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Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and unknowns in the dazzling world of derivatives 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0273704744
ISBN-10: 0273704745
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Editorial Reviews


"Traders, Guns & Money is very fresh history, just two years old. Das picks apart the new machinery of the mega-trillion-dollar derivatives market, the one economists say might be next to collapse on our heads. And I'm with him, I really am. The guy has a thing for ridiculous puns and also for pitiable characters. We meet a couple of noodle makers who wreck their company on a deal no one but Das seems to understand. But by the end of his book, you'll get the deal too, I promise.” – All Things Considered, NPR, October 15, 2008

“WHETHER you are an investor, an observer of financial markets, or even an investment professional, Satyajit Das's Traders, Guns & Money should prove an entertaining, eye-opening read. –The Business Times, Singapore, September 27, 2008

“With the financial crisis tightening its chokehold on global banks, Das' forewarnings - outlined in his 2006 book Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives - are looking rather timely. Still, some in the industry initially scoffed at his warnings.” – The Toronto Star, September 23, 2008

"The sexier side of finance ... at last ... a convincing picture of what life is like in today's modern financial industry. Traders Guns and Money by Satyajit Das not only has a catchy title, it actually manages to entertain, educate and inform."  Corporate Financier, July 2006

"A must read for all CEOs, CFOs, Bankers and anyone who cares about what banks are doing with their money." - Finance Asia, May 2006

"... revealing insider's account"  - Director, April 2006

"... true rarity: a derivatives book that keeps your attention all the way through. " FOW April 2006

"... a welcome addition to the literature."  - The Sheet, April 2006

"... a scalpel of a book" - Financial Engineering News, July 2006

"A distincly timely book... This makes fascinating reading.... A good crib sheet for how the whole derivatives game works. " - Financial Times, May 2006

"Forewarned is forearmed." - Money Week, May 2006

"Das is especially good on structured products and on the recently fashionable world of structured credit... a diverting read" - Financial World, July 2006

"a worthwhile read for anyone with connection to the financial world" - World Finance, July 2006

"The murky and complex world of finances and derivatives is scrupulously and frantically told in this brilliant narrative. ... This is a collection and recollection of exquisite financial tales well worth your time.' Convergence, September 2006

"...a fascinating and compelling insight into the world of derivatives... [TGM has] a page turning quality more reminiscent of a John Grisham novel than a dissertation on derivatives." - FINASIA, October 2006

"An absorbing accessible primer... scoots along at a blistering pace" - Wilmott Magazine, December 2006

Author featured as expert in Asia Risk, Bloomberg, Financial Times all in December 2006

"one of the most entertaining investment books I've read in a long time... I can't recommend this book strongly enough" - Blogginstocks Jan 07

"part thriller, part expose… will be useful for anyone with connection to finance…will tell you some of the truth of what really does go on." Society of Business Economists Book Review - Jan 07

From the Back Cover

Warren Buffet once memorably described derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”. Read this sensational and controversial account of the often dazzling business of derivatives trading, and see if you agree.


No money is ever really made in financial markets. Markets merely transfer wealth. As to how to make money? Well, it is basically theft, misrepresentation, lies, cheating, deception or force. It is impossible to make the staggering amounts made in derivatives in good years honestly.

Traders, Guns & Money is a wry and wickedly comic exposé of the culture, games, and pure deceptions played out every day in trading rooms around the world, usually with other people’s money. Whether you move in the financial world yourself, know people who do, or have money invested in stocks, shares or derivatives, this is a fascinating read guaranteed to make you think.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (May 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0273704745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0273704744
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #690,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is not another journalist musing on the financial world. This is not an academic explanation of how financial instruments work. It's something else entirely -- a rare inside glimpse into the world of derivatives by a literate professional who's been a handshake away (or closer) from the major events in the market. Das leavens a series of technical discussions about particular strategies with more entertaining glimpses into the culture the drives the deals. Although I have bones to pick with the book's episodic structure, I can't think of a better way to get a crash course in how the capital markets really work.
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"Knowns and unknowns in the dazzling world of derivatives" great subtitle and the author really delivers. I love books on finance. Possibly stemming from being dropped on my head as a child. Some are pretty brutal to read but this one is as entertaining as it is educational.

I was familiar with some derivatives like futures contracts and options, before reading this book. Now derivatives like CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligations), CCO (Commodity Collateralized Obligations), currency swaps, interest rate swaps, or even inverse floaters make sense to me. Obviously I am far from being an expert on any of these, but after reading this book I can now understand why Warren Buffet called derivatives "Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction".

The author does a great job educating you in story-like fashion. The book told of numerous investors that ended up getting screwed by some pretty good salespeople at different dealer firms. Buyer beware comes to mind time and time again as I read these episodes. The treasurer of Orange County California got in way over his head because he was making a ton of money. Which he attributed to his financial wisdom. Then when interest rates went against him and his county lost 1.5 billion dollars he changed his tune saying he had some kind of brain defect and could not understand numbers. That would have been handy for the voters of Orange County to know BEFORE they elected him to office.

I guess there are many reasons to use derivatives like avoiding taxes, moving risk from highly regulated areas to less regulated areas, using loans as collateral for even bigger loans, or repackaging bad credit in a way that transfers the risk to someone else.
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Format: Paperback
As a derivatives trader I've seen many of my colleagues who just enter the field paying hundreds of dollars for thousands of pages of Mr. Das highly unreadable and stupefying compendiums on the subject of structured products. It is impossible to imagine a more serious and devote approach to derivatives than that exuding from his technical volumes. In comparison this new book feels like a gush of fresh air and while demystifying and ridiculing what used to be his bread and butter Mr. Das may look a bit cynical it is an honest book full of interesting and plausible examples and stories. For novices it can be very educational and for experts quite entertaining. It is like a memoir of a spy who turned out to be a double agent on his lifetime in secret services. When a guy knows so much who cares what side he was serving on?
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Format: Paperback
This book is really two, rather disimmilar, halves. I suspect that the kind of audience that would enjoy each half would be different too.

First, it is worth noting that Das is very knowledgeable about derivatives, not only in a marketing, but also a technical sense. He has written a series of (very lengthy and very good) books over the years on most aspects of derivatives/structured products.

Knowing his background and given my own significant experience with derivatives, I found the first half of the book (before the chapters on risk management and models)boring and not much more than a collection of trading floor anecdotes that tried to make the author sound more "hip" than I suspect he is. There was very little of substance, other than a bit of flavor.

If you can stay the course, the book gets progressively much better in the middle as it adresses risk management, models and structured products (first FX and interest rate, then equity and, finally, credit). It would be difficult to appreciate the full significance of some of the things Das was telling you about the shortcomings of these products, their risks and the ways they are sold without a decent prior knowledge. I felt there were still rather too many slick anecdotes and phrases, but that there was real substance too. I found myself saying, at several points: "oh, that's a very inciteful point," (e.g. for a convertible bond, from the investors' perspective, if they don't convert the bond into stock because the issuer's equity price is too low, that's probably precisely the time that, when they are left with a bond, the issuer's credit quality for the bond payments has suffered along with the stock price).
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed reading the book Traders, Guns, and Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives by Satyajit Das. It is an interesting book in that it is a fictionalized autobiography of Das. As the book outlines the author's professional life in finance, it describes how he got involved in financial derivatives. The primary purpose of the book is to give a primer on derivatives, how they were created, how they are used, their benefits, and their dangers. The author's use of humor along with the hilarious vignettes of his finance associates (Nero, Clem/Crem, Adewiko, Budi, etc.) and funny anecdotes from his career made the book fun to read.

The book really helped explain what exactly derivatives are (giving me a good review of some of what I was taught in college) and how they are used today. I also appreciated the in-depth analysis of several well-known instances where derivatives were used by investors and companies which really helped to demonstrate their application in the real world as well as the oftentimes hidden dangers of using these financial tools. I found his discussion of the currency swap done by the Walt Disney Company in the 1980's to be of particular interest to me. Despite the fact that I previously read the HBS case study during a Derivatives and Risk Management course which I took as a student at Harvard, Das's explanation of the incident really gave me an even better understanding of how exactly the transaction was structured and how it eventually went wrong. His explanation of why Disney's financial advisors made the deal so complex was also amusing. (You will have to read the book to find out.)

Moreover, Satyajit Das really underscored the complex nature of derivatives and their use in either speculative bets or in hedges.
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