Friday, 30 December 2016

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘From mere trainee to lowly geek, to triumphal Big Swinging Dick: that was Michael Lewis’ pell-mell progress through the dealing rooms of Salomon Brothers in New York and London during the heady mid-1980s when they were probably the world’s most powerful and profitable merchant bank.’

Liar’s Poker is a book on investment banking and bond markets written by the American banker, Michael Lewis based on his experiences at Salomon Brothers, a leading merchant bank in the United States during the 80s.

The book could be split into three parts; where the first part would deal with the author’s experience as a trainee in the bank; followed by elaborating on how the mortgage trading division grew in the bank and the internal tussles among the top management and finally, the author’s own experience at the firm, starting as a geek fresh till the point of becoming a fairly successful banker.

I liked the way in which the author had structured the book, starting with his interview and from thereon, his cynicism was visible throughout the book. I liked the way in which he was expressed the cynicism too, often with sarcastic jibes, funny anecdotes and yes, certain remarks on the practices of the people in the trade which would be regarded as unforgivably indiscreet by his employers which is perhaps the reason why he had to quit the bank in order to write the book. I also felt he gave a good insight as to how the bond trading flourished in the United States during the 80s and how Salomon Brothers exploited the fears of the investors. This book is in no way a tell all book on Wall Street corruption but the author has given enough content for the readers to understand why the corruption takes place in Wall Street.

However, I have got to say that I am least interested in knowing about the ego clashes amongst the top management of Salomon Brothers and a third of the book was spent on that and those were possibly the dullest pages of the books. While I understand that the author tries to make it as friendly as possible to even those who are not literate in finance, the feedback I have received from some of my friends who are not from the field of finance is that they don’t understand his jargons which was something I felt too; that the book is difficult for a layman to appreciate but then, to answer the question as to whether the author has satisfied his own community; I would speak for that; the answer is not entirely. The book could have gone into deeper aspects of bond trading, interest rate fluctuations, etc. instead, the author throughout the book; starts off with a technical aspect but eventually digresses into how things are done at Salomon which would not be entirely relevant.
To conclude, I would say that this is a good book for someone who knows about the jargons in the field and could be thoroughly enjoyed had the second part of the book not been there at all for I also felt that what the author said there was not specific to investment banks, but any corporates.

I would rate the book a six on ten.

Rating – 6/10

Have a nice day,

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