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Lisa joined FT Alphaville in September 2011 after a tour of duty through the guts of the financial industry, having worked as an analyst at a bank and for a financial data company.

Before the poor decision-making began, she enjoyed science and maths A-Levels and managed a full year as an engineering student at uni. It started to go downhill when she switched to economics, for which she was awarded a first class honours degree by the University of Durham. She’s been frustrated with people who don’t behave as rational agents ever since.

From there, Lisa travelled to the Netherlands, embarking on an inordinately long MPhil programme in Economic & Financial Research at Maastricht University. In a colossal failure of time management, she also learned Dutch even though everyone there speaks English. Wat jammer.

Upon graduation, it was off to a front office role at a Bank of America in New York City just in time for the financial system to collapse and all the deals in the pipeline to get shelved.

Two years and a CFA level later, she had had quite enough of not structuring anything and it was off to financial data company Markit in London. Lisa worked as a credit analyst and got to play with databases a lot. Mmm, numbers…

Lisa also does a lot of behind the scenes work around the website and organises stuff, which is probably suitable for someone once described by a close friend as being about as spontaneous as a space shuttle launch. She now only moonlights as an Alphaville reporter, having been appointed Head of New Projects for FT.com in June 2013.

When she’s not obsessing over details, reading finance-type things, or in meetings, Lisa enjoys hiking, folk music, comedy, science-y things, and has an obsession with good coffee that borders on freakish.

She also would prefer that you didn’t know she’s American, having grown up in Oregon.

Contact Lisa Pollack

Reminder: Please complete your Annual Risk Awareness Test

This is another reminder about completing your Annual Risk Awareness Test. Our records show that you have yet to complete the Insider Trading Module.

Please note — for like the 30th time or something — that completion is mandatory. You must complete the test by Friday, October 4th. Read more

Occupy the bookshelf: #OWS turns two

…we are somewhat concerned that you, like us, might be suffering from “well-informed futility syndrome”.

Why, yes! Yes we are! And frankly we’re worried about some of our readers too… Read more

Excel monkeys unite! For today, we are cancelling the circular reference!

As Dealbreaker noticed earlier, a rather strange email hit our collective inboxes a few weeks ago inviting us to enter the 2013 Financial Modeling World Championship in New York, aka “ModelOff”.

Erm, yeah… Read more

‘I take your hypothetical scenario of counterparty failure, and raise you a bank resolution regime…’

Imagine spending an entire career evaluating bad things that might happen to financial institutions. It’s no mere thought experiment done in passing, but rather a task that one slaves over in excruciating detail. For years upon years on a constantly moving chessboard of potential disaster.

So, who wants to be a regulator? Read more

Where have all the cowboys come from?

“I’d like to be instrumental in the manipulation of key interest rate benchmarks to the benefit of my employer”, said no aspiring financier ever. Equally unimaginable are freshly-minted bankers starting out wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and eager to aggressively mark books in order to disguise losses.

And yet, here we are with a plethora of scandals and misdeeds.

Why do so many in the industry lose their way? Read more

An Olympic peek into Russia

Russia has plenty of places with snow. But when it come to picking a spot to host the Winter Olympics, they chose here — Sochi — one of Russia’s warmest cities.

It’s a Friday. In August. Why not sit back and let the FT’s Charles Clover entertain you with this highly amusing and informative glance into preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and Russia’s psyche. After all, the boss is probably on a beach somewhere and not all of one’s attention is needed to man the fort, right?* Read more

The great pornwall of Britain

Pints, royals, strawberries and cream, bulldogs, cricket, fry-ups, football hooligans, and porn filters. All things British. The last item on the list being a recent arrival announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech last week.

The filters will require an active selection to be able to view porn — plus anything that gets misidentified as porn — on one’s home internet connection.

Now, given that many Brits seem barely able flirt without the aid of alcohol (sorry!), one wonders exactly how many people will go to the trouble of getting the filters removed… but allow FT Alphaville to note that we kinda put “porn” in at least a couple of headlines over the last year. Just FYI. Read more

Banks getting taste of own medicine from CCPs prove unable to suppress gag reflex

Ohhh, who’s being naughty now? Read more

Introducing “ISDA risk” – it’s like basis risk, but more annoying

How many different types of risk can you name?

Operational risk, market risk, liquidity risk, legal risk, credit risk, etc. Now, let’s add “Isda risk” (pronounced Izzz-dah risk, it has the added benefit of making one’s risk manager sound like a rapper, which hopefully we all can agree is hilarious):

 Read more

A female director purchases shares in her company: what happens next?

Does the Stock Market Gender Stereotype Corporate Boards? Evidence from the Market’s Reaction to Directors’ Trades.”

Does this title of a recently published study by a group of researchers at the University of Exeter make you think:

A. Hmm, “gender stereotype”. That’s wordy.

B. Oh boy, what’s the media going to do with this one… Read more

The (early) Lunch Wrap

Bove vs Bloomberg, on JPMorgan || QEnd Game || EBA delays bank stress tests || Qatar bankrolls Syrian revolt || Dell profits below expectations || US farmland prices see double-digit rise || World’s largest container shipping company downgrades view on global trade || Tony Hayward appointed chairman of Glencore Xstrata || Citigroup FX traders move away from Bloomberg Messenger || Saudi princes deny laundering claim || S&P cuts Berkshire Hathaway || Yahoo spared potential $2.7bn in legal damages || Market update Read more

Oh, my lovely Bloomberg, will we ever be the same again?

Bloomberg withdrawal (BBG wɪðˈdrɔːəl) noun.

Definition:

  1. Removal of all meaningful work space elements other than the desk, chair, phone, and headache tablets.
  2. Detachment from all those who matter in one’s work (and possibly also personal) life.
  3. Feeling of uncertainty that accompanies the suspicion that their terminal is somehow betraying them. Typically arises from reports in the media.

Unfortunately, an unusually high number of people may be suffering from the last one lately. Sorry about that.

In case you haven’t been following, there are two very separate threads to the Bloomberg kerfuffle. Read more

More money, more self-reported satisfaction, but not more happiness…

Beyond a certain point, incremental increases in income stop making a difference to someone’s satisfaction with his or her lot in life.

After obtaining a nicely stocked humidor, a couple of Bentleys, a Patek Phillipe, an account with Coutts, and membership at The Hurlingham Club, what else is there, really? Maybe there’s nothing. Maybe we should ask the miserable bankers making a million who are struggling to get by keep up with their equally wealthy peers…

But do not despair! For it turns out that more money does seem to equal higher reported life satisfaction! Even at relatively high levels of income! Even though we’re not in a position to be relived ourselves about that (media — it’s a booming industry, kids), we’re very happy for those of you who are! Read more

It’s that time of year again: the sun is shining and thousands of CFA candidates are stuck inside

With less than a month to go, several of this blogger’s mental faculties seem to have gone offline. In the space that previously housed “fear of public failure,” new tenants have arrived in the form of after-tax return equations, biases that impact investment decisions, and a multitude of currency hedging strategies.

Ego defenses down, FT Alphaville would like to draw your attention to a brilliant post by the people at the 300 hours. It’s entitled “Sh*t People Say (to CFA candidates)”. Tl;dr version available to the right.

Drumroll… Read more

Ring around the clearer, acts like a mirror. Default! default! They all fall down

What happens when one bank defaults across six CCPs? The remaining members will have to pick up the bill. Given that they are almost certainly members of the other CCPs, this will result in a default contribution bill so large it could potentially lead to their failure also.”

That’s Gary Dunn, senior manager for regulatory and risk analytics at HSBC, being quoted by Risk at Isda’s AGM last week. Given the increasing concentration of risk in central counterparties, he thinks that they would ultimately have to be bailed out by taxpayers, after the CCP’s buffers were exhausted. Read more

Further reading

Elsewhere on Friday,

- Oh, yes, it’s the shared office printer.

- The Macro Man would like to introduce you to the new one euro coin.

- Economists did a bad job predicting the crisis. How have they done since? Read more

The (early) Lunch Wrap

The backwardation of gold || The Aussie bank share bubble || Stepping towards numerical QE guidance || ECB Meeting || Chinese renminbi at record high || Shell chief exec to step down next year || Apple avoids potential $9bn tax bill with debt sale || Ad tools boost Facebook || Tablet shipments rise 142% || Google invests in lender || Transocean dividend plans || Goldman under criticism for Malaysia bond deal || IBM Lenovo deal breaks down || Kodak may emerge from bankruptcy in July || Market Update Read more

The (early) Lunch Wrap

JPMorgan’s executive re-reshuffle || Strong capital inflows into Asia increase risk, says IMF || HFT to face speed limits on EBS platform || Chat apps overtake text messages || Ark gala mothballed || Alphaville’s latest podcast || Pari passu saga || Deep thoughts on civilisation || Market update Read more

ExcelFu: as attractively cheap as it is deadly

…it was just someone using Excel on a laptop who was highlighting cells for a formula and released his index finger from the left-clicky button of his mouse too soon.

Writes Irish stand-up comedian Colm O’Regan for BBC Magazine, in his piece about “The mysterious powers of Microsoft Excel”. As you will likely have guessed, his article was inspired by spreadsheet blunders in Reinhart and Rogoff’s 2010 Growth in a Time of Debt paper.

FT Alphaville is frustrated that some commentators have used this as an(other) opportunity to crudely bash Microsoft’s ubiquitous spreadsheet software. Particularly in the Reinhart and Rogoff case, as this is like blaming a hammer when you miss the nail and flatten your thumb instead. It’s not useful or constructive if the best one can do is allude to Excel itself being a mysterious, yet all controlling, black box. Read more

Banks told to sit down and shut up or else some of them will get ice cream and others won’t, which will indeed totally suck

“One thing that I think would stand you in very good stead is to avoid lobbying – influencing policy is probably a better way to put it. We hear so much about fragmentation, but then the banks and trade associations discuss at great length trying to lower the standards.”

That’s William Coen, deputy secretary-general of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, as quoted by Risk on Wednesday. Read more

The (early) Lunch Wrap

How to write a AP tweet hacking story || On the virtuous circle of exporting deflation || The gold-Barca bubble || Barclays pre-tax profit falls || Apple tries to appease || Credit Suisse beats || ENRC chairman resigns || Australian central bank to invest in China || IT outsourcing companies to face toughened visa regime || Shell warns of shale delays outside US || Market update Read more

The (early) Lunch Wrap

China & Eurozone PMIs disappoint || Europe hits political limits for austerity, says EC president || EU warns on US bank ‘protectionism’ || Twitter signs biggest ever ads deal || Share of US oil imports from top suppliers rises || Tie-up in tertiary education in Brazil || Netflix beats forecasts || News Corp to reap payout on settlement || Walmart’s audit committee pay boost || Italian president warns of political deadlock || Market update Read more

The (early) Lunch Wrap

The rise of rail oil || Italy ditches promise of ratable payment to bondholders || Blackstone abandons its $25bn offer for Dell || IBM posts rare miss || Votorantim Cimentos intends to raise $5.4bn || Microsoft signals change of heart over Windows 8 || Google reports mixed results || SAP’s shortfall || Morgan Stanley suffers trading activity decrease || Markets update Read more

The (early) Lunch Wrap

Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum || Mission Impossible: ECB Governing Council minion edition || Apple investors rattled || US ousts China as the top destination for Japanese exports || Fears over low rates || Brazil increases rates || Deepwater Horizon trial || Ebay’s revenue miss || Bank of America setback || Markets Update Read more

Mission Impossible: ECB Governing Council minion edition

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to collect seven briefing documents for a meeting of the ECB’s Governing Council. As always, should you or any of your colleagues be caught or killed, FT Alphaville will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This blog post will destruct if our servers go down. Good luck, dear readers. Read more

The (early) Lunch Wrap

Gold producers tumble || The S&P’s peak || Brent crude falls below $100 || Cargill calls for transparency in commodities || Energy Future Holdings’ creditors reject pre-packaged bankruptcy || Ergen trumps SoftBank with $25bn Sprint bid || Former Rochdale Securities trader pleads guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud || Greece on track to receive aid tranche || Gold’s fall sharpest since ’80s Read more

Don’t look down

What goes up, must come down, but most particularly the shiny yellow stuff lately. And Bitcoins. Can’t forget Bitcoins.

Anything else feeling a bit weighty lately?

 Read more

Ultimate Statistics Senator takes on US regulators’ $9.3bn foreclosure agreement

FT Alphaville does like a good Senate Banking Hearing. Especially when they feature a political body slam on proper statistical methods. And so we are proud to announce this month’s Ultimate Statistics Fighter… [dramatic pause]… is Senator Elizabeth Warren!

Warren demonstrated her moves on Thursday during a hearing on Outsourcing Accountability? Examining the Role of Independent Consultants. (Don’t let the incredibly dull title of the hearing deter you. That would be a mistake. Don’t be that person.) Read more

This is the VaR that slipped through the cracks

Mr. Hagan had never previously designed a VaR model. According to JP Morgan Chase, having an employee from a business unit design the unit’s risk model was somewhat unusual, but it did not violate bank policy…

Mr. Hagan told the Subcommittee that he was told the objective of his research was to design VaR models that, when fed into the RWA model, would produce lower RWA results for the CIO, since both he and the CIO traders viewed the bank’s standard RWA model as overstating CIO risk.948

Apologies for all the jargon there. The above is from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations staff report on the JPMorgan “Whale trades” that lost the bank over $6bn in 2012.

While the portfolio that lost all those billions was comprised of outsized credit derivatives trades, building up such positions wouldn’t have been possible without a significant change in a key risk model that the bank was using — the Value-at-Risk (VaR) that predicts possible losses over a given time horizon. Read more

The (early) Lunch Wrap

Argentina: what is the pari passu saga? – The Video || ECB’s first Household Finance and Consumption Survey || Revisiting monetary transmission || Goldman advises to short gold || EU seeks new powers for trade probes || KPMG resigned as auditor to two US companies || AT&T vs Google on fibre optic broadband || Southeastern Asset Management on Dell || Google faces having to offer more choice || Austria and Luxembourg to revisit bank secrecy rules || Markets update & more Read more

Airborne Cigar, uggggh! Sorry about that, I'll look into it.

Comment on: Markets Live: Tuesday, 1st October, 2013

My email btw: lisa.pollack@ft.com

Comment on: Markets Live: Tuesday, 1st October, 2013

pfd, I never asked if any of the writers are Amish... for those who follow markets/finance, it's better to skip straight to Chapters 8 and 9, imo (where the above excerpts come from except the last).

Comment on: Occupy the bookshelf: #OWS turns two

Electric Dragon, I *love* your comment. Brilliant :-)

Comment on: Excel monkeys unite! For today, we are cancelling the circular reference!

Hi Justin, That's a good one! Thanks for the link.

"...replicating a published result in one software package does not mean that you necessarily understand what that software package is doing, that the software is doing it correctly, or that doing it at all is the appropriate thing to do..."

Well said.

Comment on: Excel monkeys unite! For today, we are cancelling the circular reference!

ElectricRay, I could give you an average but the shape of the distribution is nowhere near normal. But if meaningless numbers bring you comfort, I may throw in a bonus VaR ;)

Comment on: 'I take your hypothetical scenario of counterparty failure, and raise you a bank resolution regime...'

ElectricRay, Re: career, I bet it would be intellectually stimulating while also making one prone to periodic existential crises. But then, a lot of careers are like that... (cough)

Comment on: 'I take your hypothetical scenario of counterparty failure, and raise you a bank resolution regime...'

ElectricRay, Thank you for the additional background and detail, it's very interesting. I think you're right about the Collateral Directive covering repo collateral. The bit about being detrimental to creditors... I do wonder whether a court in these circumstances would be able to determine that sort of thing for all counterparties under such stressed circumstances. Maybe yes, maybe no. All hypothetical, and as you say, tying some lawyers in knots.

I'd love to read the opinion available to ISDA members (hello, everybody with access!).

honeyoak, Always a delight to pop by for a visit :-)

Comment on: 'I take your hypothetical scenario of counterparty failure, and raise you a bank resolution regime...'

I've greatly enjoyed reading all of the comments here. Thank you to everyone who took the time to contribute. It's been very insightful!

Comment on: Where have all the cowboys come from?

alexander, BobMD I wonder to what degree the amount of abstraction jobs some financial sector jobs entail has anything to do with these sort of mental breaks or distancing. The intricacies of a trade or deal, down to the docs/regs/accounting etc, can be an enjoyable intellectual challenge.. but at the same time the distance to anything tangible or recognisable to those outside of finance grows. That is, what room is made, if any, for ethical questions when one is so far down the rabbit hole?

Comment on: Where have all the cowboys come from?