Saturday, November 27, 2010

Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street

I found this interesting video while relaxing at home on a weekend morning, it gives a bit of an insight into the world of "quants" - the PhDs, mathematicians, engineers, and model builders of wall street. It also adds a bit of insight into their role in the financial crisis. I certainly wouldn't say that they caused the crisis, but rather a lack of controls and insights into the assumptions that the models were based on may have contributed (but of course there was all the other things like the government encouraging subprime lending, perverse incentive structures, a lack of risk insights, understanding, and thinking). This is well worth a watch if you're in any way finance/markets inclined:

By the way, I found the clip here, (a site which has quickly become a favourite of mine!) there's a few other interesting videos on there as well - great way to whittle away your weekends and broadband bandwidth!

Here's the description from Top Documentary Films:
Quants are the math wizards and computer programmers in the engine room of our global financial system who designed the financial products that almost crashed Wall st.

The credit crunch has shown how the global financial system has become increasingly dependent on mathematical models trying to quantify human (economic) behavior.

Now the quants are at the heart of yet another technological revolution in finance: trading at the speed of light.

What are the risks of treating the economy and its markets as a complex machine? Will we be able to keep control of this model-based financial system, or have we created a monster?

A story about greed, fear and randomness from the insides of Wall Street.

So enjoy, but also ask yourself what you can learn from it. From my experience, the discipline of being very explicit about financial model inputs and assumptions is absolutely critical to ensuring the integrity of the outputs, and ensuring others understand the outputs and the sensitivities. Happy viewing and happy modeling!


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