James Harris Simons, or Jim Simons, is known as the "Quant King" and started one of the most successful quant funds in the world, after stints at the National Security Agency (NSA) and teaching positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard. In 1982, at the age of 44, Jim Simons founded Renaissance Technologies and was the chairman and CEO of the firm. In 2010, he retired from his role as chairman and CEO of the fund but remains as a nonexecutive chairman of Renaissance Technologies.
Early Life and Education
Jim Simons was born in 1938 in Brookline, Massachusetts, and discovered his love for mathematics at an early age. At the age of 14, Simons worked at a garden supply store as a floor sweeper after being demoted from a stock boy position due to his lack of memory of inventory location; however, he had the ambitious plan of becoming a mathematician at the coveted MIT.
In 1955, Simons was accepted into MIT and majored in mathematics. Upon graduating, Simons studied at the University of California, Berkley, for his doctorate in mathematics. After just one year, he received his doctorate at the age of 23 in 1961. Thereafter, he went on to teach mathematics at MIT and Harvard. The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) recruited Simons in 1964, where he played a key role as a code breaker.
Simons left IDA after four years and went on to become the chairman of the mathematics department at Stony Brook University, where he helped develop key roles in mathematics and physics. It wasn't until 1978 that he starting delving into finance.
Despite already having successful careers as a prize-winning mathematician and a master code breaker for the IDA, Jim Simons decided to pursue a career in finance. In 1978, the mathematician started the hedge fund Monemetrics, which was the predecessor to the highly successful Renaissance Technologies. Simons didn't think to apply mathematics to his hedge fund at first; however, over time, he realized he could use mathematical and statistical models to interpret data.
By 1988, Simons decided to solely use quantitative analysis to decide which trades to enter. Simons only sought experts in mathematics, data analysis and many other scientific-related fields to work with him at the fund. The Quant King filled the fund with programmers, mathematicians, physicists and cryptographers. The company thrived due to the complex mathematical formulas these scientists developed.
Current Net Worth and Influence
Jim Simons ranked 67th and 32nd on the Forbes world billionaires list and U.S. billionaires list in 2015, respectively. The Quant King tied for fourth on the Forbes 2015 list of highest-earning hedge fund managers and traders. Jim Simons raked in approximately $1.1 billion in 2014. As of Feb. 15, 2016, Simons has a personal net worth of $15.5 billion.
Simons has a great deal of influence in the scientific world and co-founded the Simons Foundation with his wife, Marilyn Simons, in New York City, in 1994. The Simons Foundation is devoted to supporting scientific research, education and health. Simons has contributed over $1 billion of his wealth to this cause as well as to support autism research. Additionally, Simons founded Math for America, which aims to encourage mathematics and science teachers to remain their roles and advance their teaching abilities.
Most Influential Quotes
"Great people. Great infrastructure. Open environment. Get everyone compensated roughly based on the overall performance... That made a lot of money." Jim Simons is a big advocate of idea sharing and hiring the brightest people from various scientific-related fields. This exclusive quote gives an insight into how he managed and built Renaissance Technologies.
"I disparage some for whom model-making was a part-time hobby." Simons made this remark when speaking about those who thought model-making was not useful in the real world. His life's work and uses of sophisticated models helped solidify the company as one of the top hedge funds in the world.