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Codes of Finance: Engineering Derivatives in a Global Bank [Kindle Edition]

Vincent Antonin Lépinay
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The financial industry’s invention of complex products such as credit default swaps and other derivatives has been widely blamed for triggering the global financial crisis of 2008. In Codes of Finance, Vincent Antonin Lépinay, a former employee of one of the world’s leading investment banks, takes readers behind the scenes of the equity derivatives business at the bank before the crisis, providing a detailed firsthand account of the creation, marketing, selling, accounting, and management of these financial instruments—and of how they ultimately created havoc inside and outside the bank.

Editorial Reviews


"The first in-depth anthropological study of how banks invent new financial products. . . . Lépinay spent nearly two years in a huge French bank . . . And his study is both highly revealing and slightly farcical."--The Guardian

From the Inside Flap

"Codes of Finance is an unusual, provocative, and compelling account of today's structured financial products, from their inception at the desks and computer screens of financial engineers through their evolving agency in the world of trading, to their marketing, sale, and explosive afterlives. This is a tour de force merging science and technology studies with the new social studies of finance, and essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the codes and pragmatic unfoldings of contemporary financial capitalism."--Bill Maurer, University of California, Irvine

"We have not seen an ethnography like Codes of Finance in a long time. Through the prism of innovative financial services designed in a French bank, Vincent Lépinay asks us to revise our conception of organizations, innovations, profit, and speculation, and makes clear why the issue is not so much how to get rid of derivatives as why we need to understand them."--Michel Callon, école des Mines de Paris

"Investment banks are enormously important, yet few social scientists have been inside them. Lépinay's fine ethnography takes us into trading rooms and back offices, examining machines as well as people, and investigating the variety of specialized languages needed to capture the properties of financial products. His book is a vital introduction to a style of economic sociology very different from that dominant in the Anglo-American world."--Donald MacKenzie, author of An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets

"Codes of Finance sets a new standard for the ethnography of finance. This is the first ethnographic study to focus directly on financial formulas (or "products"), without caricaturing them or domesticating financial reasoning to well-trodden academic debates. It powerfully communicates the detail of financial knowledge--detail about the formulas, their production, and their interpretation by various human and nonhuman actants--from an astonishing range of vantage points within the knowledge production process. The book is a must-read for anthropologists of knowledge and for creative thinkers within the financial markets alike."--Annelise Riles, author of Collateral Knowledge: Legal Reasoning in the Global Financial Markets

"In this rich and fascinating ethnography, Vincent Lépinay takes the reader through the front and back offices of derivatives trading. Lépinay understands the codes--the secrets, the software, and the silent frames--of finance. This is must reading for economic sociologists as well as for anyone interested in the forefront of new research on organizations and technology. A wonderful book."--David Stark, author of The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life

"We are the masters of what we create--that is the myth. The reality is that we often do not even understand what we create. As Lépinay shows, this is the case with today's engineered financial products. This book is an important step toward solving the mystery of the lack of mastery in the world of finance."--Bruno Latour, coauthor of Laboratory Life

Product Details

  • File Size: 1642 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0691151504
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 8, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,850 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid book June 10, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I borrow John Van Maanen's accolade: splendid. This book is based on truly participant observation, as the author was a graduate student in mathematical finance who held jobs in three functions of the loosely disguised investment bank. Therefore, he is able to discuss the nature of the financial product he focuses on, and the challenges that the major specialties in the bank (quant, financial engineer, trader, sales) had in coordinating their (mis)understandings. Although the book has implications for investors and for regulators, it strikes me as an exceptionally well done study of the challenges of organizational design for firms with sophisticated financial instruments. That is, the main implications appear to be managerial.
As an aside, as there is another review here with claims at odds with mine, may I refer to the issue of "coffee" that it addresses. With the Kindle edition, I am able to search for all the instances of that term in the book. There are three, and they involve the issue of how the various specialists seek - with very limited time - to gain information from the other specialties. Moreover, these examples are not representative of the style of the book, which is fairly readable but considerably more abstract as a rule. Not that there would be a problem with more such detail, but as noted the author is a mathematical finance scholar who somehow managed to pull off a very well done ethnography.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nimble, brilliant, virtuoso performance September 19, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book has a pretty novel approach of following a financial product around, through all the changes and personnel and firm frameworks that it touches on. This is quite effective.
I wish I could describe this book as well as the author describes countless nuanced things. The author's (and reader's) point of view moves effortlessly (with a grace and brevity of language that is at once business-and-economics-based, yet artful), all around a bank, a certain set of deals, the various participants, and crucial issues that arose as these participants inked deals, sought their own aims, and collided with complex realities. For example, how does a trader (as well as the middle and back office, risk management folks and so on) hedge and otherwise manage a portfolio of deals that shifts constantly across multiple markets of "underlyings" and that the clients can change during the term of the contract? What do the accountants do with this secretive and opaque mass of transactions, and the investors in the company's stock? Who inside the firm has motives to keep their job obscure and opaque when managers, accountants, regulators and others come sniffing around? Who is quick to jump ship for other opportunities? How can a product like this endanger the firm's culture and the firm itself? What about other companies that might be looking to snap up people and parts of this firm? Where are the fault lines where things can break down? The aims and perceptions of each player are mapped lucidly, as well as conflicts and other dynamics that creep up, that can threaten not only individual players but the whole firm. The author describes these abstractions with just the right words and phrases, frequently in the familiar business language, and sometimes with a virtuoso original choice of words/observations.
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0 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars waste of money August 8, 2012
By trdr555
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is trash. there is in this nothing about Finance The author is explaining irrelevant things like traders body language, his coffee time etc.
nonsense. What is the idea behind writing such books?
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