Tuesday, March 10, 2009

They Tried to Outsmart Wall Street - NYTimes.com

They Tried to Outsmart Wall Street - NYTimes.com:
"They are known as “quants” because they do quantitative finance. Seduced by a vision of mathematical elegance underlying some of the messiest of human activities, they apply skills they once hoped to use to untangle string theory or the nervous system to making money."

* "As Dr. Derman put it in his book “My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance,” “In physics there may one day be a Theory of Everything; in finance and the social sciences, you’re lucky if there is a useable theory of anything.”

* "Physicists began to follow the jobs from academia to Wall Street in the late 1970s, when the post-Sputnik boom in science spending had tapered off and the college teaching ranks had been filled....Things got even worse after the cold war ended....They arrived on Wall Street in the midst of a financial revolution."

*"Stock options, however, were where this revolution was to have its greatest, and paradigmatic, success....But it gets more complicated than that. For example, markets are not perfectly efficient — prices do not always adjust to right level and people are not perfectly rational....As a result, prices do not fluctuate according to Brownian motion. Rather, he said: “Markets tend to drift upward or cascade down. You get slow rises and dramatic falls.”
And so you do not get the impression that the quants are to blame:
"I regard quants to be the good guys,” said Eric R. Weinstein, a mathematical physicist who runs the Natron Group, a hedge fund in Manhattan. “We did try to warn people,” he said. “This is a crisis caused by business decisions. This isn’t the result of pointy-headed guys...who didn’t understand volatility or correlation..”
"The recent debacle has only increased the hunger for scientists on Wall Street, according to Andrew Lo, an M.I.T. professor of financial engineering"
VERY good read. Highly recommend reading it!

BTW this is also mentioned in the NY Times Science Podcast (which is remarkably interesting) even if they do not pronounce Scholes like anyone in finance but like "Skoles".


Highgamma said...

This is the dumbest article that I have ever read in the Science section of the New York Times. Might as well blame Bill Gates for investing Excel. I can hear the quants now, "I feel so “seduced” and “teased” about my Faustian bargain."

pjcalafi said...

There's a Scholes who is an English soccer player and on the BBC they mention him as "Skoles"