Theam looks for a global mix of investors


The hedge fund solutions team of BNP Paribas’ Theam is looking for confident, responsive hedge fund managers running liquid strategies.

The hedge fund solutions team of BNP Paribas’ Theam is looking for confident, responsive hedge fund managers running liquid strategies.

Theam is housed in a 19th century Parisian edifice, boasting grandiose stone sculptures and an imposing bell tower. It shares the building with a myriad of BNP Paribas subsidiaries. Theam is one of its latest additions having been launched as an amalgamation of two BNP Paribas business lines in March 2011.

The launch combined Sigma, an absolute return, index and portfolio management specialist, and Harewood Asset Management, a systematic and fund of hedge funds (FoHF) specialist. The managed accounts side of Theam’s business is handled by Innocap, a managed account solutions provider established in 1996 and today part owned by the National Bank of Canada and BNP Paribas.

In October 2011, Theam announced the arrival of three hedge fund specialists from a French FoHF, HDF Finance: Eric Debonnet (pictured), Thierry de Rycke and David Gilleron. Debonnet is head of Theam’s hedge fund solutions team, having been head of research and risk management at HDF Finance since 2008.

Debonnet’s team is responsible for a range of activities including manager selection, hedge fund strategy allocation, risk management and portfolio construction. They offer mandates for institutional and wealth management clients, and run an open-ended fund of funds with an estimated €1bn of assets.

Debonnet says he joined Theam for three reasons: to benefit from working with a new set of experienced asset managers (Theam has a total of 89 asset management specialists) and working in what he views as an independent entity backed by a solid group.

His team at Theam differs from other fund of funds, because it has a number of people with expertise in FoHFs, hedge funds and financial markets. This is unusual, because “true expertise is difficult to find,” he says. Debonnet says his experience stems from having once run his own hedge fund, which attracted investment from 12 FoHFs. The tough interviews he once faced with these prospective investors taught him how to assess potential managers today and when to recognise a manager is not being straightforward.

While Debonnet is uninterested in a manager’s personal life or style, he is keen to test their reactivity to market movements and ability to communicate decision-making processes. “A hedge fund manager is really a trader, otherwise they are a long-only investor. They need to be responsive and react to market events. If there was a problem this morning, what did they do? Nothing? Why? Managers need to be capable of explaining themselves. I need to be aggressive in my questioning without being harsh,” he explains.