It seems whenever Anne Dias Griffin is mentioned in print-which isn't often, as she's somewhat reclusive-it's as part of a Chicago power couple or as a big patron of an art museum. But if you read what she herself has written, another picture emerges: a go-getting, multi-lingual, internationally-minded force who's gone from market neophyte to hedge fund operator in a very short time indeed. And the 38-year-old's Aragon Capital keeps growing-from $55 million in 2006 to $100 million last year to its current level of about $160 million.
Griffin got her start as a would-be journalist or diplomat, writing front-page articles on debt-for-nature swaps in Brazil for the Financial Times on a summer internship from school at Georgetown. When, in the end, she joined Goldman Sachs straight out of school, she may have been one of the only analysts joining the training program who didn't know the difference between debt and equity.
"However, my work in journalism taught me one hugely important skill: the ability to quickly grasp the relationship and meaning of a disparate set of facts," she recounts in an essay in Janet Hanson's 2006 book, More than 85 Broads. "This is an important skill in the world of investing, where success or failure is often determined by one's ability to quickly make a decisive judgment based on an eclectic collection of data points, facts, figures and less-than-perfect information."
Not knowing debt from equity didn't last long. And after a few years at Goldman the native of Strasbourg, France went to Harvard for an MBA and then to portfolio management at the $20 billion Soros Fund where she "learned by osmosis." She also, by her own account, worked relentlessly. "Today, there is so much financial information and opinion readily available to investors that it's often like drinking from a fire hose," she writes. "Information is not scarce, but quality independent judgment is."
Along with hard work, Griffin puts faith in accelerating the learning process with great mentors, setting goals that seem impossible and finding that unique selling point. In 2001, she landed an anchor investment from mentor Julian Robertson and started Aragon Global with a team of five. It's advantage? It's global perspective. And sharp-very sharp-focus. "You have to think big," she writes. "No one else will do it for you."
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