The Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise welcomed Key Square Group Founder, CEO and CIO Scott Bessent on Wednesday, March 7, to have lunch with its Kenan Scholars and field questions about hedge fund management, economics education and starting an investment career.
Following an introduction by MBA Kenan Scholar Alex Cooper, Bessent gave a brief summary about Key Square Group’s work in macro investing. The firm, based in New York, is an investment partnership which Bessent founded in 2015. The group is believed to be the world’s third-largest hedge fund.
“We have a different approach than most firms [in that] we try not to trade very much,” he told the room of students, faculty and staff from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Bessent said he and his team are focused on identifying, understanding, supporting and maintaining the “big idea.”
Prior to founding Key Square, Bessent taught as an adjunct professor of economic history at his alma mater, Yale University.
“I taught in New Haven from 2006 to 2011,” he said. “So pre-financial crisis, during the financial crisis, the post when it re-started again in Europe. I taught during what President Obama called a ‘teachable moment’ for five years.”
Bessent shared the advice he has for students readying to launch a career in investments. He emphasized the importance of surrounding oneself with positive, supportive mentors.
“Look for people who have your interests and want to move you along – not somebody who thinks that they’re going to chew you up in two or three years and find some more ambitious person.”
Bessent shared what caused him to align himself with such people.
“I was a competitive tennis player, but where we lived in South Carolina I never had a great coach,” he shared. “I can tell you if I had met Rod Laver when I was eight, I would’ve won Wimbledon. But I didn’t. I was determined in my career to have great mentors and I’ve been super fortunate in my life to find them.”
Bessent encouraged students to figure out what part of investing they enjoy and what plays to his or her individual strengths, whether that’s venture capital, the stock market or something else.
Lastly, he underscored the value of ingenuity; being able to know what the next big thing will be and predicting what will be on the other side of that.
In 1982, fresh off of losing the election for Yale Daily News editor, Bessent took an internship working on a hedge fund with well-known money manager and Yale alumnus Jim Rogers. The job – which offered up an office sofa as a place to stay – required a knowledge of spreadsheets, making lunch and cleaning the bathroom.
That decision would set Bessent on a path toward becoming managing partner and eventually chief investment officer at the Soros Fund Management, one of the world’s most profitable hedge funds, and eventually to founding his own hedge fund, Key Square Group, in 2015.
I was determined in my career to have great mentors and I’ve been super fortunate in my life to find them.