W. Ben Hunt

Co-Founder and CIO

 @EpsilonTheory

Ben Hunt is the creator of Epsilon Theory and inspiration behind Second Foundation Partners, which he co-founded with Rusty Guinn in June 2018.

Epsilon Theory, Second Foundation’s principal publishing brand, is a newsletter and website that examines markets through the lenses of game theory and history. Over 100,000 professional investors and allocators across 180 countries read Epsilon Theory for its fresh perspective and novel insights into market dynamics. As Chief Investment Officer, Ben bears primary responsibility for determining the Company’s investment views and positioning of model portfolios. He is also the primary author of materials distributed through Epsilon Theory.

Ben taught political science for 10 years: at New York University from 1991 until 1997 and (with tenure) at Southern Methodist University from 1997 until 2000. He also wrote two academic books: Getting to War (Univ. of Michigan Press, 1997) and Policy and Party Competition (Routledge, 1992), which he co-authored with Michael Laver. Ben is the founder of two technology companies and the co-founder of SmartEquip, Inc., a software company for the construction equipment industry that provides intelligent schematics and parts diagrams to facilitate e-commerce in spare parts.

He began his investment career in 2003, first in venture capital and subsequently on two long/short equity hedge funds. He worked at Iridian Asset Management from 2006 until 2011 and TIG Advisors from 2012 until 2013. He joined Rusty at Salient in 2013, where he combined his background as a portfolio manager, risk manager, and entrepreneur with academic experience in game theory and econometrics to work with Salient’s own portfolio managers and its financial advisor clients to improve client outcomes.

Ben is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (1986) and earned his Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University in 1991. He lives in the wilds of Redding, CT on Little River Farm, where he personifies the dilettante farmer that has been a stock comedic character since Cicero's day. Luckily his wife, Jennifer, and four daughters, Harper, Hannah, Haven and Halle, are always there to save the day. Ben's hobbies include comic books, Alabama football, beekeeping, and humoring Rusty in trivia "competitions".

Articles by Ben:

The Common Knowledge of Inflation

By Ben Hunt | October 11, 2019 | 3 Comments

“Until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.”

That’s my fave Arthur Miller quote, from The Crucible.

Our Devil is inflation, and today we think him beautiful in Heaven. You’re not ready for the Fall.

Read more

In Chinese, the Emphasis is on the Second Syllable

By Ben Hunt | October 9, 2019 | 4 Comments

Every US company with Chinese consumer-facing products is going to be forced to make a choice. Do you want to preserve your authenticity and your brand, or do you want to preserve your earnings guidance and share price?

Choose one. You can’t have both.

No one will believe me when I say this, but it’s the truth: this is bigger than tariffs.

Read more

Coal Mine, Meet Canary

By Ben Hunt | October 8, 2019 | 1 Comment

I think these emergency actions in the repo market – and to be sure, these ARE emergency actions – and now the expansion of the balance sheet to get more cash into the system, are the clearest indications yet that the Fed has lost its fundamental credibility with Mr. Market.

THE FED IS CONCERNED ABOUT “MAINTAINING A FIRM GRIP” ON ITS CONTROL OVER THE PRICE OF MONEY.

As they say in the twitterverse, let that sink in.

Read more

Imagine That.

By Ben Hunt | October 7, 2019 | 6 Comments

They keep us sick, you know.

They keep us hooked on this framing of something-something Republicans vs. Democrats.

The cure? Take back your distance.

You’ll find your local library to be the perfect place to start.

Read more

Fear Factor

By Ben Hunt | October 4, 2019 | 3 Comments

Yeah, yeah … I know that the Deep State is a powerful adversary. Or at least that’s what my MAGA buddies on twitter keep shouting at me.

But I’ll take the Deep State as an enemy any day compared to Steve Schwarzman and the rest of the Private Equity Tong looking to keep their carried interest tax treatment.

I bet Elizabeth Warren feels the same way.

Read more

When the Product is Free, You’re the Product

By Ben Hunt | October 2, 2019 | 3 Comments

This isn’t a note about Facebook. It’s a note about online brokerage fees. And it’s a note about Facebook.

As a consumer … don’t cry for Argentina, and don’t cry for the online brokerages who are taking their commission fees down to zero. As an investor in or an employee of ANY financial services company, on the other hand … maybe it’s time for a good cry and a hard look at your future prospects.

“Yay, free!”

Read more

The Wages of Populism

By Ben Hunt | September 30, 2019 | 0 Comments

There are two necessary narratives for EM investing to work:

1) Yay, EM growth!
2) Yay, EM property rights!

Both of these narratives are broken, which means the *business* of EM investing is broken. Heads up: this is not a mean-reverting thing.

Read more

The Emerging Market Zeitgeist is Broken

By Ben Hunt | September 30, 2019 | 2 Comments

Yes, Deadwood is the greatest HBO series ever. Don’t @ me. I’m not having it. David Milch is MY President.

And while Al Swearengen is the greatest character of that greatest show, the fact is that it’s another character – George Hearst – who drives the narrative arc for the entire series (and movie).

You see, Deadwood is a show about property rights.

So is the Argentina – IMF show.

Read more

The Right Price of Money

By Ben Hunt | September 27, 2019 | 15 Comments

Overnight repo is where the interest rates that central banks SET meet the interest rates that real economic actors USE.

So what happens when the setting of interest rates becomes a disembodied symbol of governmental will rather than a clearing price of money in the real world? This.

It’s a new common knowledge about central banks, and it changes EVERYTHING.

Read more

The Old Man and the Sea

By Ben Hunt | September 25, 2019 | 0 Comments

The line between the anchor and the boat has been cut. The line between the fisherman and the fish has been cut.

Everyone knows that everyone knows that central bank actions have no connection to real economic outcomes. THIS is the new common knowledge, and I don’t know how or where or when, but I think it changes everything.

Read more