Kapil Mathur grew up in New Delhi and attended college at Cornell, where he earned a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. He became Cubist’s first Chief Scientist in 2020 after nearly two decades as a systematic PM – including 17 years at Point72. We caught up with him to talk about stepping away from running a PM team, transitioning into a Chief Scientist role, and the Quant Academy program.
What was it like joining Cubist in 2003?
I was one of the early PMs. In fact, I may have been the first PM that they hired, when Steve decided to basically replicate the PM pod model from the discretionary long/short equity side to the quant business. There were two other quant teams associated with the firm, but they were not a part of what is now known as Cubist. My mandate was to run a global equity strategy and I did that from 2003 to about early 2020, when I announced my retirement from being a PM.
I wanted to take a step back and do the things that I had put on hold. I considered retiring from quant finance completely at the time, but I was offered the opportunity to explore this Chief Scientist role, and I was excited to take on a senior mentoring role.
What was the thinking behind the new position?
Cubist has grown quite significantly over the last five, ten years. We have in excess of 50 PM teams. The firm was looking for a sounding board and Denis’s intuition was that I could be that, for several reasons. I’ve been here for a long time and know how Cubist and Point72 operate. I was at D.E. Shaw and HBK Investments and saw the collaborative side of the business there. I’ve been a PM where I built the quant business from scratch. And finally, I have a PhD, so I have academic roots, as well, and this was in a sense a return to that.
I viewed this role as that of an adviser/graduate student. Today I talk to a bunch of PMs regularly, as well as analysts and others throughout Cubist. I’m the placeholder manager for the Quant Academy research analysts. I meet with them regularly and my door is always open for them whenever they need to talk to me about anything.
What’s the Quant Academy?
It’s a rotational program we started recently where fellows spend a period of time on four different teams, learning from each PM. We are extremely selective in who we choose. Out of the hundreds of resumes that we look at, we probably pick one or two. The first class of the Quant Academy has four candidates. We’re actively recruiting for the next class now.
Does Cubist have other career development programs?
The goal is to have a lot more of these things, and we’re working quite actively thinking through what makes sense for the quantitative business. One of the things that we offer is hosting academic seminars on eclectic topics related to really anything to do with data, math, science. We’d also like to have more in-person engagement now that we’re back in the office.
You had a long career as PM. The farther you get away from academia, how do you ensure that you keep learning?
It’s a challenge. I would be lying if I told you it was easy. We have the academic talks, and we are very active in looking at academic literature. The goal is to keep up on what’s the current, cutting edge thinking out there.
What makes Cubist unique?
The people. We have been extremely lucky to have collected a fairly eclectic group of strong and talented people, which is very unique. As a result, we have extremely low turnover compared to almost all the other quant shops and a really nice culture.