All grass is greener on the other side of the fence, at least in theory. The reality is often less green or clean. Before Lehman Shock, "the white house" was known as a New York luxury apartment full of big money players with a lot of white cocaine. When buy side clients "ordered in", it often was for high end exotic escorts. This is a true life story about sex, drugs, stress and money, all pursued to spectacular excess.
Sometimes you fly too close to the sun. You have waxed feathers, they melt and you fall. That is this book's core story. It is a modern twist on the famous Greek fable. Turney Duff starts off in Morgan Stanley, after intros from his only family relative in finance. "Uncle Tucker" opens the door for him, and he walks into Wall Street. The book works, because Turney was a journalism graduate. The book's writing is really excellent, perfectly fitting into documentary style, and that makes all the difference.
Uncle Tucker trades in his Corvette for a Mercedes Benz. He does so due to commissions he earns from a top client, Ivan Boesky, and calls it the "Boesky Benz". Boesky later goes to jail for insider trading. In fact, it was his unique personality that was used as the core base for Gordon Gekko. Also known as Mr "greed is good" made famous on the big screen in the Charlie Sheen movie Wall Street in 1987. Finance is about connecting with people, not always numbers. The female MD at Morgan Stanley that hired him, had a common interest in a US TV drama "Melrose Place", and sure enough, he got his first opening into finance. Ultimately finance is about relationships, very personal relationships.
Our hero has no MBA, no economic views of any sort, just soft skills and a hunger. This is a personality that works well in a world of professionals that wants more. We learn that Turney Duff, is not like his father, not the hard working man from Kennebunk, Maine, who shovels snow in fluid motion. His father is a man who thinks life is "not full of short cuts". Yet young Turney tries his own path, and finds every short cut possible while enjoying more sex, drugs and porn than the average rock star.
He marries a model, wants to be on the cover of GQ magazine in a Prada suit with Dolce & Gabbana jewelry. In the end, he finds out that his search is really empty. Like driving by a car accident, you want to look away, but you can't. It is too compelling. It is too real. All of the Wall Street client patronage rumors that you heard about are explained or rather confessed to, in amazingly candid "too real for TV" detail to ignore.
Reading all of the examples of excess is like gorging on a giant bag of potato chips, and 2 liters of Coke. Not a good thing, but it's so good then, that you cannot stop. His personal life story does not end well, but that is not the point. What you want out of this book is clear confirmation of "how it really was" in the middle of a possible insider trading shop like the now infamous Galleon hedge fund, whose founder is now serving 11 years in prison.
The Top 3 Takeaways from this book that really impact any reader are:
1) There is a lot to learn about how to be successful buy side trader. You have to learn about the key market players, and adapt to them constantly.
2) The best buy side traders know how to make money and keep doing what they do best where they have an edge, hopefully legal. You need to recognize patterns and be consistent and keep a constant ability to adapt to trends, markets and changes.
3) Becoming a successful buy side trader, a true long-term moneymaker is never fast or easy. Short cuts catch up with you, and can lead to your downfall. A market diary always helps. The more trading notes you take, the more profits you make.
If you want to read in glorious detail what world got him there, and about what the peak was like from "an insider" then this book is for you. You will learn during the go-go New York pre-Lehman years of 2002-2007, what took place and get your belly full of over-excess satisfaction. It really did happen, and every story you ever heard about the wild night side of Wall Street is documented in this very honest with no self pity confession. Warning: not to be shared with your grandmother in any book exchange. Highly recommended!