Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Nancy Goldstone's Trading Up

When I graduated from University in 1984, my first job was with one the the "big 8" accounting firms - their standard three year contract to become a Chartered Accountant. I still lived in the East End of London (Leytonstone) and so was allocated to jobs like Coral Bookmakers based in Barking (where I learnt more about risk management that on any other job). And I also got a sprinkling of City banks. I was on the 1986 audit of BCCI which found the huge option losses incurred in the US T-Bond market. And I used to do part of Midland bank, based in their rather nice blue office on Lower Thames Street. One Friday I remember being there when a huge cheer went up at exactly 1:30pm. Some US economic data had come out and Midland were the right way round for its impact on the dollar. Much money was made that afternoon.

I finished my training contract in Oct 1987 and immediately set about trying to get a job in the Square Mile. I was interviewed a number of times at BZW, the trading part of Barclays, for a job on the futures and options desk. I would have been hopeless at that. As it was, my last interview, when I was supposed to be offered my contract was on the Monday of the Stock market crash and recruitment had been frozen, pending the dust settling. So I didn't get that job.

Some months later I was interviewed at Morgan Stanley for a job on their swaps desk, but I seemed keener to talk about the trading than perhaps they wanted - the position was an accountancy one. But the trading bug had taken hold and of course that is what I do now.

Into 1988 and the appearance in one of the bookshops I used to frequent that had a big investment section of Nancy Goldstone's Trading Up, her account of her rapid rise to head of options trading at a major US bank, despite knowing little or nothing about options. I had helped a partner write our firm's guide to auditing currency options and knew far more about them than she did. Yet here she was, head of options trading at 27. The book is wonderful, I have read it four times, and in the immediate aftermath of the completion of the big data bash, I have decided to read it again. I expect it to be great fun

A year or so ago I bought a book about the adventures of a couple of book collectors, and was surprised to discover that it was written by the same Nancy Golstone. And that book was pretty good too.

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