In its second major hire in as many months, quantitative boutique Plato Investment Management has recruited a senior member of GMO Australia’s equities team.

Mark Thomson began work at Plato yesterday after leaving his role as senior quantitative research analyst at GMO in late 2010, confirmed Don Hamson, managing director of the boutique.

At GMO, Thomson led the research driving the dynamic weighting of quant signals and other enhancements for portfolio construction in GMO’s long/short funds, Hamson said.

Geoff Wells, head of domestic equities at GMO Australia, declined to comment on how the manager had moved to replace Thomson.

Plato identified Thomson in the same search that uncovered Todd Kennedy, the former head of Asia ex-Japan active equities at State Street Global Advisors (SSgA), who emerged in late 2010 as a newcomer to the Pinnacle-backed boutique.

Plato was searching to replace Gavin Smith, who exited in 2010. With the two new hires, its investment team has reached a headcount of five.

Hamson worked with Kennedy and Thompson in running long/short funds during his tenure at SSgA as head of active equities – Asia-Pacific. He expected the recruits to contribute meaningfully to Plato’s research into ways of improving its process in extreme market conditions, such as those experienced in recent years.

“People from three different organisations would have learned different things; we can put them together to improve the process,” he said.

It made no sense to radically change quantitative processes that worked well until 2008 only to counter “a one-in-20 year event” like the financial crisis, but learning to better cope with the underperformance of momentum as a result of big macroeconomic shocks was a smart move, Hamson said.

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