The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 43: Michael Mills

HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Michael Mills in Hong Kong for a chat about Queen, video games, ice water, getting back up when knocked down, Flight of the Phoenix, sushi in Roppongi, fast driving and much more. Michael has recently launched AltsGuru, a strategic consulting and business development business in the alternative investments industry. Previously, Michael was a Managing Director at Value Partners and has also worked at The New Amsterdam Group, RV Capital Management, OCP Asia, Citi and UBS.

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

My news comes almost exclusively from the internet. I use “aggregators” like Google News to see general and specific articles and then my subscriptions – like Wall Street Journal, South China Morning Post, etc. – to dive deeper. I don’t watch news on television – I may see clips on the internet – and I no longer buy anything in print – newspapers, magazines, books – but happy to read or watch all of those digitally.

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Just spending time with my family is enough, whether we go out or just watch TV at home. I sometimes play strategy video games on my computer.

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

Recently read (via audiobook) “Blowout” by Rachel Maddow but prefer biographies and am finishing Robert Caro’s “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” series.

Your soundtrack of choice?

I have wide-ranging eclectic tastes. But one for you, Stefan: “A Kind of Magic” by Queen – the soundtrack for the film “Highlander”.

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

Ice water. A surprise to many is that I don’t actually like the taste of coffee and I don’t drink alcohol at home. I got off my Coke Zero “addiction” a few years ago.

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

There are so many, that it’s hard to figure the “worst”. I’ve always said that I’m not smart enough to run money, that’s why I’m a marketer.

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

I’ve had several people in my life over time who have helped me move further along – from my high school physics teacher, Mr Turner, who made science magical, to my ROTC drill sergeant, First Sgt Yanizi, who taught me to get back up when knocked down, to my father who said to stick with finance during the crisis.

What gives you energy?

Believing in something – whether it’s an idea or a fund. “I think a man only needs one thing in life. He just needs someone to love. If you can’t give him that, then give him something to hope for. And if you can’t give him that, just give him something to do.” – Flight of the Phoenix.

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Ikekan in Roppongi, Tokyo. Many people know that it’s the only sushi restaurant I like in the whole world.

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

Rodin Museum in Paris. Love his sculptures – The Gates of Hell alone is iconic as the definitive visualisation of Dante’s Inferno, but it also includes The Thinker, The Shades, etc. It’s also incredible to see Walking Man up close instill movement in a stationary object.

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

No, not really. I mainly use LinkedIn as a way to establish and keep business connections – but nothing else.

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

Driving fast. Even though I gave up my sports car for a minivan, I’ve had the question from a passenger: “Is this a turbo?” My answer: “No – I just drive like it is!”

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

A suit without a tie is my standard, even on dress-down days.

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Not really. A happy fist pump is all I need and then move to the next battle.

What makes you happy?

The simple things: family and a good job. A good cigar and with some good rum, add some spice to life.