The Quants

  • by Scott Patterson
  • Narrated by Mike Chamberlain
  • 14 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In March 2006, the world's richest men sipped champagne in an opulent New York hotel. They were preparing to compete in a poker tournament with ­million-dollar stakes. At the card table that night was Peter Muller, who managed a fabulously successful hedge fund called PDT. With him was Ken Griffin, who was the tough-as-nails head of Citadel Investment Group. There, too, were Cliff Asness, the sharp-tongued, mercurial founder of the hedge fund AQR Capital Management, and Boaz Weinstein, chess "life master" and king of the credit-default swap.
Muller, Griffin, Asness, and Weinstein were among the best and brightest of a new breed, the quants. Over the past 20 years, this species of math whiz had usurped the testosterone-fueled, kill-or-be-killed risk takers who'd long been the alpha males of the world's largest casino. The quants believed that a cocktail of differential calculus, quantum physics, and advanced geometry held the key to reaping riches from the financial markets. And they helped create a digitized money-trading machine that could shift ­billions around the globe with the click of a mouse. Few realized that night, though, that in creating this extraordinary system, men like Muller, Griffin, Asness, and Weinstein had sown the seeds for history's greatest financial disaster.

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What the Critics Say

"Scott Patterson has the ability to see things you and I don't notice. He does an admirable job of debunking the myths of black box traders and provides a very entertaining narrative in the process." (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, New York Times bestselling author of Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

perhaps the best book on the Quants

This is not a great book, in general or on the financial crisis in particular. It is good and it may be one of the best on the origins, mechanisms, models, culture and consequences of the quants on Wall Street. But it seemed to me that Patterson tried to do too much in this book, to tell a human story, a history story, have multiple parallel and intersecting plot lines and so many protagonists (major, minor and very minor) that it was easy to get lost in the text (it is very well read by Chamberlain). It is encyclopedic in some ways, without having the organizational and categorical benefits of being an encyclopedia (which might, in any case, be hard to listen to).

Before you go away thinking the book is worthless, let me say that many sections, small sections scattered about, are superb. Which is why it gets a 4-star score rather than something lower. Patterson is very good with the root origins, in mathematics and physics, and the more near-term historical origins in the US investor community in the 1950s, 1960s & 1970s. Patterson is quite good at explaining the different threads of quant strategies without getting you bogged all down in math. And he does succeed at times, in the human story, to make you understand some of the players.

Like any complex event, to fully understand what happened, you have to read more than one book on the subject. Other books on Audible such as those by Tett, Lowenstein and Lewis tend to complement Patterson's book by looking at different facets of the origins of the crisis, the crisis itself and the public policy issues. Tett, Lowenstein & Lewis do not focus so much on the quants, so to fill out your knowledge it may be necessary to pick up Patterson. And since the quants are in many ways right at the center of the crisis, in the way it filled up a bubble, popped the bubble and generated significant contagion effects, it is necessary to understand them.
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- D. Littman "history buff"

Too much, too little and just right

The previous reviewer pretty much nailed it on the head for me: the author enjoys writing the about the personal -- and largely irrelevant -- stories of the people profile. Had he just spent as much effort unwinding the how and why of the quants approach, I would have enjoyed this book much more. When he doesn't overthink it, the narrative is focus and informative. When he does, its push the work very close to a fictional feel.

Of course, understanding the level of hubris involved in this culture is part of understanding how and why it lead to the outcomes it did, so it was essential to cover that. Just too much of a good thing here.

One concluding suggestion: if you decide to invest your time and attention into the offering, make sure you have already done the same or will follow this title up with Taleb's "The Black Swan." Its a great counterpoint this.
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- Kent

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-02-2010
  • Publisher: Random House Audio