Photo: Photo courtesy of Maneet Ahuja
Maneet Ahuja is CNBC’s Hedge Fund Specialist/”Squawk Box” producer and she’s incredibly connected to the super-secretive hedge fund industry.We sat down to chat with her about her upcoming book “The Alpha Masters,” which highlights the stories, insights and lessons of industry titans such as Ray Dalio, David Tepper, John Paulson, David Einhorn, Bill Ackman, Jim Chanos and Dan Loeb, just to name a few.
Her book takes readers behind the curtain of the industry and gives exposure to the hedge fund sources from her massive Rolodex — a contact list that would make most financial journalists envious.
Even New York Times’ reporter and “Squawk Box” co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin was recently quoted saying she had a deeper Rolodex than him.
“It’s definitely the first time you’re taken inside the room and get the play-by-play from some of the world’s most successful investors on some of the world’s biggest deals that have taken place over the last 10 to fifteen years,” she told Business Insider.
For many of the top hedge fund managers — including names like Paulson, Tepper, Ackman and Einhorn — Ahuja is considered the go to source when they want to break news.
But obviously, unprecedented access to these huge names doesn’t come easily.
Never Taking ‘No’ For An Answer
Ahuja, 27, told Business Insider that she has been relentless in developing contacts within the industry.
“I think with a lot of things you have to be relentless — You don’t get a lot of sleep. You don’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” she said explaining that it took her almost three years just to secure an off-the-record meeting with the closely followed Paulson and he still hasn’t made an appearance on “Squawk Box.”
Developing her connections in the industry is also about balance, she explained.
“I think it’s a balance of recognising when is too much — you don’t want to be seen as a pest. Reaching out through their PR contacts, researching which conferences they are speaking at or which foundations they are involved with — I think that’s what most journalists do they look and see where their potential subjects are scheduled to be speaking, whether it’s at the London School of Economics or on conference calls or investors or other sources that they might know — maybe an investor or friend that can lend an introduction.”
Starting On Wall Street As A Teenager
What’s fascinating about Ahuja, a self-described “finance geek” who was recently recognised as one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30”, is that she displays a natural curiosity in the hedge fund industry.
Her passion for finance is evidenced by her wanting to go work on Wall Street at age 17 (seriously).
“I was always fascinated with finance, which is why I started working on Wall Street at 17,” she said.
Back in 2002, she interned for Citi’s financial institutions group working as a credit risk analyst. Her role then included working on modelling and going through financial statements, just to mention a few of her duties.
When the woman she was working for at Citi decided not to return to the bank after maternity leave, a spot opened up for Ahuja.
“I was there temporarily just for 10 months and I was able to juggle the workload and when she decided not to come back they just kept me on,” she said.
She stayed at Citi for almost four years before joining Merill Lynch as a global economics and equity research intern. Then, she worked at the Wall Street Journal on the Money & Investing team before leaping to CNBC in 2008.
Becoming A Hedge Fund Expert
It was at CNBC where she really got her start in becoming a hedge fund industry guru.
“I was fortunate that one of the first big stories that I covered on ‘Squawk Box’ was working with David Einhorn when he came on to discuss his book back in 2008. So that was the key introduction, the key experience that helped foster further relationships. David brought on other managers on the show.”
Some of her noteworthy work at the financial television behemoth includes Tepper’s first-ever on-air appearance, Einhorn’s warning call on Lehman Brothers and Paulson’s letter to investors in response to an SEC investigation into the Abacus deal.
These days, Ahuja — who says she wakes up at 4:30 a.m. on a regular basis — is anticipating the release of her book next month.
Aside from producing “Squawk Box” for CNBC, Ahuja would go on day trips to interview these managers. She even traveled to Paris with Paulson and to the Yale School of Management where Chanos teaches a course on detecting fraud and short-selling.
Another interesting point is Ahuja spent the last two years working on the book interviewing her subjects, which means she witnessed these top hedge fund managers during the extreme market volatility of 2011.
“The other really interesting result of the book that wasn’t initially planned from the outset was that was when I approached these guys in 2010, most of them were coming off their best year — Tepper, Paulson, Dalio — and we were getting to hear how they put together the greatest trades all in one book. As 2011 moved forward and the markets were really volatile we got to see for the first time how they handled turbulence and all that stress and re-shifted their portfolio and dealt with that negative environment, for the first time for some of them.”
We’ve already checked out her book and there’s definitely something to be learned for investors on all levels or for those who are just curious to learn more about the industry.
Ahuja said even her subjects learned something from it.
“For actual investors in the market, the managers all read the entire book and I was surprised they all said that they actually learned a lot about how to be better investors. They’re all colleagues with each other, but they don’t sit and cross examine each other, or their history or some of their big deals — they read about them in the paper. I hope that investors can put some of their lessons into practice.”
SEE ALSO: Meet The Women Of CNBC >