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on October 26, 2006
The Volatility Surface is an-ultra modern account of derivatives pricing and hedging. Indeed of the fifty-two bibliographical references a mere twenty were written before 1999. The book makes the case for option pricing models which incorporate randomness into stock price volatility (stochastic volatility) and jumps into stock price movements. By themselves these are not new models, but a coherent understanding of their relationship to the dynamics of the volatility surface and to derivatives valuation is new, and Gatheral does an admirable job of presenting a great deal of the most modern work in this area - including some of his own - in one place.

The topic is necessarily mathematical in nature and Gatheral spares the reader nothing of the full-on mathematical treatment; but he nevertheless manages to distill the essence of the most important mathematics into easily accessible, intuitive explanations that supplement the readers understanding. Thus this book should have broad appeal to practitioners of all levels, especially traders and those familiar with the basics of derivatives valuation. Gatheral succeeds in this vein so well, I believe, because he is a first-rate quant and a a long-time senior quant at Merril Lynch.

The book gives an excellent treatment of the relationship between stock price dynamics which actually explain option prices observed in the market and the necessity of studying the volatility surface to have a complete understanding of derivatives valuation. He does a great job of justifying the key models he reviews and then studies the implications for derivatives valuation.

As an expert practitioner, his choices reflect what is really out there in the market, so readers should pay attention. As a first rate quant, his mathematics and his grasp of the literature on option pricing will expose readers to the best of the best.

Of particular note is his last chapter on volatility instruments, in particular variance swaps, volatility swaps and options on volatility. This is an important market that was just getting started in the late 1990s but has burgeoned into one of the most active and important markets in equity derivatives. This chapter is a must for anyone interested in understanding the subtelties involved in understanding variance swap and volatility swap valuation, and is alone worth the cover price.
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on September 19, 2006
The academic literature on stochastic volatility models is vast and often difficult to understand or at least to gain a coherent view of the field from. This book provides a succinct introduction. It is well written without over simplifying issues.

Things are looked at from the view of a practitioner rather than an academic. Proofs are generally not formal and are designed to stress financial insight over rigour. But it is important to state that "practitioner" means quant rather than trader, and that this is not a piece of light reading!

I was pleased to see sections on asymptotic solutions, volatility derivatives and an introduction to credit but was a little disappointed by the brevity of the bibliography.

A good book to have around.
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on December 23, 2014
This book contains a lot of errors. Even after reviewing errata, I have still found errors in taking differentials which made me loose a lot of time trying to figure out the correct formulation. I literally had to drive the formula on myself. I checked with the original papers sometimes. I wish writers pay more attention to what they write when they publish a book.
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on November 22, 2013
Jim Gatheral's book offers an expertly presented practitioner's perspective on modeling implied option volatility in the context of equity derivatives. The author, a leading expert and practitioner in the area, introduces the reader to the industry standard models (Heston, SVI, SABR), and shows how to make the complex math of these models work on trading desks.
The book dispenses with the technical niceties that go with advanced theory of stochastic processes, and instead focuses on the meat of the problem. That allows the author to tell the story on 180 pages, each of which is packed with information and insight.
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on November 12, 2006
The book is a great guide to understanding the different models used on Wall Street to capture the intricacies of modeling and pricing derivatives. The books focus of using models as a tool and NOT a solution is a great reminder to both traders and salespeople.

This summarized when the author describes the pricing of a digital cliquet.

"Those sellers using local Vol models will certainly value a digital cliquet at a lower price than sellers using stochastic volatility. Perversely then, those sellers using an inadequate model will almost certainly win the deal and end up short a portfolio of misvalued forward-starting digital options. OR even worse, a dealer could have an appropriate valuation approach but be pushed internally by the salespeople to match (mistaken) competitors' lower prices."
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on August 28, 2009
A good book for its wide view of all the topics linked to the volatility trading : stochastic volatility and jumps with a quite rare study of the impact of stochastic vol over the pricing of most commons exotic products like cliquets, lookback etc... The main problem of this book are :
1/ the incredible numbers of errors and typos in the proofs (typos for the two first chapters has been published by the author on the website of the Imperial College where Mr Gatheral has given lessons)
2/ the fact it's not so useful as the link between dividends and vol stochastic isn't treated at all.
3/ Most of the interesting theoretical exposee are clearly uncomplete and needs further investigation. But as the author try to do a wide tour of the subject in a rather limited number of pages, this is not surprising.
4/ This isn't explicit but this is of a weaker interest for stochastic volatility of underlyings other than Equities, index and funds...

So finally, it's a good tour on the subject but for a lot of subjects it look likes a summary. Others books are needed. mainly the Alan Lewis book for Fourier transform's methods of pricing, the Cont/tankov on the Jumps process (see my review of this one) and the Alireza Javaheri's one for a more deeper work on THE calibration problem of stochastic volatility.
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on February 6, 2007
Jim Gatheral has done everyone in quant fin a service by gathering and organizing his lectures, practical execution issues, and experience in this welcome volume, The Volatility Surface: A Practitioner's Guide. This is simply an excellent, clear work that defies the logic that good valuable books in finance don't get written because authors make more money elsewhere. Compare Gatheral with the execrable collection of disjointed papers with Jarrow's name slapped on it (Volatility, Jarrow, et al,1998). This is the book they were trying to write, but it took a practitioner who had his hands dirty and worked hard to try to explain what he was doing to write it.

Topics are rolled out extremely well, and Gatheral dives right in to where practitioners swim: volatility isn't a single data point, or a smile, but a surface and needs to be thought of that way. In explicating the volatility surface and the possible explanations for shapes Gatheral raises the level of conversation for everyone in the field: this is the way we must think of volatility now (until something better comes along, but given the curse of dimensionality my guess is we will be here for a very long time).

This is an excellent, necessary book. Full disclosure: I am not an expert in this field and only have friends who are (many of them are editorial and AMAZON reader reviewers cited here). This book assists me in having interesting and comprehensible conversations with them, but if there are any flaws they likely would escape me. So far, my friends who are experts all agree: thank you Jim Gatheral, excellent job. Very helpful and well worth the money.
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on January 18, 2011
This book of only about 160 pages packs a lot of punch. If you need to get to know anything about the volatility surface, this book will be of use. There are no elaborate derivations of formulae but everything needed is given. As a quant with many years of experience, Gatheral helped me in understanding the nitty gritty and nuances of volatility surfaces much better than before. He covers mostly everything from implied vol to local vol surfaces. It was very useful in my endeavours with variance swaps and generating volatility surfaces from traded data.
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on January 31, 2007
I found this book by Jim Gatheral very useful from a practical standpoint. His insight for trading applications is remarkable. I reccommend this book to any derivative trader to read from cover to cover. Its filled w/ useful tips and concepts that will save you and your firm from the many pitfalls that arise in marketers trying to satisfy their clients at the house's expense.

Managers should make this required reading for all traders.
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on January 4, 2007
Too often we see authors unnecessarily overcomplicate mathematics. Jim Gatheral on the other hand does the reverse. By taking a difficult subject and presenting in a wonderfully concise and pedagogic style he shares with the reader his deep knowledge of volatility. Such an important financial quantity which still appears to invoke fear, Jim Gatheral uses his enviable blend of master practitioner and brilliant academic to combine both the real-world finance principles together with the underlying mathematics to demystify volatility.

The working is beautifully laid out, in a manner that is patient, friendly and approachable - and shows that quant finance need not look greek! This is the measure of a true genius!

As a teacher of mathematical finance, I have no hesitation in strongly recommending this book to students, researchers and practitioners in the field of derivatives.
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