Why banks should be hiring loners with Asperger's

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Michael Lewis's latest article in Vanity Fair goes a long way to dispelling the notion that you need to start your financial services career in a bulge bracket bank, or that banks should be mostly hiring team players desperate to submit to the greater good of The Firm.

Lewis describes how Michael Burry, a one-eyed, obsessive, antisocial medical student recently diagnosed with Asperger's, spotted the coming subprime collapse while banks like Goldman were still acting as if issuing mortgages to people without incomes was totally normal.

Burry made a name for himself as a value investor by blogging between midnight and 3am whilst still a medical student. He gave up medicine to start a hedge fund with just $100k of seed capital, and immediately attracted the attention of major funds Gotham Capital and White Mountain on the back of his blog.

Burry bought his first CDS on subprime mortgage bonds in 2005 - when banks were still pricing them according to the dubious research produced by ratings agencies.

"Sometimes markets err big time," he wrote in late 2005. "Markets erred when they gave America Online the currency to buy Time Warner. They erred when they bet against George Soros and for the British pound. And they are erring right now by continuing to float along as if the most significant credit bubble history has ever seen does not exist.

From a careers perspective, the notable thing is that Bury followed none of the traditional routes into financial services, but that his investing ability still got spotted, and he was still able to start his own very successful fund.

"The market found him," one mutual-fund manager told Lewis. "He was recognizing patterns no one else was seeing."

From a personal perspective, Bury goes to show the benefits of obsessively-focused time management. "I productively fill the gaps that most people leave as dead time. My drive to be productive probably cost me my first marriage and a few days ago almost cost me my fiancée," he wrote in 1999. "Before I went to college the military had this 'we do more before 9am than most people do all day' and I used to think I do more than the military...."

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