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Top hedge fund managers talk “purposeful curiosity”

You might be purposeful. You might be curious. But are you purposefully curious?

A new book by Doctor Costas Andriopoulos – the Bayes business school Professor of innovation and entrepreneurship – explores the concept of “purposeful curiosity”, which he is credited with inventing as a “new way of approaching life.”

Despite “inventing” purposeful curiosity, Andriopoulos writes at length about how similar traits to the ones he describes are not only present but endemic in some of the most successful people in the world – and his experience as a top finance academic shines through.

The book is studded with interviews from top financers, including Zar Amrolia, Deutsche Bank’s former global head of foreign exchange and current co-CEO of electronic trading firm XTX Markets. Amrolia says that you have to “be curious about your children, their views,” an approach that Andriopoulos agrees with. “Children have invaluable information on the latest trends,” apparently, Andriopoulos says.

“What tends to happen is, I go home, the information percolating in my brain. I relax, go to bed, and wake up the next day able to put two and two together, and then I can fire off an email and say, ‘Okay, look, guys, this is what we should be doing,’” Amrolia says.

John Fawcett, founder of (now defunct) open-platform hedge fund Quantopian, credited his curiosity (without comment on its purposefulness) to the fund starting. “I had an overwhelming insatiable curiosity to know what was going to happen… Once I thought of it, I just needed to know if it would work,” he tells Andriopoulos.

Leda Braga, the “queen of quants”, suggests that the questions should always be answered as completely as possible. “If you don’t know, then you may say, ‘You ought to go and read about this, because this is the limit of what I know. I don’t know any more,’” she says in the book.

Professor Roger Ibbotson – the chairman and CIO of Zebra Capital Management – stresses making mistakes as a key part of learning. “You have to recognize your mistakes, expect that you’re going to be wrong, and adapt,” he says, and credits decades of perseverance with his success. “I guess it’s that happy medium between not quitting every time you fail at something and recognizing when you must shift.”

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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