Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rouge Traders & Rogue Burritos


I of course can’t prove it, but my strong suspicion is that Steve Randy Waldmann has the curious intractability of the “rogue trader” problem about right. These rogue traders are out there because their bosses don’t want to know what they’re doing. I never get a “rogue burrito” at Chipotle because the management wants people to get burritos that are rolled properly. But suppose the management wants people to obtain the kind of high returns that can only be achieved through unduly risky trades. Well, you can’t very well issue a directive telling people to make unduly risky trades. You certainly can, however, create circumstances under which incentives, control, and supervision are structured so as to make it the case that “rogue traders” will pop up here and there and then there rogueishness can be blamed ex post for undertakings that go badly. 
I was always struck in college, watching people head off into the field of finance, by the mismatch between the demographics of the folks who’d go be bankers and the stated desire to manage risk. If I’m conjuring up in my head a vision of a prudent risk manager, I’m thinking maybe a mother of two. Someone smart, of course, but also someone who’s cautious. Someone who sees the whole field. Someone who juggles. I’m not thinking “young smart arrogant dude with limited practical experience and a burning desire to get ahead.” That to me sounds more like a rogue trader!

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