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As a former M&A banker, Man Group CEO Peter Clarke knows the importance of integrating operations thoroughly after a merger. So following Man’s blockbuster purchase of GLG Partners last year — which created the world’s largest hedge fund manager, with more than $69 billion in assets — Clarke was determined to bridge the yawning gap between GLG’s brash entrepreneurial culture, which gives free rein to its star portfolio managers and lets staff dress casually at its office in London’s swank Mayfair district, and the buttoned-down corporate atmosphere at Man, whose core business relies on finely honed computer systems rather than individual personalities and whose City of London office brims with suits.

“One of the biggest cultural questions we faced as a result of the merger with GLG was whether or not jeans should be allowed in our offices,” Clarke says in a recent interview in Man’s boardroom, sporting a well-cut dark gray suit and a crisp white shirt with no tie. So he put the matter to a vote in the management committee, “and now people are allowed to wear jeans in Man’s Sugar Quay building as well as in GLG’s Curzon Street office,” he says. The change has yet to filter down to the shop floor, though. Formal business attire still predominates at Man’s headquarters, while many of GLG’s staff — including principal Pierre Lagrange, whose scruffy goatee and shoulder-length hair make him look more like a rock star than a fund manager — appear to regard jeans as part of their uniform.

The sartorial contrast may seem trivial, but it’s symbolic of deeper differences in style and business practices at the two outfits. Over two decades beginning in the mid-1980s, Man transformed itself from a commodities trading firm into the world’s largest hedge fund manager by acquiring managed-futures traders and fund-of-funds operations and then selling their products aggressively through a high-powered marketing network, mostly to retail clients in Europe and Asia. Its main unit, $23.6 billion-in-assets AHL, is a virtual black box, relying on quantitative formulas refined by armies of Ph.D.s to follow — and profit from — price trends in everything from currencies and commodities to stocks and bonds. In an industry defined by larger-than-life personalities such as Steven Cohen, John Paulson and George Soros, Man is an anomaly. Cognoscenti in the City and on Wall Street would be hard-pressed to identify a single one of its fund managers. The names that come to mind — Clarke and his predecessor Stanley Fink — are both lawyers by training.