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The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It | [Scott Patterson]

The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It

In March 2006, the world's richest men sipped champagne in an opulent New York hotel. They were preparing to compete in a poker tournament with ­million-dollar stakes. At the card table that night was Peter Muller, who managed a fabulously successful hedge fund called PDT. With him was Ken Griffin, who was the tough-as-nails head of Citadel Investment Group. There, too, were Cliff Asness, the founder of the hedge fund AQR Capital Management, and Boaz Weinstein, king of the credit-default swap.
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Publisher's Summary

In March 2006, the world's richest men sipped champagne in an opulent New York hotel. They were preparing to compete in a poker tournament with ­million-dollar stakes. At the card table that night was Peter Muller, who managed a fabulously successful hedge fund called PDT. With him was Ken Griffin, who was the tough-as-nails head of Citadel Investment Group. There, too, were Cliff Asness, the sharp-tongued, mercurial founder of the hedge fund AQR Capital Management, and Boaz Weinstein, chess "life master" and king of the credit-default swap.

Muller, Griffin, Asness, and Weinstein were among the best and brightest of a new breed, the quants. Over the past 20 years, this species of math whiz had usurped the testosterone-fueled, kill-or-be-killed risk takers who'd long been the alpha males of the world's largest casino. The quants believed that a cocktail of differential calculus, quantum physics, and advanced geometry held the key to reaping riches from the financial markets. And they helped create a digitized money-trading machine that could shift ­billions around the globe with the click of a mouse. Few realized that night, though, that in creating this extraordinary system, men like Muller, Griffin, Asness, and Weinstein had sown the seeds for history's greatest financial disaster.

©2010 Scott Patterson; (P)2010 Random House

What the Critics Say

"Scott Patterson has the ability to see things you and I don't notice. He does an admirable job of debunking the myths of black box traders and provides a very entertaining narrative in the process." (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, New York Times bestselling author of Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan)

What Members Say

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  •  
    bill morrison geneva, switzerland 30/06/2013
    bill morrison geneva, switzerland 30/06/2013

    Long car journeys need a long audio book. Serious but not depressing, funny but not a joke fest. "Solar" is the benchmark.

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The men who blew up the workd"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Read this to understand how a collection of semi professional gamblers and cash hungry, over achieving maths graduates built the financial H bombs that nuked the global economy.


    What will your next listen be?

    Emotional Intelligence


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The description of the challenge poker session between the Quant analysts just before the whole system almost collapsed.


    Do you think The Quants needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Nope, not until the next catastrophe at any rare.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-1 of 1 results
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  • D. Littman
    OH
    14/04/10
    Overall
    "perhaps the best book on the Quants"

    This is not a great book, in general or on the financial crisis in particular. It is good and it may be one of the best on the origins, mechanisms, models, culture and consequences of the quants on Wall Street. But it seemed to me that Patterson tried to do too much in this book, to tell a human story, a history story, have multiple parallel and intersecting plot lines and so many protagonists (major, minor and very minor) that it was easy to get lost in the text (it is very well read by Chamberlain). It is encyclopedic in some ways, without having the organizational and categorical benefits of being an encyclopedia (which might, in any case, be hard to listen to).

    Before you go away thinking the book is worthless, let me say that many sections, small sections scattered about, are superb. Which is why it gets a 4-star score rather than something lower. Patterson is very good with the root origins, in mathematics and physics, and the more near-term historical origins in the US investor community in the 1950s, 1960s & 1970s. Patterson is quite good at explaining the different threads of quant strategies without getting you bogged all down in math. And he does succeed at times, in the human story, to make you understand some of the players.

    Like any complex event, to fully understand what happened, you have to read more than one book on the subject. Other books on Audible such as those by Tett, Lowenstein and Lewis tend to complement Patterson's book by looking at different facets of the origins of the crisis, the crisis itself and the public policy issues. Tett, Lowenstein & Lewis do not focus so much on the quants, so to fill out your knowledge it may be necessary to pick up Patterson. And since the quants are in many ways right at the center of the crisis, in the way it filled up a bubble, popped the bubble and generated significant contagion effects, it is necessary to understand them.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Kent
    Sioux Falls, SD, USA
    16/04/10
    Overall
    "Too much, too little and just right"

    The previous reviewer pretty much nailed it on the head for me: the author enjoys writing the about the personal -- and largely irrelevant -- stories of the people profile. Had he just spent as much effort unwinding the how and why of the quants approach, I would have enjoyed this book much more. When he doesn't overthink it, the narrative is focus and informative. When he does, its push the work very close to a fictional feel.

    Of course, understanding the level of hubris involved in this culture is part of understanding how and why it lead to the outcomes it did, so it was essential to cover that. Just too much of a good thing here.

    One concluding suggestion: if you decide to invest your time and attention into the offering, make sure you have already done the same or will follow this title up with Taleb's "The Black Swan." Its a great counterpoint this.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • PHIL
    San Diego, CA, United States
    22/08/11
    Overall
    "The best book I've read on modern finance"

    I have gone through several books in this genre, the last being "The Myth of the Rational Market." That is an alright book, but this blows it away on the same topics. This author is a great, standout (not merely good) explainer of events and ideas. The smiles this books brings me along the line are intelligent smiles. He adds just enough color and personal quirky stuff (nerdy of course, as one would expect here) to stay breezy, but is slightly more straighfaced than, say, Michael Lewis. The choice of details and events never wanders far from the big ideas and history being presented. This will get a second listening.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Robert
    JACKSONVILLE, FL, United States
    30/12/10
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well Writtent but Doesn't Get to the Root Causes"

    I found this book entertaining to listen to but I don't believe it gets to the root causes of the financial disaster. I'm currently reading The Black Swan and I find this much more insightful about the fundamental causes of financial crisis. The author of this book wants to confine his discussion to how the quants models were broken but doesn't want to discuss how bankers, government officials, and everyone else was in some way responsible for the downturn. If you are looking for an entertaining look inside the world of hedge funds this would be a good place to start. However, if you are trying to find a book that gets to the causes of the financial crisis I would start somewhere else.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Scott
    New Jersey, USA
    25/09/10
    Overall
    "Sensational, but good"

    My first impression, after the first chapter or so, was to regret my purchase. But I came around on it.


    The bad: The book is sensationalized. Instead of putting things in plain straightforward language, the author chooses to phases such as "every trading system known to God" (to describe the deal some young trader got with his broker). The narrator doesn't help with the sensational aspect, but he generally does a good job. The author can't refer to a mathematician without saying "whiz" or "genius". It is painful if you can't get used to it, and I'm sure that's why the other reviewer hated the book. It can seem insulting to anyone who already knows something about wall street.


    The good: The book actually has a lot of information in it and seems to be well researched. Some of the conclusions and observations made along the way make sense. He describes complex issues well.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Robert
    Leicester, NC, United States
    30/12/10
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well Writtent but Doesn't Get to the Root Causes"

    I found this book entertaining to listen to but I don't believe it gets to the root causes of the financial disaster. I'm currently reading The Black Swan and I find this much more insightful about the fundamental causes of financial crisis. The author of this book wants to confine his discussion to how the quants models were broken but doesn't want to discuss how bankers, government officials, and everyone else was in some way responsible for the downturn. If you are looking for an entertaining look inside the world of hedge funds this would be a good place to start. However, if you are trying to find a book that gets to the causes of the financial crisis I would start somewhere else.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Kevin
    Belmore, Australia
    22/12/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wow! Exciting!"
    Would you listen to The Quants again? Why?

    Wow this is an exciting story, i didn't expect such a thrilling ride through a topic as bland as...maths lol. The rollercoaster of emotions of billions of $ being made and lost is breathtaking.


    What does Mike Chamberlain bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The timing and emphasis is great and really adds to the excitement, making the story easier to understand and appreciate.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Always on the edge of my seat, every chapter develops and progresses.


    Any additional comments?

    I originally got this because i was interested in how qants could be applied to stock trading, the story is quite light and helped me appreciate it more. I also learned a lot about how the GFC happened because of some smart people...who got outsmarted by the formulas they created.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Maneesh
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    08/10/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Exceptional"
    Any additional comments?

    I really enjoyed every bit of the book. The content has been well researched and the story has been exceptionally well written. Loved it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Dave
    Maine
    20/09/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The Quants Have Occupied Wall Street"

    A revolution has taken place on wall street, and Patterson shows us how it happened.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • michael
    EAST PEORIA, IL, United States
    21/02/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "This is a fascinating story"

    This book is very interesting and very well written. The story itself should be called "A confederacy of dunce geniuses". What is inspiring about this story is that it could have only happened in America. Only in America would the conditions be correct for a group of men be so egotistical, "irrationally exuberant", and innovative to the point that they are able to get billions and billions of dollars of other peoples money to invest and make themselves rich in the process, but they did this without ever creating a single thing to sell except paper.

    It also goes to show that the love and creation of money for money's sake is a notion this inherently sick. Behind the study of greed and money for money's sake is a study of personality types. The narcissism of geeks and the drives that this creates is a worth studying all by itself.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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