Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday Feature Book Review: My Billion Dollar Education by Toshihide Iguchi 告白 (大和10億ドルの損失) : 井口 俊英

This is a true tell all "Rogue Trader" confession story, with no detail left out. In the beginning, I expected another trader story where things go well, a wild lifestyle is had, a mistake is made, and then it snow balls. I was only half right. Things never went well, a simple US$70,000 mistake was made early, back when the trader was making only US$45,000 a year in salary. He worried about keeping his job, and pushed the limits to cover it up at first. It proved to be a very slippery slope, with nowhere to go but down, not just for one career, but for a whole bank.

There are no excesses in his life style, no glitz and no glamour. When things go wrong, it really does so in size. A loss in the end, of over US$1billion is the biggest single little snowball that I have ever come across. It was not overnight, and did take 12 years to grow. It was a slow motion train wreck, not any crisis that popped up over a few days. In many ways it is just a classic style tragedy, with no happy ending or savior event near the end. There is no "feel good factor" after the first few chapters. It reads more as a kind of personal documentary recall of events.

In many ways, you could say that the main character is a wonderful multi-cultural ideal. The Japanese kid who goes to the US at a young age. He learns English, stays to study at university, marries a college sweetheart, and all starts off well. He becomes a father, moves to the big city, and lands a job with Daiwa, a Japanese bank in New York. He begins his financial career there, but it is not long after before reality hits.  Financial markets like life, go up and down.

You realize several things while reading this tale. Culturally, the trader does not know what cultural value systems to choose daily. He finds it difficult to balance the two, and his private life suffers. The second is that with double cultural wiring, he had a lot more ways to look at a problem, and gets creative. Sadly, this creativity is about how to cover up a mistake and hide a huge loss. In many ways, you wish he could have used his talent for a much better use within the bank. 

What do you learn from this book? You certainly learn many aspects of Japanese banking and jail life in New York City. These are things you really are glad to learn second hand. The politics around finding a big target like Daiwa bank, and bringing it down has some very unfortunate casualties. The bank is now known as Resona Bank, and is independent.

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 within any bank. You have to learn how management think.

2) The best traders know how to make money and keep doing what they do best. You need to be consistent and keep a constant ability to adapt to trends and changes.

3) Becoming a successful trader, a true long-term moneymaker is never fast or easy, but can sometimes appear to be to outsiders. Mistakes are made, and you have to fix them fast.

As somebody who has worked with Japanese, all of the personality types ring very true. There are patterns of behavior within a Japanese corporate that seem very realistic. Sadly, with so many millions gone. You almost wish he stored a little for himself, as a hedge. He clearly had talent, but not enough to see the bigger picture that he was in. You certainly gain a worthwhile perspective.  Highly recommended!

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