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Financial Darwinism: Create Value or Self-Destruct in a World of Risk Hardcover – November 10, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470385464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470385463
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #796,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"As the world places increasing emphasis on fair valuation, risk-based financial disclosure and risk-focused regulation, Tilman's guide becomes more important for CEOs, directors and fiduciaries who must build risk evaluation into all fundamental decisions." (Corporate Governance)

“While Tilman's thesis is directed to financial firms, the concept applies to all businesses. Failure to adopt a risk management strategic planning model will lead to extinction, hence the "Darwinism" in the title. Summing Up: Recommended.” (Choice, April 2009)

"...Tilman couldn't have chosen a better time...clearly written and with plenty of rational advice for financial institutions" (City A.M., December 11th 2008)

"One of the book's merits is that he offers tables that provide taxonomies of business model transformation." (Financial World, February 2009)

"This book is highly recommended for finance professional sat all levels of an organization as well as investors desiring insights into how firms can weather the "tectonic shift" in the financial landscape. The terminology and models used should be within the grasp of anyone who has taken an undergraduate course in finance." (Journal of Corporate Finance and Accounting)

“[Tilman] sees much to be learned from the collective blindness that led to the economic meltdown. … says the first steps to recovery are humility and innovation” (Alpha magazine)

"This book offers a deeply thoughtful and well-reasoned analysis of what has gone wrong and the outlines of an eventual road to recovery." (Financial Executive International)

From the Inside Flap

The world of modern finance presents a landscape of significant uncertainty, but also of rapid innovation and opportunity. Once-comfortable financial business face increased competition and lower profit margins. Time-tested investment and business strategies are being threatened by disruptive technologies and globalization. “Once-in-a-lifetime” financial crises seem to be occurring with an alarming regularity. More than ever before, success rests on the ability to make sense of the profound changes, link up seemingly unrelated phenomena, and understand the global forces at play. In Financial Darwinism, author Leo Tilman analyzes the tectonic financial shift that has taken place over the past quarter century and then comprehensively explores the challenges facing financial institutions—as well as the entire universe of their potential responses.

Financial Darwinism explores why and how financial firms must continuously evolve amidst genuine complexity and uncertainty in order to survive and remain competitive. It analyzes the strategic, investment, regulatory, and public policy implications of a “future that has already happened” and identifies actionable ways of putting new ideas into practice in risk-focused manner.

This book starts by introducing Dynamic Finance—and evolutionary thesis about the origins, the drivers, and the implications of the ongoing financial revolution. After examining how financial institutions used to create economic value in the past, Tilman offers a concise new risk-based approach to thinking about economic performance. He then develops a practical decision-making framework he calls Financial Darwinism that is designed to help financial institutions navigate the dynamic new world. Financial Darwinism—a blend of business strategy, corporate finance, investment analysis, and risk management—gives financial executives and investors a menu of broad choices on how to create economic value. In the process, a new kind of strategic vision, the breadth of global perspective, and command of advanced financial tools are shown to be essential ingredients of success.

This book is about change, and change is always difficult, indeed wrenching—institutions must be redesigned, outdated paradigms discarded, and corporate cultures redefined. However, the alternative—the Darwinian failure to evolve—is far more painful, particularly when capital markets, clients, and competitors beat you to the punch and make difficult choices for you. Financial Darwinism is an invaluable road map to the new financial order and an essential guide to adapting and succeeding in it.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rockwell Stensrud on October 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was fascinated by the premise of Financial Darwinism and found myself agreeing with most of its conclusions and remedies. The subject matter is extremely timely right now. Investors, politicians, and financial people are struggling to understand the new financial world order. An astounding amount of leverage and risk was not at all visible before this crisis and resulting losses were surprising, to say the least.

The theory is solid and fascinating and is clearly a strong suit. This is why I couldn't wait to get to the "real life" examples presented in Chapter 5, which is the heart of the message. The case study of the current financial crisis illustrates why Tilman's theory works. This chapter makes getting through the detail in prior chapters, where the reader is trying to understand the implications of the book's ideas, worth it.

Notwithstanding somewhat excessive use of dashes (the author's amusing style quirk), the clarity of thought is impressive. As a journalist and personal investor, I was afraid that this book would only be understandable (and of use) to finance experts, executives, economists, and such. This was not at all the case - thanks to all the main points clearly laid out in the first chapter.

Despite the Darwinian message, it is likely this book will become the new "bible" for businesses and investors around the world.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By The Reader on October 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Is it really necessary to understand the ongoing tectonic financial shift and evolve, asks Financial Darwinism? Lehman, Fannie, Freddie, Bear Stearns, Countrywide, Wachovia, and AIG did not think so. "survival is not mandatory" is the core theme of this book. If nothing else, this statement is the evident fact of the current crisis.

Tilman's new book is a fascinating eye-opener that exposes what has been happening with capital markets and financial institutions over the past 20 years. I agree with Rubenstein's quote: this book "explains the tectonic shifts now underway in the investment world far better than any book I have seen to date."

The evolutionary thesis called Dynamic Finance is the first part. It explains how global forces have progressively pressured financial businesses and how this, in turn, changed the riskiness of financial firms and the behavior of financial markets. The major innovation here is that risk management language is used to explore issues like corporate earnings and strategy, macroeconomics, and investments. A whole new set of concepts is also introduced: risk-based business models, risk-based economic performance, and risk-based transparency. Even though most of the discussion is focused on financial institutions, all of this cannot be more relevant for non-financial corporations - just think of recent troubles with auction-rate securities, pension plans, and fx losses.

Tilman convincingly argues that a healthy amount of paranoia also won't hurt financial firms and their executives: they need to continuously evolve and strive to create value. Resistance to change inevitably leads to loss of busines`s, larger risks, and ultimately the extinction -- the crux of Darwinism.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marc Andrews on January 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Financial Darwinism is quite a catchy phrase. And how appropriate in our current economic environment to highlight the need for financial services companies to evolve. I just began reading Leo Tilman's book on Financial Darwinism. I'm only about halfway through, but you can fairly quickly discern some good insights into what financial companies must do to survive. The two most significant ideas I've gotten from this so far are that financial organizations must:

1. make changes to their underlying business models to survive
2. begin incorporating risk management as an integral part of their enterprise-wide business decisions, not just as an after-the-fact policing or compliance function

One of my favorite quotes comes from W. Edwards Deming in an attempt to stress the importance of having the appropriate information before making decisions. "In God we trust; all others bring data." Once again, W. Edwards Deming provides some great perspective which Tilman uses to stress the importance of change for financial companies. "It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."

The need for change though is not necessarily what is illuminating. It is the type of change that companies must start to make.

No one will deny that financial companies have been making some significant changes over the past several years to deal with factors such as increased competition, reduced net interest margins, compression of banking fees, limited global inflation, the global savings glut, and other pressures to maintain the growth rates investors and shareholders had come to expect.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Mcritchie VINE VOICE on December 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Just as global climate change has increasingly brought us more frequent "once in a century" weather events, increased competition and economic globalization have resulted in lower margins, increased commodification, and increased risk - leading to a similar pattern of economic volatility centered around our financial institutions.

Leo M. Tilman's Financial Darwinism: Create Value or Self-Destruct in a World of Risk paints a rather bleak picture. He sees systemic financial crises as a "permanent feature of the dynamic new world." This isn't a book for those looking for ideas aimed at governments attempting to reregulate the financial industry, although they would certainly benefit from the reading. Instead, the book offers very practical advice to bankers, institutional investors, and other businesses on how to build risk analysis into strategic decision-making.

In the old paradigm, the risk manager was brought in after major strategic decisions had already been made. In the new paradigm, "risk management becomes the very language of enterprise-wide strategic decisions going forward and that the chief risk officer becomes an executive who gets an equal seat at the table where corporate strategy is decided.
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