AQR Cuts Staff After a Bad Year

The quant powerhouse admits to “small reductions in headcount,” but has not frozen hiring.

Illustration by II

Illustration by II

Quantitative investment firm AQR has laid off some of its staff following a year of poor performance.

A spokesperson for the firm confirmed to Institutional Investor Wednesday that it recently cut a small percentage of its 1,025 employees.

“At AQR, we have experienced record headcount growth over the past three years, including 2018,” the company said in a statement. “Recent small reductions in headcount reflect the need to balance our workforce growth with the current needs of our business.”

Despite the layoffs, AQR’s website still lists some job openings in its business development, human resources, engineering, and legal departments.

Its chief executive officer — the notoriously outspoken Cliff Asness — discussed the hedge fund firm’s floundering performance last fall in a series of posts on AQR’s website. “Long-short systematic value investing (only a subset of what we do in individual stocks) is quite bad this year,” Asness wrote in September. In fact, it has been doing quite poorly since a little after the GFC ended. “What’s different this year versus prior years is that until 2018 other systematic long-short factors more than made up for it (after all, we only really care about the net).”


The year got worse, according to a follow-up post called “The George Costanza Portfolio.” Asness modeled and dismissed the idea of “doing to opposite” of AQR’s long-term strategy due to one bad year.

[II Deep Dive: In Tough Year, Cliff Asness Channels Seinfeld’s George Costanza]

Nearly all of its mutual funds fell in 2018. The firm’s alternative risk premia mutual fund lost 7.51 percent, its website shows, and the long/short equity product fell 16.32 percent.

Three mutual fund strategies finished higher at the end of 2018, including AQR’s global macro fund, which returned 7.8 percent for the year.The firm’s diversified arbitrage fund ended the year up 2.19 precent, and the core plus bond fund, which launched in 2018, is up 0.37% since its inception.

The Greenwich, Connecticut-based company managed $226 billion in assets as of September 30, 2018, according to its website.

An earlier version of this story misstated the number of mutual funds which posted gains in 2018. We regret the error.