My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance BY Emanuel Derman

My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance BY Emanuel Derman
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My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance

BY Emanuel Derman


Adobe E-Book 288 pages October 2004

In My Life as a Quant, Emanuel Derman relives his exciting journey as one of the first high-energy particle physicists to migrate to Wall Street. Page by page, Derman details his adventures in this field¡ªanalyzing the incompatible personas of traders and quants, and discussing the dissimilar nature of knowledge in physics and finance. Throughout this tale, he also reflects on the appropriate way to apply the refined methods of physics to the hurly-burly world of markets.


Emanuel Derman has a PhD in theoretical physics from Columbia University. He is the author of numerous articles in elementary particle physics, computer science, and finance, and a coauthor of the widely used Black-Derman-Toy interest rate model and the Derman-Kani local volatility model. After an initial career in academic life and a stint at AT&T Bell Laboratories, he moved to Goldman, Sachs & Co. in 1985, where he became a managing director in 1997. Among his many awards and honors, he was named the SunGard/IAFE Financial Engineer of the Year in 2000 and was appointed to the Risk Hall of Fame in 2002. He is currently the Director of the Program in Financial Engineering at Columbia University, a columnist for Risk magazine, and a risk advisor to an investment management company. He lives in New York City.


Prologue: The Two Cultures. Physics and finance. What quants do. The Black-Scholes model. Quants and traders. Pure thought and beautiful mathematics can divine the laws of physics. Can they do the same for finance?

Chapter 1. Elective Affinities.

The attractions of science. The glory days of particle physics. Driven by ambitious dreams to Co lumbia. Legendary physicists and budding wunderkinder. Talent vs. character, plans vs. luck.

Chapter 2. Dog Years.

Life as a graduate student. Wonderful lectures. T.D. Lee, the brightest star in the firmament. Seven lean years. Getting out of graduate school, only half-alive.

Chapter 3. A Sort of Life.

The priesthood of itinerant postdocs. Research isn¡¯t easy. Almost perishing, then publishing. The delirious thrill of collaboration and discovery.

Chapter 4. A Sentimental Education Oxford¡¯s civilized charms. One physics paper leads to another. English idiosyncrasies. The anthro posophists.

Chapter 5. The Mandarins.

Research and parenthood on New York¡¯s Upper East Side. A good life, but ... the difficulties of a two-career family.

Chapter 6. Knowledge of the Higher Worlds.

A two-city family. New age meditations. Karma. Goodbye to physics.

Chapter 7. In the Penal Colony.

The world of industry ¨C working for money rather than love. The Business Analysis Systems Cen ter at Bell Labs. A small part of a giant hierarchy. Creating software is beautiful.

Chapter 8. Stop-Time.

Wall Street beckons. Interviewing at investment banks. Leaving the Labs.

Chapter 9. Transformer.

The Financial Strategies Group at Goldman, Sachs & Co. Learning options theory. Becoming a quant. Interacting with traders. A new cast of characters.

Chapter 10. Easy Travel To Other Planets.

The history of options theory. Meeting and working with Fischer Black.The Black-Derman-Toy model.

Chapter 11. Force of Circumstance.

Manners and mores on Wall Street. The further adventures of some of my acquaintances. Volatility is infectious.

Chapter 12. A Severed Head.

A troubled year at Salomon Bros. Modeling mortgages. Salomon¡¯s skill at quantitative marketing. Mercifully laid off.

Chapter 13. Civilization & Its Discontents.

Goldman as home. Heading the Quantitative Strategies Group. Equity derivatives. The Nikkei puts and exotic options. Nothing beats working closely with traders. Financial engineering becomes a real field.

Chapter 14. Laughter in the Dark.

The puzzle of the volatility smile. Beyond Black-Scholes: the race to develop local-volatility mod els of options. The right model is hard to find.

Chapter 15. The Snows of Yesteryear.

Wall Street consolidates. Clothing goes casual. I move from equity derivatives to firmwide risk. The bursting of the internet bubble. I take my leave.

Chapter 16. The Great Pretender.

Full circle, back to Columbia. Physics and finance redux. Different endeavors require different de grees of precision. Financial models as gedanken experiments.