Profile: Soraya Chabarek

Head of European Sales, CQS

HAMLIN LOVELL

“I’ve been lucky on the journey I have been on in the hedge fund industry, in terms of the people and the companies I worked for,” says CQS European sales supremo, Soraya Chabarek. She began her hedge fund sales career at Permal Investment Management which Chabarek describes as “a family who gave me the training and confidence to discover the wide spectrum of strategies the industry has to offer.” She subsequently moved to a single-manager firm, GLG, which she describes as “an important growth periodfor me, focused predominantly on marketing in the Middle East,” the Anglo-Syrian recalls. Using her Arabic language skills, she was given the latitude to build GLG’s presence in the region. GLG was at that time (2004-2008) building one of the first multi-asset businesses, which gave Soraya a “priceless” breadth of exposure to strategies, styles, and portfolio managers that she really enjoyed – foreshadowing the diversity of today’s CQS product suite.

Personalities have always been important: “The partners of GLG [Noam Gottesman, Pierre Lagrange and Manny Roman] were entrepreneurial with lots of energy that resonated throughout the company”. Chabarek has equally fond memories of Greg Coffey, with whom she transitioned to Moore Capital in 2008, as being “dynamic both as a trader and as a character”. At Moore Chabarek only covered Coffey’s strategies, but dealt with clients globally, matching different products to client expectations in various regions. Once again the individuals involved made their mark: “Being under the same roof as an icon like Louis Bacon was inspirational”. Moore gave Chabarek a different perspective on different strategies, obliging her to dynamically adapt to the role. Right now CQS is “a whole new exciting adventure”. The dominant person – and trading floor presence – this time is of course Sir Michael Hintze, who, as a pioneer in the credit space, has built a $12 billion business. “Michael is a one of those rare breed who has not only been able to build a credible multi-asset business, whilst also being a successful money manager.” Hintze continues to be the largest risk taker, offering investors punchier risk-adjusted returns in his own fund than in some other CQS strategies. Hintze has been adept at building a team around him, and has been “fantastic at being able to attract talent,” says Chabarek.

Hintze is a founder and trustee of the Hedge Fund Standards Board. As the hedge fund industry has institutionalised and become more transparent, CQS has invested a lot of time, thought and money into its investor relations offering. A dedicated client service team provides the backbone of routines for reporting, monthly calls, and portfolio transparency – CQS was an early adopter of the Open Protocol reporting standards for all funds, and appreciates that investors want to see how CQS exposures mesh with the rest of their portfolios. CQS has also invested in product specialists who can give investors more detailed insight into particular funds.

“At the heart of what we do as relationship managers is treating clients fairly and equally, being transparent and communicative across the board,”says Chabarek. CQS has an open culture, with an open-plan office trading floor, where Hintze encourages everyone to share information. External client communication is a natural extension of this in-house culture, and inviting clients and consultants to educational forums enriches their understanding of what CQS does.

In a modern hedge fund, marketing is no longer siloed by itself, Chabarek explains. The marketing function is intertwined with risk management, operations, IT, legal and compliance departments, all of which form an “important part of the overall toolkit that we offer clients.” When US accounting rules started requiring assets to be split into level 1, level 2, and level 3 valuation methods for audit purposes, CQS was among the first hedge funds to begin displaying this breakdown on monthly letters for all clients, whether US-based or not.

Although CQS continues to build its global footprint with offices in the US and Asia, it remains a Europe-centric business with its largest office in London’s Belgravia, overlooking Buckingham Palace. “European clients are the bedrock of our business and many have remained loyal investors since CQS launched its first fund in 2000,” says Chabarek.

European investors continue to be a significant part of CQS’ investor base. Recently, CQS’ Compliance team, supported by external counsel, have been coaching the marketing teams on the finer points of the AIFM Directive. “We wanted our people to be ahead of the curve and up to speed, before the new rules came into effect. This robust infrastructure gives comfort to institutional investors. Prior to the 2008/9 crisis some clients were surprised by the headcount tally in non-investment areas. The rationale became clear during the first client meeting Chabarek did with Hintze, in January of this year, when he said, “Clients pay us to take investment risk but not operational risk”. Witness that the firm met all redemption requests in 2008 without delay, with no suspensions or side pockets.

CQS’ investment approach spans across corporate capital structures, with equities, high-yield, convertibles, loans, and asset-backed securities. Larger investor groups are increasingly choosing to build their own bespoke solutions, and CQS has the versatility to tailor mandates to their requirements: “multi-asset and multi-strategy solutions” can be created. Regarding the role of women in hedge funds, Chabarek thinks the hedge fund industry is a good place for women because it is a meritocracy, and CQS has several successful women on the platform. As the industry rewards people on results, it will propel people ahead according to their talents, regardless of gender. A working mother, Chabarek sits on a committee for The Sparkle Children’s Charity, part of the Face Value project at Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London.

Biography

EDUCATION
• Holds a BA in Economics and Public Administration from Royal Holloway, University of London.
CURRENT ROLE
• Head of European Sales at CQS.
PREVIOUS ROLES
• She joined CQS from Moore Capital Management Europe where she was the head of marketing for the emerging macro strategies.
• Principal at GLG Partners from 2004 to 2008 where she was responsible for Middle East marketing and business development.
OTHER
• A fluent Arabic speaker
• Volunteers on the committee of The Sparkle Children’s Charity, part of the Face Value project at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for children.