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Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives [Paperback]

Satyajit Das
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Traders, Guns and Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives (Financial Times Series) Traders, Guns and Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives (Financial Times Series) 4.5 out of 5 stars (2)
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Book Description

20 April 2006

“I had been in derivatives for over 25 years. Many traders hadn't been born when I stumbled accidentally into the arcane world of derivatives trading. The Indonesians were at the fag end of that career. How did I get there? I had followed the money. I had ridden the tide and currents of financial markets. I had not known very much then. Even now I only knew the many unknowns. How did I get here? It was a very long story. Send Traders, Guns and Money is that story…..”

Warren Buffet once labelled derivatives “financial weapons of mass destruction”. Unlike the military kind, financial WMD are not hard to find.  Many great companies use them.  These businesses use derivatives to make money or protect them from risk. It’s a simple case of greed or fear.  Or is it?

In derivatives, whoever you are, there are things that you don’t know that you don’t know. These are the real risks of derivatives. They’re generally left to the client to discover.   So, if you’re entering the dazzling world of derivatives, ask yourself this: What do I know? What do I need to know? What don’t I know? What am I doing?

You can find the answers in Traders, Guns & Money, a sensational and controversial first-person account of the business of derivatives trading and the financial products industry in the spirit of Liar’s Poker.  It is a true insider’s view of the business of trading and marketing derivatives for a living.  It details the nature of the business, the players, how money is made and lost, and the deceptions that underlie the entire process.

Funny and poignant, and written in a wry and wickedly comic style, the book provides the ordinary reader with an insight into the seeming madness that underlies financial markets and the out-of-control process that is trading in complex financial products that few understand.

Traders, Guns & Money  throws light on the culture, games, and pure deceptions played out every day in trading rooms around the world, and played out with other people’s money.  It describes the processes by which a small group of gifted, if avaricious, individuals parlay their knowledge of the arcane world of financial products into wealth, leaving shareholders, clients, regulators, and the tax paying ordinary public to bear most of the risk.

This is the story of how one set of clients discovered the perils of unknowns in a derivatives deal.  This tale will leave you amazed, and this book will make it all clear.In the sometimes dazzling world of derivatives, Traders Guns & Money shows you how we got here and tells it how it is. Go on, follow the money.

An accessible companion and a wise counsel, Traders, Guns & Money weaves together three core themes:

Known unkowns: if you’re entering the dazzling world of derivatives, ask yourself this:  What do I know? What do I need to know? What don’t I know? What am I doing? This book will make it all clear.

Follow the money: an insider’s, expert witness account of the rise and rules of the world of derivatives.  This book will show you how we got here and tell it how it is

Send traders guns & money:  the story of how one set of clients discovered the perils of unknowns in a derivatives deal .  This tale will leave you amazed, but wiser.

"Ever since Warren Buffett memorably described derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction" there has been a thriller waiting to be written about them.  Derivatives have frightened otherwise right-thinking people for some time. In part this reflects a natural tendency to fear what we do not understand."  Financial Times

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Financial Times/ Prentice Hall; 1 edition (20 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0273704745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0273704744
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 15.2 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Satyajit Das is an internationally respected expert in finance, with over 30 years' experience. He worked for the "sell side" (banks such as Citicorp Investment Bank and Merrill Lynch), the "buy side" (Treasurer of the TNT Group) and acted as a consultant advising banks, investors, corporations and central banks throughout the world. He has been within touching distance of many of the pivotal events in finance during his long career.

Das presciently anticipated many aspects of the Global Financial Crisis in his 2006 book Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives In a speech that year - The Coming Credit Crash - he argued that: "an informed analysis of the structured credit markets shows that risk is not better spread but more leveraged and (arguably) more concentrated amongst hedge funds and a small group of dealers. This does not improve the overall stability and security of the financial system but exposes it to increased risk of a "crash" during a credit downturn." He has continued to be a respected commentator on developments in the crisis, accurately anticipating many subsequent phases.

He was featured in Charles Ferguson's 2010 Oscar winning documentary Inside Job and a 2009 BBC TV documentary - Tricks with Risk.

Das is the author of many highly regarded books on derivatives and risk management, which are regarded as standard reference works for professional traders. In 2006, he published the international best seller Traders, Guns & Money, a satirical insider's account of derivatives trading. The Financial Times described it as explaining "not only the high-minded theory behind the business and its various products but the sometimes sordid reality of the industry".

His latest book is Extreme Money: The Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk (2011) described by Nouriel Roubini as: "A true insider's devastating analysis of the financial alchemy of the last 30 years and its destructive consequences. With his intimate first-hand knowledge, Das takes a knife to global finance and financiers to reveal its inner workings without fear or favor."

He appears regularly in the media in the US, Canada, UK, Australian, New Zealand, India and South Africa. His opinion pieces appear in prestigious publications throughout the world including the Financial Times. His blogs can be found on a number of on-line financial sites, including,,,, and

Product Description


The sexier side of finance ... at last ... a convincing picture of what life is like in today's modern financial industry. Traders Guns and Money by Satyajit Das not only has a catchy title, it actually manages to entertain, educate and inform."  Corporate Financier, July 2006

"A must read for all CEOs, CFOs, Bankers and anyone who cares about what banks are doing with their money." - Finance Asia, May 2006

"... revealing insider's account"  - Director, April 2006

"... true rarity: a derivatives book that keeps your attention all the way through. " FOW April 2006

"... a welcome addition to the literature."  - The Sheet, April 2006

"... a scalpel of a book" - Financial Engineering News, July 2006

"A distincly timely book... This makes fascinating reading.... A good crib sheet for how the whole derivatives game works. " - Financial Times, May 2006

"Forewarned is forearmed." - Money Week, May 2006

"Das is especially good on structured products and on the recently fashionable world of structured credit... a diverting read" - Financial World, July 2006

"a worthwhile read for anyone with connection to the financial world" - World Finance, July 2006

"The murky and complex world of finances and derivatives is scrupulously and frantically told in this brilliant narrative. ... This is a collection and recollection of exquisite financial tales well worth your time.' Convergence, September 2006

"...a fascinating and compelling insight into the world of derivatives... [TGM has] a page turning quality more reminiscent of a John Grisham novel than a dissertation on derivatives." - FINASIA, October 2006

"An absorbing accessible primer... scoots along at a blistering pace" - Wilmott Magazine, December 2006

Author featured as expert in Asia Risk, Bloomberg, Financial Times all in December 2006

"one of the most entertaining investment books I've read in a long time... I can't recommend this book strongly enough" - Blogginstocks Jan 07

"part thriller, part expose… will be useful for anyone with connection to finance…will tell you some of the truth of what really does go on." Society of Business Economists Book Review - Jan 07


From the Inside Flap

Warren Buffet once memorably described derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction". Read this sensational and controversial account of the often dazzling business of derivatives trading, and see if you agree.
No money is ever really made in financial markets. Markets merely transfer wealth. As to how to make money? Well, it is basically theft, misrepresentation, lies, cheating, deception or force. It is impossible to make the staggering amounts made in derivatives in good years honestly.
Traders, Guns & Money is a wry and wickedly comic exposé of the culture, games, and pure deceptions played out every day in trading rooms around the world, usually with other people’s money. Whether you move in the financial world yourself, know people who do, or have money invested in stocks, shares or derivatives, this is a fascinating read guaranteed to make you think.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Informative and Entertaining Reading Experience 12 April 2007
I really enjoyed reading the book Traders, Guns, and Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives by Satyajit Das. It is an interesting book in that it is a fictionalized autobiography of Das. As the book outlines the author's professional life in finance, it describes how he got involved in financial derivatives. The primary purpose of the book is to give a primer on derivatives, how they were created, how they are used, their benefits, and their dangers. The author's use of humor along with the hilarious vignettes of his finance associates (Nero, Clem/Crem, Adewiko, Budi, etc.) and funny anecdotes from his career made the book fun to read.

The book really helped explain what exactly derivatives are (giving me a good review of some of what I was taught in college) and how they are used today. I also appreciated the in-depth analysis of several well-known instances where derivatives were used by investors and companies which really helped to demonstrate their application in the real world as well as the oftentimes hidden dangers of using these financial tools. I found his discussion of the currency swap done by the Walt Disney Company in the 1980's to be of particular interest to me. Despite the fact that I previously read the HBS case study during a Derivatives and Risk Management course which I took as a student at Harvard, Das's explanation of the incident really gave me an even better understanding of how exactly the transaction was structured and how it eventually went wrong. His explanation of why Disney's financial advisors made the deal so complex was also amusing. (You will have to read the book to find out.)

Moreover, Satyajit Das really underscored the complex nature of derivatives and their use in either speculative bets or in hedges.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Stunning", "Electrifying", "5 Thumbs Up!!" 23 July 2007
Das' sardonic description of the derivatives industry provides an extremely entertaining new approach to a genre saturated with glorified good fortune and dire warnings of imminent market apocalypse. The comically acid tone with which he describes every element of the business (from front to back-office) has much more in common with Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" than the academic tomes on credit derivatives and structured products that preceded it.

If you are considering a career in investment banking, this book is required reading. Along with an incredible introduction to derivatives and their impact on financial markets, "Traders, Guns and Money" touches on the frustrations involved in working at every level of the bank, describing the internal friction and disparity between support functions (product control, operations, accounting, risk control... the almost always overlooked segments of the firm that comprise the majority of people at any bank) and the front office traders with a surprising degree of insight.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good fun for all ages. 18 July 2006
By jburron
I've read many books on the markets--both anecdotal ones such as Mike Lewis's "Liar's Poker" and Frank Partnoy's "F.I.A.S.C.O." and more academics ones such as Mark Anson's "Handbook of Alternative Investments" and Alexander Ineichen's "Absolute Returns". Never, though, have I read one as well-balanced as Satyajit Das's "Traders, Guns & Money".

Mr. Das has something that other writers lack: range and depth of experience. He's written many academic texts on derivatives and is a 25-year veteran of the industry--and it shows. He's been on the buy-side, sell-side, middle-man and consulting and he doesn't pull any punches as he describes the players' motivations, personalities and inherent weaknesses. He also has a quant's understanding of the various products and permutations out there, but in explaining them he always takes the language back to Earth--which is a boon for all readers.

If you're at all interested in structured products (this includes Principal Protected Notes), derivatives or financial engineering, and whether you're at the start or end of your financial career you'll find this book interesting, enlightening and downright fun.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Traders, guns and money is an entertaining foray into the complex world of financial derivatives. Satyajit Das manages to take a topic, that has sent countless students to sleep in the lecture room, and make it engaging and yet informative at the same time.

The real beauty of the book lies in the fact that the author has real world experience within the field he is writing about. Hence you do not just read about derivatives and the related formulas and theories. Instead you read real stories where derivatives were involved along with immeasurable amounts of arrogance, greed and money. This approach makes you feel like you a reading a Wilbur Smith book with all its excitement rather than a book on derivatives. Yet all this is achieved without dumbing down any of the anecdotes or watering down his language to fit a "target audience" while all the while never succumbing to peronal ego boosting.

However, unlike many other authors that have tried a similar tact in regards to financial writing, Satyajit avoids the trap of getting lost amongst the stories. Throughout the whole book there is a clear and logical structure which is followed consistently. By the time any reader has finished reading this book, they will feel like an expert on derivatives who has been in the markets for decades. Though these decades of expertise are only gleaned in the short time it takes to read this book.

Guns Trader and Money is easily the best book to open up the world of finance since Liar's poker was released almost two decades ago.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious.
Hilarious. Everyone working in the derivatives business should read this.
Published 19 days ago by acp
2.0 out of 5 stars a hard book to understand...
are you into algebraic formulas? is so you will really like this book. sadly i was expecting a bit more - something more along the lines of liars poker... Read more
Published on 15 Sep 2011 by Gcrikey
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly Funny
The liar's poker for this generation. Mr Das does an excellent and indepth job of explaining not just the instruments, but how these deals are constructed - all whilst making slyly... Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2010 by Isabella Henney
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading
Traders, Guns and Money claims to offer an informative inside account of the world of derivatives. It does partially deliver on this promise, but it fails on several accounts. Read more
Published on 16 Sep 2009 by Alexander Sokol
1.0 out of 5 stars Hard work!
Make no mistake, if you,re not a hardened professional this book will go over your head! Ive traded futures with my own funds on various platforms and this book went over mine!
Published on 20 Mar 2009 by Jack Calder
5.0 out of 5 stars Make a difficult subject an attractive reading
For me the world of derivatives are a known unknown and after reading the book, it remains like that. Read more
Published on 29 Feb 2008 by Luis Mansilla M
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I wasn't too impressed by this book. I loved FIASCO and I generally enjoy books such as Liar's Poker, Ugly Americans etc, but this was quite a let down. Read more
Published on 3 Nov 2007 by chris
5.0 out of 5 stars Please read this... but now where do you invest your pension?
Entertaining, insightful, skeptical rather than cynical. This book opens the can of worms that is Derivatives and those that peddle them. Read more
Published on 30 Oct 2007 by Norfolk Chance
5.0 out of 5 stars A great entertaining read
As someone who has had a 360 degree view of the investment banking industry, Das pierces through the smoke and mirrors and conflicts of interest that prevail in the industry with... Read more
Published on 7 April 2007 by Craig
2.0 out of 5 stars Read it with a grain of salt
The book is readable, but the author often makes factual mistake. Early in the book, he calls Alan Greenspan as the chairman of New York Fed. Read more
Published on 27 Feb 2007 by T. Okubo
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