A critical look at the risk measurement tool that has repeatedly hurt the financial world

The Number That Killed Us finally tells the "greatest story never told": how a mysterious financial risk measurement model has ruled the world for the past two decades and how it has repeatedly, and severely, caused market, economic, and social turmoil. This model was the key factor behind the unleashing of the cataclysmic credit crisis that erupted in 2007 and which the effects are still being felt around the world. The Number That Killed Us is the first and only book to thoroughly explain this hitherto-uncovered phenomenon, making it the key reference for truly understanding why the malaise took place.

The very number financial institutions and regulators use to measure risk (Vale at Risk/VaR) has masked it, allowing firms to leverage up their speculative bets to unimaginable levels. VaR sanctioned and allowed the monstrously geared toxic punts that sank Wall Street, and the world, during the latest crisis. We can confidently say that VaR was the culprit. In The Number That Killed Us, derivatives expert Pablo Triana takes you through the development of VaR and shows how its inevitable structural flaws allowed banks to take on even greater risks. The precise role of VaR in igniting the latest crisis is thoroughly covered, including in-depth analysis of how and why regulators, by falling in love with the tool, condemned us to chaos. Uncritically embraced worldwide for way too long, VaR is, in the face of such destruction, just starting to be examined as problematic, and in this book Triana (long an open critic of the tool's role in encouraging mayhem) uncovers exactly why it makes our financial world a more dangerous place. If we care for our safety, we should let VaR go.

Contains controversial analysis of the hotly debated risk metric Value at Risk (VaR) and its central role in the credit crisis Denounces the role of regulators and academics in forcing the presence of the inevitably malfunctioning in financeland Describes how bonus-hungry traders can use VaR as an alibi to take on the most reckless of bets Reveals how the most recent financial crisis will simply repeat itself if the problems behind VaR are not unmasked Pablo Triana is also the author of Lecturing Birds on Flying

The very risk measurement tool that was intended to contain risk allowed financial firms to blindly take on more. The model that was supposed to save us condemned us to misery. The Number That Killed Us reveals how this has happened and what needs to be done to correct the situation.

LECTURING BIRDS ON FLYING

For the past few decades, the financial world has often displayed an unreasonable willingness to believe that "the model is right, the market is wrong," in spite of the fact that these theoretical machinations were largely responsible for the stock market crash of 1987, the LTCM crisis of 1998, the credit crisis of 2008, and many other blow-ups, large and small. Why have both financial insiders (traders, risk managers, executives) and outsiders (academics, journalists, regulators, the public) consistently demonstrated a willingness to treat quantifications as gospel? Nassim Taleb first addressed the conflicts between theoretical and real finance in his technical treatise on options, Dynamic Hedging. Now, in Lecturing Birds on Flying, Pablo Triana offers a powerful indictment on the trustworthiness of financial theory, explaining—in jargon-free plain English—how malfunctions in these quantitative machines have wreaked havoc in our real world.

Triana first analyzes the fundamental question of whether financial markets can in principle really be solved mathematically. He shows that the markets indeed cannot be tamed with equations, presenting a long and powerful list of obstacles to prove his point: maverick unlawful human actions rule the markets, unexpected and unimaginable events shape the markets, and historical data is not necessarily a trustworthy guide to the future of the markets. The author then examines the sources of origin of many prevalent theories and mathematical dictums. He details how the field of financial economics evolved from a descriptive discipline to an abstract one dedicated to technically concocting professors' own versions of how such a world should work. He goes on to explain how Wall Street and other financial centers became eager employers of scientists, and how scientists became eager employees of financial firms. Triana concludes with an in-depth discussion of the most significant historical episodes of theory-caused real-life market malaise, with a strong emphasis on the current credit crisis.

In the end, Lecturing Birds on Flying calls for the radical substitution of good old-fashioned common sense in place of mathematical decision-making and the restoration to financial power of those who are completely unchained to the iron ball of classroom-obtained qualifications.

For the past few decades, the financial world has often displayed an unreasonable willingness to believe that "the model is right, the market is wrong," in spite of the fact that these theoretical machinations were largely responsible for the stock market crash of 1987, the LTCM crisis of 1998, the credit crisis of 2008, and many other blow-ups, large and small. Why have both financial insiders (traders, risk managers, executives) and outsiders (academics, journalists, regulators, the public) consistently demonstrated a willingness to treat quantifications as gospel? Nassim Taleb first addressed the conflicts between theoretical and real finance in his technical treatise on options, Dynamic Hedging. Now, in Lecturing Birds on Flying, Pablo Triana offers a powerful indictment on the trustworthiness of financial theory, explaining-in jargon-free plain English-how malfunctions in these quantitative machines have wreaked havoc in our real world. Triana first analyzes the fundamental question of whether financial markets can in principle really be solved mathematically. He shows that the markets indeed cannot be tamed with equations, presenting a long and powerful list of obstacles to prove his point: maverick unlawful human actions rule the markets, unexpected and unimaginable events shape the markets, and historical data is not necessarily a trustworthy guide to the future of the markets. The author then examines the sources of origin of many prevalent theories and mathematical dictums. He details how the field of financial economics evolved from a descriptive discipline to an abstract one dedicated to technically concocting professors' own versions of how such a world should work. He goes on to explain how Wall Street and other financial centers became eager employers of scientists, and how scientists became eager employees of financial firms. Triana concludes with an in-depth discussion of the most significant historical episodes of theory-caused real-life market malaise, with a strong emphasis on the current credit crisis. In the end, Lecturing Birds on Flying calls for the radical substitution of good old-fashioned common sense in place of mathematical decision-making and the restoration to financial power of those who are completely unchained to the iron ball of classroom-obtained qualifications.
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