Miguel Vargas, Business Unit Manager for Market Intelligence, joined us to talk about his path to Point72, the team’s growth, and how he's helping the next generation of talent find a place in our industry.
What do you do here?
I’m the Business Unit Manager for Market Intelligence (MI) – essentially my job is to support the Head of Market Intelligence in overseeing MI’s people, processes, and research products. While an important part of my role is being a strategic thought partner, a meaningful chunk of it is what I call “being the grease.” That means doing what I can to make sure we’re meeting deadlines; we’re communicating and collaborating effectively in MI, with our investment teams, and with the broader Firm; and we’re identifying and addressing any bottlenecks or roadblocks encountered by the MI team as they do their work. Another material part of the role is to drive forward cross-functional or cross-departmental projects we are undertaking that don’t fit neatly into a particular function or team within MI.
How did you get that job?
I’ve been at the Firm for about six years, the entire time within MI, although in a variety of different roles. My first role was focused on building contextualized, data-driven fundamental research across a few different sectors using a relatively small number of alternative datasets.
MI and the alternative data space have changed a great deal since then. The MI team has grown significantly and the datasets at the team’s disposal have expanded to cover a much broader set of subsectors. As MI expanded, my responsibilities grew, and new opportunities emerged.
When Matt Dowd took over as the Head of MI last year, I helped him with a series of projects as part of that transition. We got a good rhythm going, and after a few months, he offered me the opportunity to step into my current role. For me, it was an incredible opportunity to develop my management and leadership skills and broaden my purview within MI and the Firm.
Tell me about your life before you joined MI.
I’m originally from the Bronx. My family is from the Dominican Republic. In my household, education was always viewed as the way to succeed in the United States.
In seventh grade, I was scouted by a program called Prep for Prep. The mission of Prep for Prep is to develop future leaders by creating access for young people of color to first-rate educational programs in NYC and the Northeast. They asked me to join their 14-month preparatory program that would prepare me to go to a private boarding school in New England. I spent every Saturday during the school year and the entirety of two summers essentially in a second school to augment the education I was getting in my parochial school and help ensure I was equipped for success at their partner schools.
That led me to Choate Rosemary Hall, in Connecticut, and from there, Princeton. At Princeton I tried the pre-med route but quickly realized I was more interested in political science and law. Fast forward a few years and I was well on my way towards a legal career after multiple legal internships, including in the Southern District of New York for Judge Laura Taylor Swain and at a big law firm. I even got into Columbia Law School. Ultimately, however, I decided to follow the advice of every lawyer I had met and deferred for two years to gain commercial, client service experience. I enjoyed the work, and tried to defer a third year, but Columbia said, “listen, unless you’re going into military service, people who defer a third year actually never come back.” They were right.
I ended up doing three years of consulting, doing data-driven, cost reduction strategy work. During my third year, a recruiter reached out about a new opportunity at Point72 looking at datasets and searching for insights to help its investors make investment decisions. I thought it sounded really interesting. It was a position that didn’t exist anywhere else. I joined the firm, and I’ve never looked back.
What do you like about the job? What’s kept you in MI for six years?
Growth! I went from being someone who originated many of our research reports and products to now seeing the organization working at scale. Products I launched four or five years ago now have their third person working on them, because the person I handed it off to has also moved up in the organization (and each person has made the product better and more impactful).
More than 90% of people in leadership positions within MI were promoted from within. It’s something we value and find makes us more successful in terms of understanding the firm’s culture, the firm’s values, and, importantly, what makes the most useful and impactful research for our investment teams. It also empowers a lot of our employees and motivates them to work hard, because they see a clear path for themselves here—it’s at the core of how we run our business. We want to retain our talent whether they move into leadership positions, into senior non-leadership roles, or into other parts of the firm. We think our people are our greatest asset. It’s our expertise and analysis of the data sources that differentiates us and that is dependent on the business continuity that retaining our talent provides.
What have you enjoyed the most here?
The people—cliché, I know—but I really enjoy the collaboration that is required both within MI and also with the front office to transform data into valuable research products. One of the best parts of sitting in a centralized research organization at a multi-manager hedge fund is seeing the diversity of thought as different analysts and PMs interpret and use the same research in different ways.
A more recent thing that I’ve also started to enjoy is the mentoring part of my role. We have a lot of young people in MI. For many of them, we are their first jobs or second jobs out of school. So, I spend a lot of time providing guidance on good research practices, understanding what good client service looks like, and more broadly on how to navigate their career paths.
What do you do to give back?
I’m a firm believer that talent is randomly distributed but opportunity is not. Breaking into this industry can be tough, so I like to help open doors wherever I can, especially at Point72.
I’m on the junior board of Prep for Prep. I always felt the program changed my life, because it created the opportunities that boarding school and Princeton opened for me. As part of their Associates Council, I work not only on fundraising, but also advancing the professional development of their students, including participating in resume reviews or mock interviews or connecting the program to organizations in search of diverse talent.
I also lead Point72’s partnership with Correlation One, which runs free data science and engineering training for traditionally underrepresented students and professionals. We’ve been impressed with the quality of candidates we’ve seen graduate from the program and are optimistic that it will be a fruitful source of diverse STEM talent for the firm.