The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return

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“Entertaining and informative. Desai takes us on a journey through the fundamentals of finance, from asset pricing to risk and risk management, via options, mergers, debt, and bankruptcy."- John Lanchester, The New Yorker

"A fascinating new perspective on modern finance," --Oliver Hart, 2016 Nobel Laureate in Economics

"Lucid, witty and delightfully erudite...From the French revolution to film noir, from the history of probability to Jane Austen and The Simpsons, this is an astonishing intellectual feast." --Sebastian Mallaby, author of The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan

Longlisted for 2017 Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year 

A 2017 AMAZON PICK IN BUSINESS & LEADERSHIP

A WealthManagement.com BEST BUSINESS BOOK OF 2017

In 1688, essayist Josef de la Vega described finance as both “the fairest and most deceitful business . . . the noblest and the most infamous in the world, the finest and most vulgar on earth.”

The characterization of finance as deceitful, infamous, and vulgar still rings true today – particularly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. But, what happened to the fairest, noblest, and finest profession that de la Vega saw? 

De la Vega hit on an essential truth that has been forgotten: finance can be just as principled, life-affirming, and worthy as it can be fraught with questionable practices.  Today, finance is shrouded in mystery for outsiders, while many insiders are uneasy with the disrepute of their profession.  How can finance become more accessible and also recover its nobility?

Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai, in his “last lecture” to the graduating Harvard MBA class of 2015, took up the cause of restoring humanity to finance. With incisive wit and irony, his lecture drew upon a rich knowledge of literature, film, history, and philosophy to explain the inner workings of finance in a manner that has never been seen before.

This book captures Desai’s lucid exploration of the ideas of finance as seen through the unusual prism of the humanities. Through this novel, creative approach, Desai shows that outsiders can access the underlying ideas easily and insiders can reacquaint themselves with the core humanity of their profession.

The mix of finance and the humanities creates unusual pairings: Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope are guides to risk management; Jeff Koons becomes an advocate of leverage; and Mel Brooks’s The Producers teaches us about fiduciary responsibility. In Desai’s vision, the principles of finance also provide answers to critical questions in our lives. Among many surprising parallels, bankruptcy teaches us how to react to failure, the lessons of mergers apply to marriages, and the Capital Asset Pricing Model demonstrates the true value of relationships.
THE WISDOM OF FINANCE is a wholly unique book, offering a refreshing new perspective on one of the world’s most complex and misunderstood professions.    
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About the author

MIHIR DESAIR is the Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School and a professor of law at Harvard Law School. His research is regularly cited in major publications, and he has testified several times before Congress.
 
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Additional Information

Publisher
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Published on
May 23, 2017
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780544911208
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Commerce
Business & Economics / Corporate Finance / General
Business & Economics / Finance / General
Business & Economics / Insurance / General
Business & Economics / Investments & Securities / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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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.

Why did the financial scandals really happen? Why are they continuing to happen? In The Death of Corporate Reputation, Yale's Jonathan Macey reveals the real, non-intuitive reason, and offers a new path forward. For over a century law firms, investment banks, accounting firms, credit rating agencies and companies seeking regular access to U.S. capital markets made large investments in their reputations. They treated customers well and sometimes endured losses in transactions or business deals in order to sustain and nurture their reputations as faithful brokers and “gate-keepers.” This has changed completely . The existing business model among leading participants in today’s capital markets no longer treats customers as valued clients whose trust must be earned and nurtured, but as one-off “counter-parties” to whom no duties are owed and no loyalty is required . The rough and tumble norms of the market-place have replaced the long-standing reputational model in U.S. finance.

This book describes the transformation in American finance from the old reputational model to the existing laissez faire model and argues that the change came as a result of three factors: (1) the growth of reliance on regulation rather than reputation as the primary mechanism for protecting customers and (2) the increasing complexity of regulation, which made technical expertise rather than reputation the primary criterion on which customers choose who to do business with in today’s markets ; and (3) the rise of the “cult of personality” on Wall Street, which has led to a secular demise in the relevance of companies’ reputations and the concomitant rise of individual “rain-makers” reputation as the basis for premium pricing of financial services. This compelling book will drive the debate about the financial crisis and financial regulation for years to come -- both inside and outside the industry.

Make informed business decisions with the beginner's guide to financial modeling using Microsoft Excel

Financial Modeling in Excel For Dummies is your comprehensive guide to learning how to create informative, enlightening financial models today. Not a math whiz or an Excel power-user? No problem! All you need is a basic understanding of Excel to start building simple models with practical hands-on exercises and before you know it, you'll be modeling your way to optimized profits for your business in no time. Excel is powerful, user-friendly, and is most likely already installed on your computer—which is why it has so readily become the most popular financial modeling software. This book shows you how to harness Excel's capabilities to determine profitability, develop budgetary projections, model depreciation, project costs, value assets and more. You'll learn the fundamental best practices and know-how of financial modeling, and how to put them to work for your business and your clients. You'll learn the tools and techniques that bring insight out of the numbers, and make better business decisions based on quantitative evidence. You'll discover that financial modeling is an invaluable resource for your business, and you'll wonder why you've waited this long to learn how! Companies around the world use financial modeling for decision making, to steer strategy, and to develop solutions. This book walks you through the process with clear, expert guidance that assumes little prior knowledge.

Learn the six crucial rules to follow when building a successful financial model Discover how to review and edit an inherited financial model and align it with your business and financial strategy Solve client problems, identify market projections, and develop business strategies based on scenario analysis

Create valuable customized templates models that can become a source of competitive advantage From multinational corporations to the mom-and-pop corner store, there isn't a business around that wouldn't benefit from financial modeling. No need to buy expensive specialized software—the tools you need are right there in Excel. Financial Modeling in Excel For Dummies gets you up to speed quickly so you can start reaping the benefits today!

The Black Swan is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are Fooled by Randomness, Antifragile, Skin in the Game, and The Bed of Procrustes.

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.
 
Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”
 
For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. In this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know, and this second edition features a new philosophical and empirical essay, “On Robustness and Fragility,” which offers tools to navigate and exploit a Black Swan world.
 
Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications, The Black Swan will change the way you look at the world. Taleb is a vastly entertaining writer, with wit, irreverence, and unusual stories to tell. He has a polymathic command of subjects ranging from cognitive science to business to probability theory. The Black Swan is a landmark book—itself a black swan.
 
Praise for Nassim Nicholas Taleb
 
“The most prophetic voice of all.”—GQ
 
Praise for The Black Swan
 
“[A book] that altered modern thinking.”—The Times (London)
 
“A masterpiece.”—Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, author of The Long Tail
 
“Idiosyncratically brilliant.”—Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times
 
“The Black Swan changed my view of how the world works.”—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate
 
“[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne. . . . We eagerly romp with him through the follies of confirmation bias [and] narrative fallacy.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Hugely enjoyable—compelling . . . easy to dip into.”—Financial Times
 
“Engaging . . . The Black Swan has appealing cheek and admirable ambition.”—The New York Times Book Review
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