12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back on Form
Michael Lewis, as a former Salomon Brothers bond trader, has a perspective on the financial markets that other journalists do not. He also writes fluently, and is skilled at taking complex and obscure subjects and explaining them clearly. Of his books, Liar's Poker and The Big Short are terrific, whereas Boomerang seemed to me as if it had been rushed out and rather...
Published 4 months ago by Andy Hayler
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good journalism, but somewhat unsatisfying
Michael Lewis is trying to explain the inner workings of the stock markets to a broad audience. If you are a finance professional, the book lacks the kind of detail that would make it really satisfying. There is a much bigger story here than just the IEX founders and a lot of other characters and institutions are glossed over very lightly. The exchanges in particular and...
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back on Form,
This review is from: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt (Hardcover)
Michael Lewis, as a former Salomon Brothers bond trader, has a perspective on the financial markets that other journalists do not. He also writes fluently, and is skilled at taking complex and obscure subjects and explaining them clearly. Of his books, Liar's Poker and The Big Short are terrific, whereas Boomerang seemed to me as if it had been rushed out and rather lazily edited. Flash Boys marks a return to form, lucidly explaining the hidden world of high frequency trading, and vividly bringing to life the personalities of many of the key players involved in it. It raises very serious questions about the financial system today, as if even more of these were needed.
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars F***ing outrageous and scandalous!,
I can't believe no one has posted a review saying they are totally outraged by everything this book has documented. The worlds largest banks knowing they are totally ripping off their customers, and getting away with it.
The absolute shocking treatment of Serge Aleynikov by Goldman Sachs infuriated me, and they got away with it with no criminal charges against them, and managed to ruin a guys life in the process. The guy used open source code to write code for Goldman Sachs system, and they didn't allow him to deposit that code back, as is the etiquette of open source. However when he downloaded the code he had written for Goldman Sachs, they called in the FBI who flung him in Jail in 2010 - TOTALLY CORRUPT. You might say, there's always two sides to the story, but wait until you read it.....
Okay, outrage over.....
The book is jaw droppingly good. I honestly could not put it down, and all the while I was reading it I kept on saying 'no way!'. The people who we entrust our money to every single day are so corrupt it's beyond believable: that being the banks.
The story itself is about High Frequency Traders (HFTs) and their need for high speed data, before anyone else gets it. The huge banks of America were more than willing to supply these HFTs with information in order to manipulate stock orders placed by unsuspecting clients so that the HFTs could front run them and make money. The HFTs in turn paid for this information in the form of Dark Pools.
Well, a bunch of guys sought to change the practice of high frequency trading,led by Brad Katsuyama and bring a bit of honesty and integrity back to Wall Street. They wanted to open an exchange, IEX, that was not being led or manipulated by HFTs and give their clients real time quotes which they could buy at without the HFTs being involved.
Goldman Sachs, or the two partners who were brought in changed things, somewhat redeemed the name of Goldman Sachs by 'going straight' and using the IEX exchange to do their trading, and yet there was still resistance from the top of Goldman Sachs, because they would be losing money by not having the HFTs front running.
Obviously I am only reading one side of a complicated story, but Michael Lewis has written an excellent book about the inner workings of Wall Street, and he has managed to make complicated material readable to the lay person.
I'm still aghast at everything written about, and I'm by no means a naive person, but this is just incredible.
If you're really interested you should also watch Michael Lewis, Brad Katsuyama and William O'Brien (BATS Exchange) in a heated debate about this, and then make your own mind: [...] up.
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book - don't be fooled by negative reviews,
To begin, you should be aware that that the majority of the negative reviews are from people who are (indirectly) being described as stupid or greedy in this book. If you're either stupid or greedy and work in financial services, I agree that you may not like this book.
For everyone else, this is a must read. Lewis has an extremely engaging writing style which makes for a fun read, but the content will leave you speechless. Never before has the greed and dishonesty of the major Wall Street players been so clearly documented.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!,
We all suspected something fishy was going on, but exactly what could never be explained to us, until now! Fascinating!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good journalism, but somewhat unsatisfying,
Michael Lewis is trying to explain the inner workings of the stock markets to a broad audience. If you are a finance professional, the book lacks the kind of detail that would make it really satisfying. There is a much bigger story here than just the IEX founders and a lot of other characters and institutions are glossed over very lightly. The exchanges in particular and the regulators that created the rules of engagement hardly seem to bear any responsibility for the chaotic market structure that ensued. Where is any mention of the Fed and their view of financial deregulation and its effect on the banks? Why don't we hear more about who the HF traders actually are? The footnote on Citadel and E*Trade could have been a fascinating chapter on its own. It's a good story, but a partial picture at best.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Notes on a scandal.,
Okay, let's pretend [no, strike that] believe that Michael Lewis is 100% not interested and not biased and he was not taken on weekends away by the Brad Katsuyama and the Royal Bank of Canada to write this book, in which, let's face it, those two are prominently standing good guys in the totally screwed immoral world of Wall Street as we [come to] know it. God, this is scary. The more I read the more I want to keep my money solely invested in the land, as Mark Twain once said "Buy land, they are not making it anymore" - who would be giving their hard-earned cash to be managed by bad guys, by sharks, which are revealed and shamed and red-flagged? How are these banks still in business? Where are the regulators?
Ah Michael Lewis. He has these skills to chew for us the complicated data obtained while he interviews real hard-core engineeres and make technical issues easily understandable (okay, I had to re-read a number of paragraphs, but half a dozen at most!), and he is an amazing story-teller. In "Flash Boys", Lewis applies combination of his talents to explain to us, lay people, the rise and fall (let's hope) of the high-speed trading, the way the technology has been used (and why not?) to create money for people willing to pay for it. Also, somewhat askew moral compass is also a given, therefore the system is abused. And, it seems, always has been.
"Flash Boys" is an amazingly well-told story (it's a page turner!) about yet another economic injustice in the financial world (precisely here: Wall Street) and how a bunch of insiders who figured the "flash" business out decided to reform the broken system by creating a new type of stock exchange - the one that tries to be honest and actually honor it's duties towards their clients (again, does not this sound like a juicy ad for for IEX, this new stock exchange sans dark pools and cheating?).
I think I have become a cynic. But here's hoping Michael Lewis is truly trying to call out and smooth out the injustices made possible by the disproportionate supply of and access to the information. Anyway, what a great read. So great it almost feels like a work of bestselling fiction, not the exposé of the dirty world of high-frequency trading. Sometimes I found myself longing, weirdly enough, for more financial data and mind-boggling statistics to remind me that this is all real. But in the end, I guess it's 5 stars. And juicy stars at that.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shows there are good guys on Wall Street,
Flash Boys is not as balls out funny as some of Lewis's other books like Boomerang but it is still incredibly well written and engaging. Part of the reason for the lack of funny is that this isn't really an amusing subject.
Most of Flash Boys is about how a large number of stock brokers and investors on Wall Street simply did not understand what had happened to the market after the 2008 crash. The book focuses on a Royal Bank of Canada employee who gradually worked out not only that the market was being distorted by High Frequency Traders (HFT) but also uncovered the ways in which the major banks and the stock markets were aiding the HFTs in ripping off ordinary people.
While many people will already be aware that HFT existed (think Robert Harris's novel The Fear Index) what is shocking about the story told in Flash Boys is the way that HFTs were allowed and encouraged to distort the stock market in a way that served no purpose other than to generate money for HFT. You can feel the anger that Lewis feels about this and the anger that many of the people on Wall Street felt. It does have hopeful moments towards the end but overall this is a pretty depressing story about how Wall Street and the regulators of Wall Street fail to act in the interests of a free and open market.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bullseye...,
Right on target. Another stunning indictment of Wall Street's wicked ways, written by a man who knows how to make the most abstruse and arcane financial matters immediately comprehensible to readers outside the industry. There's a clarity here, and strong storytelling narrative, that make this book very hard to put down. It's difficult to understand how we could ever trust banks and bankers again, yet among the thieves and rascals who crowd these pages it's encouraging to learn that there are some honourable men and women on the street of shame who really do want to change the system for the better. The very best of luck to them. They'll need it...
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Lewis' first five-star book,
Over the past 24 years, Michael Lewis has enjoyed five-star success writing four-star, three-star and occasionally two-star books of the fly-on-the wall variety.
Flash Boys breaks this mould. It is a genuine contribution.
I can pass judgement because my life has run parallel to his books. I read "Liars' Poker" as a college junior in 1990 and used it as a manual to get a job at Salomon Brothers. Six years there was parlayed into a career mostly in finance, but by the time he was writing the "New New Thing" I was already a co-founder and CEO of a disruptive business called book2eat.com. When "Boomerang" came out I was trading Greek government bonds. And now "Flash Boys" is coming out I've just accepted a job to do electronic trading.
In all his efforts that I can judge (so I'll have to leave Moneyball out) he's so far been unfailingly entertaining, but very consistent in getting the wrong end of the stick. Let's take it one by one:
The subject of "Liars' Poker," Salomon Brothers, not only pioneered the use of financial mathematics in the pricing of plain securities like bonds, not only invented all vanilla derivatives such as swaps, it also invented live pricing and for example seeded Teknekron, the pioneer of sending exchange prices into spreadsheets. Its head of IT was a certain Michael Bloomberg whose ground-breaking software had its baptism of fire as Salomon's B-Page.
In his short tenure at the firm, Michael Lewis completely failed to notice any of the above. He also failed to notice that customers in the main seek yield and nothing else. Always have done and always will do. They lack the inclination to understand value and they are not incentivized to seek it. Many feel zero fiduciary duty toward the institution they work for and maximize their own career prospects, while many actually seek out willing accomplices within the banks, often via "introductory agents" etc. and do what they can to monetize the position they hold. Michael Lewis was completely wrong to accuse Salomon as an institution of greed, basically. All they ever did was invent markets and exploit their first-mover advantage.
I've worked at Salomon, Goldman, Lehman, CSFB, ABN, Nomura (the cynical reader will notice the progression is rather monotonic) and my current employer who will remain nameless. Of the above, Salomon was very comfortably the most stand-up toward its customers. It was head and shoulders above the rest. My first week at Goldman I was so deflated by what I saw relative to what I'd known at Salomon, I resolved to leave as soon as my (very juicy) guarantee was cashed in and I still have zero regrets about it. But I did not write a book, because Goldman merely did very well what everybody else except Salomon was doing poorly, let's put it that way. It operated well within the parameters of its industry.
With a total of one observation, Michael Lewis got the wrong end of the stick. He's never seen true rogue behaviour. Even if he'd been at Bear Sterns, of course, he would not exactly have been handed those funky accounts in his first year, would he? Regardless, "Liars' Poker" was a fun book that changed my life.
The subject of the "New New Thing" was the founder of Netscape, who (like Salomon, admittedly) no longer exists. But my main gripe with that book was that it failed to mention that success in entrepreneurial business is 90% about hard work and 9% about getting backed by the right people and at most 1% for everything else. It isn't at all about the idea. Not even half a percent. My favorite example is Amazon. Jeff Bezos got his start in the least sexy, most replicable, zero-network-effect, clicks-and-mortar corner of the market. He now runs the most important business on earth and is getting into all the sexy stuff through brute force. In celebrating genius, Michael Lewis showed he did not understand what it was all about. But, again, it was a very entertaining book. I loved it.
The author truly hit rock bottom with Boomerang. For one, while it undeniably has its moments, it has to resort to grotesque exaggeration to elicit any laughs. I've lived in the same Germany he describes and never noticed anybody having any obsession with fecal matter. And as a Greek I'm totally appalled that he visited one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, and probably the only way anyone can time-travel to year 1400 (Prince Charles regularly does, recently with his sons, in the past with Prince Philip) and take away tawdriness rather than grandeur from Haghion Oros.
The guy had a budget to go visit the most amazing places on earth and rather than celebrate what was great about them or get to the bottom of what was wrong about them (and God knows plenty is) he came back with a bunch of trite observations. So I vowed never to read Michael Lewis again.
And then comes this.
"Flash Boys" is AWESOME. It has a plot, it has fully-developed heros and villains, it has a subplot that you suspect got lost but comes back with a vengeance (and a twist!! I won't spoil it for you) at the end of the book. It has a second subplot that is also a morality story, which I found totally gripping. It's as tightly packed as "Pulp Fiction" and I say that with no exaggeration.
Most importantly, it seems like Michael Lewis finally "gets it." His description of "Scalpers Inc." on pages 107 to 112 (which incidentally gets left out of the New York Times short version of the book) should be required reading for all politicians, let alone Business School students. It's really QED in terms of why HFT is a scourge. His description of the three ways HFT works ("electronic front running," "rebate arbitrage" and "slow market arbitrage") on pages 172-3 is concise and irrefutable. His description of "dark pools" is damning. For all of that I'll pardon him that he fails to explain how the IEX 350 microsecond delay really works... Check it out on page 176 and see if you get it, I didn't.
The other way this book is different is Michael Lewis consciously wrote this as an epitaph. Salomon had its scandal that spelled the beginning of the end exactly one year after "Liars' Poker" appeared on the bookshelves. Netscape barely outlasted "The New New Thing." And Greece defaulted roughly as "Boomerang" appeared. And all of the above would have been a surprise to the author. Not this time. In "Flash Boys" he shows you step-by-step how HFT as an industry is coming to a close and provides the intellectual argument to back his case. It's a new new Michael Lewis.
I thought I'd read PIketty first and this later, but I was wrong. "Flash Boys" is my candidate for book of the year and I doubt anything will appear to change my mind. Yes, I know, it's like comparing "Lives of Others" with "Wedding Crashers" but I can't help it, the truth is I enjoyed "Flash Boys" more than "Capital"
4.0 out of 5 stars Michael Lewis has had huge success with books like Moneyball, The Blind Side and Liar’s Poker and ...,
Michael Lewis has had huge success with books like Moneyball, The Blind Side and Liar’s Poker and now he continues to delve into the inner workings of the US financial system.
The stock market crash of 1988 started a process that has ended with computers replacing people. The vision we have in our head of people on the floor of a stock exchange exclaiming ‘sell, sell, sell’ is an entirely false one. The stock market now trades inside black boxes. These machines are overseen by people but very few would have a great knowledge of how these actually work. Even the experts are unable to fully say what goes on inside them and so the average investor has no hope of knowing.
The speed with which a trader could operate was subject to limits. Human beings worked on the floor and all the buying and selling went through them. By 2007, the exchanges were little more than piles of computers data centres. The only constraint was how fast an electronic symbol could travel.
Michael Lewis’s book puts forward the story of how the market are rigged. In order to do so he has carried out a huge amount of research and gained interviews with insiders to get to the bottom of the workings of the system. It highlights dark pools, private exchanges run by the big brokers with secret rules known only to themselves. He shows us how high-frequency traders were able to get access to information before it was sent out to other traders The markets were designed to maximise the number of encounters between high-frequency traders and ordinary investors. It’s almost difficult to believe the extraordinary lengths these people go to in order to make their connections a few milliseconds faster in order to gain an advantage over ordinary investors and other competitors.
This could all be an extremely dry read if it wasn’t for Lewis’s ability to put a great story across. It all adds up to an extremely readable account of some very complex systems and will hopefully go some distance in helping to change the structures that are currently in place.
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