Dawn Fitzpatrick - Soros Super Team Ace

August 17, 2023

Pauls Miklasevics 

Chief Investment Officer (CIO) at BluOr Bank

Investor, philosopher, philanthropist. George Soros’ magic touch in financial markets has brought him phenomenal wealth and enabled him to channel billions of dollars to fund his ‘Open Society Foundations’. Recently, 92 year old George named his 37 year old son Alex as his successor to run the Soros Foundation – a $25 billion endowment that last year funded around $1.8 billion to charitable causes. But while Alex might be the new face of the foundation, the real magician behind the curtain is a 52 year old Irish-American woman named Dawn Fitzpatrick – Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer of Soros Fund Management LLC – who has managed George Soros’ money since 2017.

It is rare for women to hold such prestigious roles in the world of finance, but it is even rarer to find an individual of such talent. Before she began to work for Soros, Fitzpatrick worked for UBS for over 25 years before rising to be their Head of Investments – a position that made her responsible for over half a trillion dollars of investments.

Finance is dominated by men, perhaps nowhere more so than on the physical trading floor where Fitzpatrick started her career as a clerk whose job was to run orders to big and burly pit traders. But she was not intimidated. She was fascinated. Later she became a proprietary convertible bond trader. Convertible bonds are hybrid investments that require an in depth knowledge of credit, asset quality, interest rates, options and equities. Again – Fitzpatrick flourished. When her division was undergoing a consolidation she was offered to become a sales person – which meant that rather than trading the firm’s capital she would be pitching trade ideas to clients in exchange for trading commissions. She asked her mentor what he thought. He suggested that she turn down the offer because “You are a natural investor — and you’re not that charming”. She was not meant to ‘sell’ the show – she was meant to run it.

On September 16th, 1992, George Soros made over 1 billion dollars by betting against the British Pound. The idea to short the Pound had been conceived by his fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller – now regarded as one of the greatest investors of all time. He had been worried that Soros might find this trade to be too aggressive. Instead, Soros said that Druckenmiller would be making a mistake by not going even bigger on the trade – opportunities like this only came about once every couple of decades.

When Fitzpatrick took over Soros Fund Management she quickly discerned that the Soros’ investments had become over diversified. Whereas Soros had made his money identifying opportunities with asymmetric payouts and trading aggressively, his billions were now too spread out to capitalize on the very best ideas. Fitzpatrick set about changing this dynamic by drastically cutting outside managers and building up Soros Fund Managements internal investment team.

Fitzpatrick knew that finance had become too complicated to remain the realm of the lone trading genius. Her superpower was not just mastering the ‘three dimensional chess’ of modern finance, but in building teams that could identify opportunities from a variety of angles and competencies.

During an interview with Goldman Sachs, Fitzpatrick said she would “bet on a good team over a super star individual every day of the week’’ and at Soros Fund Management she set about creating an environment that thrived on transparency, communication and alignment. She encouraged heightened interaction and idea sharing. Over time their “biggest and best investments started to be where there was overlap across teams. And one of the things we did was every time we had a big win like that, you know, we really were on a bullhorn for the rest of the team. And it really is one of those things that builds momentum in a really powerful way.”

Fitzpatrick is an athlete that ran competitively at university. She still loves to run trails. It allows her to channel her focus and competitive nature while enjoying nature. And when she is filmed during interviews you see her innate focus, you see her competitive instinct and you see how much she enjoys what she does, while also being very much aware of herself.

She knows she has beaten the odds as an extraordinarily successful female money manager, and she knows what needs to be done to open doors for the next generation of successful female money managers.

In an interview with the New York Times, Ms. Fitzpatrick said that “women have innately useful qualities when it comes to money management. One of the things I believe women have more of is humility in their investments. We’ll cut losers quicker, in a more effective way, than generally men will.”

Fitzpatrick counts herself as very fortunate to have had someone that could help her make wise decisions in managing her career, and says that females have to be especially careful in their first, second and third promotions, so that do not get channeled into roles that gravitate outwards from investment decision making.

Women enter the profession at the same rate as men and they are in high demand in the boardroom, but somewhere in the middle things do not work as they should. In 2000, 13% of fund managers were women. Now it is 14%. This percentage is still far too low.

That is why new recruits at Soros Fund Management are actively coached in career progression.

Fitzpatrick is also very conscious of the purpose of the money she manages. Her mandate is not to just to make money, but to provide steady and sustainable funding to initiatives that sponsor important social change. And while she does not back down from making bold bets, she is an excellent risk manager that is keenly aware of liquidity dynamics and thrives on exploiting opportunities when other large market players are forced out of trades. She also presides over a dynamic management structure and flexible investment mandate that allows her to make bold decisions more quickly and effectively than other investors that manage similar amounts of money.

George Soros is an absolute legend. Dawn Fitzpatrick is the future.

The Latvian version of this article originally appeared in the August 2023 issue of Forbes Latvia.