Cliff Asness

Managing and Founding Principal
27 years of experience
20 years at AQR
Ph.D., M.B.A., University of Chicago
B.S., B.S., University of Pennyslvania

Cliff's Bio

Jump to Three Questions with Cliff 

Cliff is a Founder, Managing Principal and Chief Investment Officer at AQR Capital Management. He is an active researcher and has authored articles on a variety of financial topics for many publications, including The Journal of Portfolio Management, Financial Analysts Journal and The Journal of Finance. He has received five Bernstein Fabozzi/Jacobs Levy Awards from The Journal of Portfolio Management, in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2014 and 2015. Financial Analysts Journal has twice awarded him the Graham and Dodd Award for the year’s best paper, as well as a Graham and Dodd Excellence Award, the award for the best perspectives piece, and the Graham and Dodd Readers’ Choice Award.

In 2006, CFA Institute presented Cliff with the James R. Vertin Award, which is periodically given to individuals who have produced a body of research notable for its relevance and enduring value to investment professionals. Prior to co-founding AQR Capital Management, he was a Managing Director and Director of Quantitative Research for the Asset Management Division of Goldman, Sachs & Co. He is on the editorial board of The Journal of Portfolio Management, the governing board of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Finance at NYU, the board of directors of the Q-Group, the board of the International Rescue Committee and the board of trustees of The National WWII Museum.

Cliff received a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School and a B.S. in engineering from the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating summa cum laude in both. He received an M.B.A. with high honors and a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Chicago, where he was Eugene Fama’s student and teaching assistant for two years (so he still feels guilty when trying to beat the market).


Notable Contributions

  • Received the James R. Vertin Award from CFA Institute in recognition of his lifetime contribution to research.
  • Five-time winner of the Bernstein Fabozzi/ Jacobs Levy Award and two-time winner of the Graham and Dodd Award for his research.
  • Vaughan Executive in Residence at the University of Missouri's Trulaske College of Business.
  • Member of the governing board of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Finance at NYU.
  • Named one of the 50 Most-Influential People in Global Finance by Bloomberg Markets magazine.


Three Questions with Cliff

Twenty years ago, what did you hope to accomplish when you founded AQR? 

We wanted to build a successful, profitable company doing things we believed in and found fascinating. In graduate school, my friends (and future partners) and I explicitly talked about how great it would be if we could explore the fascinating things we were studying, but with the economics of entrepreneurship behind us. That’s a tough combination to beat.

I used to say our proudest accomplishment was surviving the crazy tech bubble during our first year or two in 1999-2000. I’m still proud of that. We’re not market-timers or bubble-spotters. We’ve only shouted about it once in our careers and it worked out. Sticking with a good strategy in the tough times is a lot harder than you’ll ever understand from a backtest.

Nowadays, I think I’m proudest that we’ve led the charge on fair fees. That doesn’t always mean rock-bottom fees. But, it means pay very little for beta, pay a lot for alpha if you think you’ve found it, and pay something in the middle for what have come to be called “factor” strategies or “styles.” I think some firms would’ve kept to the old model, charged more for a few years, but ultimately faded in significance as the world changed on them. I’m proud that we didn’t do that, but led from the front.


Who’s your favorite superhero?

Sorry to be so cliché, but it’s Captain America. Yeah, the patriotism gets to me, but it’s much more than that. He really has no superpowers, yet he is the hero that the other heroes turn to as their leader. And, just to be contrarian, the Captain America I was raised on in the 1970s was patriotic but not a caricature. He turned quite cynical during the Watergate years, even ditching his name to become a hero called Nomad for a while. So, I guess I’m saying I also think the man has depth! Second would have to be Wolverine because, you know, he’s the best at what he does and what he does isn’t always nice.


If an economic law was named after you, what would it be?

It’s a pretty trivial law—many of them are when you get down to it—but it would be something like, “There is no investment so great that there isn’t a fee large enough to make it lousy.” Unfortunately, I don’t see Cliff’s Law becoming a common term for that idea too soon. 

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