profit world. What makes them tick, what gets them through rough times and what are their dreams for the future?
Maneet Ahuja - Hedge Fund Maven
Maneet Ahuja, 27, certainly knows a thing or two about hedge funds. In fact, she is CNBC’s hedge fund specialist and a producer on Squawk Box, the noted morning program which is the go-to destination for the business world and where many inaccessible business heavyweights have shared their insights. It was here that billionaire hedge fund titan David Tepper made his first TV appearance and where his observations sparked a 2-week ‘Tepper Rally’ in the markets.
Maneet, who has immersed herself into the rarified hedge fund world, co-created and developed the network’s ‘Delivering Alpha’ hedge-fund summit with Institutional Investor, and was awarded the Enterprise Award for her in-depth coverage of the industry. Going deep into the subject, she has also worked for two years on a comprehensive book, The Alpha Masters: Unlocking the Genius of the World’s Top Hedge Funds. Wrote Forbes, “The book is far from just a quick look at how these managers invested their money. The Alpha Masters helps you understand who these hedge fund managers really are, what makes them tick, what motivates them and, perhaps most interestingly, how they handle failure.”
This year she was also one of the winners of the 2012 Annual Knowledge@Wharton Scholarship for Business Journalism.
Prior to joining CNBC in 2008, Maneet was a part of the Wall Street Journal’s Money & Investing team. She is also one of Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30, and was featured in Elle magazine’s annual Genius issue.
The Road to Wall Street
Hard to believe but she started out on the road to Wall Street when she was just 17! It was sheer serendipity. She had applied for an internship at Citigroup and since she was good at math, she assumed they’d offer her a teller position.
Imagine her surprise when she landed up at the global headquarters and was taken up to the 42nd floor to the Corporate & Investment Banking division to assist with the company spreadsheets. The lady she was working for did not come back from maternity leave and so she was kept on in the interim.
“I was so happy for the opportunity and I juggled it, pretty much working full time since I was 17 in mergers and acquisitions and corporate banking, covering financials, banks, brokers, dealers and all those interesting, complex companies that later crumbled!”
Indeed, this little incident opened up a whole new world for Maneet who received training as a credit risk analyst and sponsorship, becoming one of the youngest persons in New York State to get a Series 7 license.
“I was in the same office as Chuck Prince who was the CEO of Citigroup,” she recalls. “Years later I started doing these quarterly business summits at Harvard Business School and we did one with Vikram Pandit. I got the chance to thank him for the opportunity that was given to me by Citigroup when I was 17 years old!”
The Secret World of Hedge Funds
At CNBC her job as producer is a challenging one. “The level of coverage we’ve developed for hedge funds did not exist in any business news TV outlet,” she says. The job entails team effort, researching, working sources and relationships which have taken up years to build. “Our viewers definitely want to hear what these hedge fund managers have to say. They guide the smart money, and we’ve been able to carve out a niche for ourselves in an industry that wasn’t previously covered.”
Maneet says she doesn’t consider herself a hedge funds expert and continues to absorb and learn. ” I’m intellectually curious as any journalist – and this sub-industry of hedge funds is just fascinating to me. It’s just an area that covers all areas of Wall Street but at the same time is very specific and just has incredibly talented people in it.”
Maneet Ahuja & The Alpha Masters
The Big De-Stressor
One of the reasons she is able to interact with some of the most powerful financial head honchos without getting intimidated is because of her own family background. Her parents are from Punjab and through Sikhism, they have imparted a spirituality to her that makes meditation a part of her daily day.
An unusual de-stressor for all the deadlines she faces is boxing, which helps her relax and keep in good shape. “Boxing is really fantastic for me – I go to a downtown boxing gym,” she says. ”It’s like a little community and has also opened my eyes to other cultures, and to other ways of life.
She adds, ” It’s an area normally an Indian girl really wouldn’t find herself in but it’s become like a second family to me and a form of support. When I made the Forbes 30 under 30 list, they put up the article along with all the boxing posters. They call me Cleo – that’s my boxing name!”
In the volatile financial world too it takes a lot of sparring – mostly mental, of course – to keep nimble and one step ahead of the competition. Maneet relishes the challenge and one of her recent victories was finally landing a meeting with Alan Greenspan for Squawk Box.
“When I went to his office to run through topics, we ended up spending three hours discussing the state of world affairs,” she recalls. “It seemed fitting to turn his thoughts into an interview for a CNBC.com story, which ended up getting more than 200,000 hits. Many of his comments have now proven to be quite prescient.”
The young intern who as a 17-year-old accidentally wandered into the glittering world of finance has certainly come a long way!
(C) Lavina Melwani
(This article first appeared in Hi Blitz in Mumbai)