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Alternative Investments - October 01, 2004

Face to Face with Marc Landeau, Founder and CEO of the Olympia Group of Companies

Marc Landeau, Founder & CEO of the Olympia Group of Companies

The Olympia Group of Companies is a new partner of the EDHEC Risk and Asset Management Centre and is the sponsor of the first EDHEC OLYMPIA Alternative Investment Summer Camp, a €150,000 initiative aimed at helping young talents from Europe and Africa discover one of the most dynamic sectors of the asset management industry.

A recognized pioneer in the funds of funds business, the Olympia Group of Companies has focused its development on alternative multi-management for institutional investors and currently has close to $4 billion of assets under management. Managing investment funds, funds of funds and investment portfolios, it serves financial institutions, intermediaries and private clients.

Thanks to a large donation from your group, 25 young talents will have the opportunity to take part in a week-long course on Hedge Funds designed by EDHEC AI Education and delivered by leading scholars and seasoned practitioners. Why this commitment to education?

Marc Landeau: We are in the people business. Not only are people the only asset we have, but our mission is to identify and monitor exceptionally talented people. We are in the alpha business and you need alpha to look for alpha! Talent is something that can be spotted at an early stage; I hope our association with EDHEC Business School will allow both us, and the European Alternative industry at large, to benefit from future generations of dedicated and focused young professionals.

Why did you choose EDHEC?

Marc Landeau: The choice of EDHEC was very simple: they happen to be the only name in town. This is because, for many years, they have focused on AI when others were only interested in the tabloid aspects of this industry. Furthermore, what I really like with EDHEC is that they are, like ourselves, structurally bilingual and bicultural. Their Anglo-Saxon approach is unique in France but more importantly, they have managed to combine the best of two worlds: that is the distinctive French intellectual approach with Anglo-Saxon practicality.

And what is there in it for Olympia?

Marc Landeau: Life is a two-way street… Having achieved a leader's status, the time has come for Olympia to contribute to the industry that has enabled it to prosper. Naturally, through the Alternative Investment Summer Camp, we also hope to find new blood for Olympia. We are in an expanding area, and where better to find talent than in a programme that will bring together Europe’s "crème de la crème".

Olympia has been praised for its highly structured and systematic investment process; in a nutshell, what is so special about the way you invest?

Marc Landeau: First of all being AMF regulated we have to say what we do and do what we say! We study each fund on a quantitative, strategic and operational basis and have developed a methodology over the years; the key to Olympia’s continuity is the respect of this methodology. We’ve been at it for 15 years, as I started the business at the ripe age of 44 and I felt that it was important that when I retired the company be sufficiently structured to be able to continue growing. Our business is the opposite of a black box business: we should not forget the old Winston commercial ‘It is not how long you make it, it is how you make it long!’. Methodology is one thing, but the talent necessary to apply it will always remain the main driver of success.

Money has been flowing into alternative investments and is luring investment banks into offering funds of hedge funds. Olympia has been in this business for over 15 years; can you survive in the brave new world of AI?

Marc Landeau: I certainly hope so! We are constantly evolving because, hopefully, the managers we invest with are constantly looking for new ways to make money and that’s what makes our business so interesting. We deal mostly with entrepreneurial management groups and I strongly believe that it takes an entrepreneur to analyse another entrepreneur and that the rigidities inherent in large structures can be detrimental to the selection process. With very few exceptions, that is what is happening today, and the big institutions who have purchased fund of fund managers have, in the majority of cases, kept them independent from the larger organisation. In most cases, the relationship has been beneficial to both, with a bank taking on the distribution and the fund of fund manager manufacturing the product. While remaining independent, we have entered into relationships with a number of financial institutions who distribute our products throughout their networks.

With this inflow of money in the industry and all these alternative investment managers searching for alpha, how confident are you in the industry’s ability to continue delivering value?

Marc Landeau: Hearing about the death of alpha in money management reminds me of the end of the artistic creation process which some officially declared when Picasso passed away. There will always be talented people who will find new ways to “skin the cat”. For alpha to develop, two things are required: beta (that is people who are not looking to generate alpha, such as players like index funds) and volatility because when the sea is calm, there is no way for the ship to move. I happen to believe that both beta and volatility are here to stay and so I am confident that alternative investments will continue to generate results. Now, I also believe that the days of larger than life performance with minimum risk are over, because the inflow of money certainly has had, and will continue to have, a dampening effect on performance. Nevertheless, the lack of correlation with other asset classes will continue because, as you know, in all alternative investments managers can take long and short positions. As long as the main way of making money in the long term continues to be through avoiding losses, alternative investments will justify their presence in diversified portfolios.

For further information about the EDHEC OLYMPIA Alternative Investment Summer Camp, please contact Olympia.Summer.Camp@edhec.edu.