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How I Became a Quant: Insights from 25 of Wall Street's Elite Paperback – August 3, 2009

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How I Became a Quant: Insights from 25 of Wall Street's Elite + My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance + The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The "quants"——Wall Street's disciples of quantitative analysis——have become the mar-ket's new superstars. Their mathematical models are now the basis for such financial market innovations as exotic derivatives, structured investment products, quantitative trading strategies, and portfolio selection.

What brought about this path-breaking investment revolution? Some cite the beginning of trading in exchange-listed equity options in 1973, while others credit the arrival of desktop computing around 1980. But perhaps the most important factor was the dramatic increase in the volatility of prices. It was this aversion to increasing uncertainty experienced by financial market participants——real, living, breathing people—that led to the quant revolution. So who are these people who develop the mathematical models that create new ways to allow people to modify their exposure to risk? How do they do what they do? Where did they come from? In How I Became a Quant, you will find firsthand accounts direct from the people who were swept into, and then helped fashion, today's "quant-driven," dynamic world of finance.

More than two dozen quants tell their stories here and detail the varying paths they have followed——often from university graduate departments of physics, math-ematics, and engineering——to Wall Street. Peter Carr, head of Quantitative Financial Research at Bloomberg, tells of his progression from cornering the local paper delivery market as a boy in Toronto to teaching at Cornell to ultimately helping Bloomberg start up its quant group. Leslie Rahl, President of Capital Market Risk Advisors, describes how she excelled in math and science as a girl, went on to MIT——so as not to be seen as "weird," as she thought might happen at other schools——and joined Citibank at a time when they had only two women VPs in the entire worldwide organization. Andrew Weisman, Managing Director of Merrill Lynch, reveals an academic background that began with study of the classics——Plato to Popper, Beowulf to Virginia Woolf, and oddly enough, swimming lessons.

These unlikely superstars of Wall Street now provide the intellectual horsepower to fulfill the dream of unlimited ability to manage risks through trading financial instruments. These are the stories behind their careers.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

Praise for How I Became a Quant

"Led by two top-notch quants, Richard R. Lindsey and Barry Schachter, How I Became a Quant details the quirky world of quantitative analysis through stories told by some of today's most successful quants. For anyone who might have thought otherwise, there are engaging personalities behind all that number crunching!"
—Ira Kawaller, Kawaller & Co. and the Kawaller Fund

"A fun and fascinating read. This book tells the story of how academics, physicists, mathematicians, and other scientists became professional investors managing billions."
—David A. Krell, President and CEO, International Securities Exchange

"How I Became a Quant should be must reading for all students with a quantitative aptitude. It provides fascinating examples of the dynamic career opportunities potentially open to anyone with the skills and passion for quantitative analysis."
—Roy D. Henriksson, Chief Investment Officer, Advanced Portfolio Management

"Quants"—those who design and implement mathematical models for the pricing of derivatives, assessment of risk, or prediction of market movements—face the unprec-edented challenge of navigating some of the most volatile markets we have ever seen.

How I Became a Quant reveals the individuals behind this revolution, offering you the chance to learn firsthand what it's like to be a quant today. In this fascinating collection of Wall Street war stories, more than two dozen quants detail their roots, roles, and contributions, explaining what they do and how they do it, as well as outlining the sometimes unexpected paths they have followed from the halls of academia to the front lines of an investment revolution.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 404 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470452579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470452578
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #468,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jim Kucharczyk on November 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A collection of first person narratives from some of the leaders of the quant revolution in financial markets over the last 3 decades. Some of the story telling seemed perfunctory, but in other cases it was downright inspiring. Most provide insight into the workings of Wall Street and the more exotic instruments and strategies in play in today's markets, and as such were of value to this non-professional reader.

Poor editing became annoying; words were not only misspelled, they were actually missing and had to be inferred from context.

Emmanuel Derman's "My Life as a Quant" provides only one story and not 25, but it is told with deep personal insight and a sense of humor. It also provides more technical discussion of a number of the important financial models developed and utilized in the market since the 1980s. For those interested in understanding how a hard scientist transitions from academia into finance, I would recommend it as a much better starting place than "How I Became a Quant."

My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance
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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Yin Luo on July 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although people may argue why this and that person was not on the Wall Street's quant elite list, I'd say that the authors picked an amazing list of 25 quants, representing quantitative equity portfolio management, market microstructure, derivatives pricing, and risk management. Yes, as you may not be aware of, there are two types of quants, one in quantitative equity/market microstructure and one in derivatives pricing/risk management. They are somewhat related, but use very different tools. The former is less well known until early 2000s (the boom of market neutral hedge funds) and the latter is overly covered in academic programs since late 1990s.

It's very interesting and inspiring to learn how these 25 quants became quants. Many with physics/math background came to finance, due to the cut of funding in hard science after the cold war. Many people became quants because of "accident". Few people came to this world because they had wanted to do quant finance from the beginning. Of course, it's all different now. Smart and ambitious university students aim at quant finance from day one. There are also many graduate computation finance/financial engineering/math finance programs to choose from, so you don't have to go through a lengthy PhD program.

Life is highly path dependent (as many of the 25 quants said in the book). Choose your career careful, but more importantly, choose something that you really enjoy (and hopefully, also something you are really good at) - this is one of the key messages in the book. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone with a keen interest in joining the quant finance world.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By MartinD on November 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It seems almost every chapter is a variation on this answer to the question:

i) You don't become a "quant", because nobody can really defin what that is, but thanks for asking
ii) I got where I am today through skill, work, and (lots of) luck
iii) here's my well-polished story
iv) story

Still, it's a good read, mostly. Many chapters are interesting for the further reading they suggest, or questions they raise.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By ohmysohopeless on August 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am one of those in a quantitative science field who might consider moving into finance. Based on the book title, the book is an obvious must-read for somebody in that situation. However, I must warn that you cannot get much out of the book unless you are somewhat familiar with the very basic terms and concepts of finance, as most essays do describe authors' endeavors in the financial field. I have absolutely no working knowledge of finance and could get nothing out of reading when financial concepts are discussed. If you can, it is recommended that you obtain a bit of basic financial knowledge from other sources before reading this one. A vast majority of essays are not written for pure finance novices; they are rather targeted toward young economics or finance majors or just those already in the field who want to reminisce with buddies.

The quality of writing varies substantially from one essay to another. On the one side of the spectrum are terse biographical sketches of how some became successful quants, merely listing their past projects. On the other side are rather philosophical proses of how "failed" PhDs in other quantitative disciples found themselves home in finance. That makes the book overall appearance of being incoherent, but it is still useful since we can read about a couple dozen different experiences.

Editing clearly lacks rigor as there are numerous typos and uncorrected grammatical mistakes - a minutia that gives rise to an impression that the book could have been much better given a proper attention and direction. However, for someone like myself in a situation similar to some authors who chose to jump ships, being able to read on their experiences is very valuable, since there is so much uncertainty.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Thomason on February 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book gives 24 chapters of stories from different people. These quants are learned and respectable guys: many of them have PhD's from top business schools. Some of them stumbled upon the world of Finance quite by chance and others wanted to be there from when they were in nappies.

I struggled through the book. Some of the chapters are good and some are really boring as the authors ramble on like true academics about how many papers they have written and which journals they have been in. Some also enjoy name-dropping a lot which I found irritating. Other chapters are just simply too complex for the man in the street. An example is: "I notice that the straightforward code in Numerical Recipes only goes to a fairly low number of dimensions: 6! Whilst they tabulate the required primitive polynomials modulo two up to dimension 160, the equally crucial initialisation numbers are only there up to dimension 6..." Really?

I am sure this means a lot to some mathematicians and is elegant and beautiful but I struggled to get excited about it. I have completed 3 years of Engineering Maths and that was enough thanks.

Overall, I would recommend reading it only if you are considering a career deep in the quantitative modelling division of Goldman Sachs or something. If you are just an average Joe trying to pick stocks through a bit of fundamental and technical analysis in order to build up some extra cash on the side, give this one a skip...in my humble opinion.
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