Jul 16, 2012
Michael Covel talks to Patrick De Villiers, a co-founder of systematic trend following fund Neural Capital. Originally from South Africa and now based in Cyprus, De Villers talks about his early background and the philosophy behind Neural Capital. De Villiers had no background in finance until he left university. Instead, he studied experimental physics in superconductivity, which helped give him the background in analyzing and looking for patterns in data (that he later used in his financial career). Staying in South Africa, he found it difficult to find work, but met a woman at an investment bank--and that opened a door. He was assigned to a graduate development program and found his way into the trading room. The idea of hiring individuals with scientific backgrounds was just taking off at that time in South Africa, and De Villiers got in on the ground floor. De Villiers eventually teamed up with Brett Venter and founded Neural Capital in 2004. They started by looking at predictive investment models using neural networks; however, this didn't pan out, and they eventually found the trend following strategy that they employ today. Covel and De Villiers discuss that when you're at a big bank the performance can be based on the franchise you're working at; the connection of ego to performance; how to explain a trend following approach to clients; capturing the "fat" of the trend; outliers and black swans; putting the unexpected moves in your favor; the relation of trend following to behavioral finance; and insuring that you're in the game for when the big winners come.