Thursday, March 31, 2005

Liars Poker
It refers to a version of poker that is popular among the traders of Wall Street, especially those in Bond Trading. It is a way of bluffing your way all the way to six figure bonuses while dealing with bonds, instead of cards. They deal with millions of dollars, and bluff about the demand and supply of bonds, and the intrest rates charged, to get unholy profits. The haggling is worse than a downtown Calcutta fish market. Each of them try to outwit the other, they do it for fun in-house and seriously while with the clients or other fund houses. A lot of these clients do get rip-offed by the bond investment guys. CRM is obviously not their forte. It is on a deal-to-deal basis. With traders having nicknames like Human Piranha and big swinging dicks, you dont expect much sympathy. Maybe things have changed now , since this an account written in the late 80s. The book is basically about the Bond market in Wall Street and London seen through the eyes of a trader in Salomon brothers, the top investment banking firm in 80s. Has sunk without a trace now. He also talks about the decline.
I read this book courtesy a friend who is going to JP Morgan in London to do his summer training in Bond market derivatives.Maybe he was trying to learn a trick or two.
The book starts with a hilarious account of the training sessions in Salomon where the back benchers used to bet on the Japanese guys flopping off in the first bench, reminded me of a lot of company training sessions.No one said anything to the Nips (thats the nickname for the japanese, a short form of Nippon) they were a protected species, as Japan had large trade surplus with tons of money to invest and Salomon wanted a foothold in the Japanese market.
He speaks of the burdened young market analysts who were a forsaken lot, working more than 90 hours/week, poring over reports, and financial stuff; always at the beck and call of the managers, they were completely stressed out.
Bond trading was the in-thing in the 80s, a pile was waiting to be made due to wild fluctuations of the interest rates,equity also called ticker trade was a boring job, staring at the flickering screen. Whereas bond trading was a continuous passing the buck or playing Liar's poker, and finding the fool in the market.
He pokes fun at the Savings and loans banks, which just did plain vanilla banking, also called 3-6-3 ( borrow at 3%, lend at 6% and at the golf course at 3). Salomon used to fleece these guys, giving them turkey deals. Salomon consolidated the mortgage market, in the USA by allowing its trading by creating a special type of bond for it.This became the most lucrative business. Though later they mised the junk bond wave which led to their downfall.
Written in a brutally frank and sarcastic manner, it gives a interesting picture of life in the bond trade. Though there is lot of financial jargon, but he has explained it well. A good read overall.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On monday had our section's party in a nearby restaurant. It was a boisterous affair. People were suitably sloshed (including yours truly) and indulged in lot of banter and leg-pulling. Food was fantastic. Later in the campus had more masti in our inhouse nescafe coffee shop. Then topped it off by seeing one hour of Golmaal (evergreen movie) . Then flopped out and slept like a log, without turning on the alarm clock. It seemed like a dream day, compared to the loaded last week. In addition to the dead-weight of never-ending classes, there were millstone like projects that were dragging my spirits down the ocean of despair faster than the titanic. we were rushing from one task-to another that would put the multi-processing capabiliies of an O.S. to shame. Deadlines went past, with each one of them making a swishing sound, as they swept down like raptors to pounce on our printed and right-justified word docs. Hail King Bill and Larry Page.
The respite is ephemeral. The big-daddy of them all (end-terms) is lurking in the corner with a baseball bat, waiting to pummel us hapless souls. We have 7 papers in 5 days. Though have become somewhat inured to all these having endured two terms before, but still the anxiety and pressure remain. Hopefully will come out of it unscathed and will be able to maintain my CG (not center of gravity, but cumulative grade point average CGPA) . Coming to gravity, I have become more attracted to mother earth after coming here. No I haven't become an environmentalist or jholawallah, but have put on some ungainly kilos in weight.