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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Math Finance for grown ups, 18 Jun. 2005
This review is from: The Concepts and Practice of Mathematical Finance (Mathematics, Finance and Risk) (Hardcover)
What was once a cross-over subfield of finance with a veneer of mathematics is now a field unto itself, and hence, in the past decade there have been an explosion of books which often replicate or restate what has been said before with little new to add. Also, there remains an unforgiving gap between introductory texts that are too superficial and specialists' mathematics books that are rigorous and difficult works beyond the commitment for mastery of the busy, intelligent, practical front-line quant. In addition, works that were once adequate are now simplistic and under serve their readers by lulling them into false confidence. Into this fray Dr. Mark S. Joshi's "The Concepts and Practice of Mathematical Finance" enters with a modern voice and delivers what previous texts have only promised and failed to. The work lives up to its title by presenting both concepts and practicalities, and makes other works that do neither well obsolete. Those familiar with my other reviews on quantitative finance texts know that I place a premium on clarity, and on this front Joshi deserves six stars, for he is a master of what William Strunk called "the plain style." I am always sensitive to the fact that many of the world's best quants come from nations where English is not the first language. Readers from China, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Russia and eastern Europe will enjoy Joshi's clarity and find his English easy to follow. It would be impossible to cover everything in quanfin in a single volume, however there is nothing horribly glossed over here and neither is there a single wasted word or equation.
I recommend Amazon review readers refer to the table of contents in the "Look Inside" feature, but my own highlight is how welcome it is that Joshi focuses on risk from the very first word. Since Louis Bachelier risk measurement is what separates quantitative finance from "finance." Other books, including some quantitative finance works, introduce cash flows and value, and add risk as an antecedent. Joshi correctly emphasizes risk first, last, and always, and for that elevation alone his work deserves five stars. From this foundation Joshi then covers very well pricing methods and arbitrage, simple and high dimensional trees, and the useful shortcuts of Ito calculus that makes tractable Zeno's paradox. Joshi also covers risk neutral and martingale methods, continuous barrier options, multi-look exotic options and incomplete markets and jump processes with an aim of showing these as typical problems for the working quant. Joshi's own references, index, and footnotes testify that by no means is he offering the first, nor the last, word on these knotty subjects, but his treatment is welcome just the same.
The target audience for this text is four-fold. The primary audience is for first semester students in a graduate financial engineering program, for Joshi's "Concepts and Practice" will be handy throughout his or her studies and career. For those students unsure of their skills and with a limited budget considering between this and an introductory quantitative finance text I recommend Joshi over, say, Wilmott, for this work is more rigorous and in the long run will provide the better value as a practical companion. Within this audience I include professors looking for a high level foundational text for teaching practical risk management and derivatives pricing: this is the book to adopt, yes, even over Hull.
The second audience is those trained in other science fields: pure mathematics, statistics, physics, etc. who are moving to finance jobs. This volume is an easy "one-stop shop" for you to re-tool your own background towards those topics and techniques used on a quant desk. While by no means covering everything, Joshi speaks your language and after digesting this work all else will fall into place and be understood and used with greater efficiency.
The third and broadest audience is the already trained and practical "quant." Why? My observation is that between reading (for example) Hull and Wilmott, Joshi's "Concepts" unavoidably covers many of the same topics, but also some things they do not and in ways they never could. Joshi is an expert practitioner at the top of his art, and that practical spirit is in every single page. For example, while Hull and Wilmott cover the concept and mathematics of stochastic volatility, Joshi writes from the point of view of the coding quant and discusses the issues of implementation. Joshi's "Concepts and Practice" serves a two fold purpose: it provides an additional voice and explanation of inescapably fundamental material, while bridging the gap of technical deployment for front line practitioners. This is not to say Joshi offers us up a cookbook, for by no means is this such. Anyone who thinks they can simply buy this book and in a sleepy afternoon plug away code and technique and be done is missing the point: for this is a teaching text. Moreover, each house and set of problems and instruments and structured products to offer are different, to say nothing of the platforms one will be working on. That is why they call it "work." Therefore the practical quant should look to this text as a reference guidebook in a tool box.
As a fourth audience I cautiously recommend this book for those oing into exotic product sales, but only those who have grounding in upper level calc, linear and matrix algebra, time series analysis, and trees. Why? Simply put, you will be offering products built by quants who simply assume the knowledge in this book is a given. In addition, your better clients will (or should) have quants speaking this language, and the greater your own understanding of the concerns of your team and your clients the better your sales. If this work is too rigorous, then Wilmott's "Introduction to Quantitative Finance" quickly followed by Joshi's "Concepts and Techniques" is the course to follow.
Who is this work not for? Here are some tests. If you are a quant who can type at five lines of code a minute and can read Shreve and Karatzas drinking beer, then this work is too redundant for you. On my desk is a paper on a stochastic process with drift and viscosity under regime switching. If you are reading the same journal, then this work is too simple for you. If you have no idea what I've written about in the past three sentences, then this work is too hard for you.
In summary, Dr. Mark Joshi advances his excellent reputation as an intelligent, practical, and generous quant in offering "The Concepts and Practice of Mathematical Finance" and I recommend this book's wide adoption in graduate programs and its addition to reference libraries.
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