Monday, April 22, 2019

On the Coffee Table: Flash Boys

Title: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
Author: Michael Lewis
via Barnes & Noble
In his 2014 book, Michael Lewis offers a closer look at the mysterious world of high-frequency trading (HFT).  Apparently the exchange pits one sees in 1980s movies like Trading Places and Ferris Bueller's Day Off are extinct.  Everything's online now and literally lightning quick.  Anyone trader or firm who can shave microseconds off their transaction time has the advantage. 

Flash Boys covers a lot of ground in the HFT world but primarily focuses on Brad Katsuyama and his firm, IEX.  Brad is on a mission to right what he sees as a great wrong.  In short, HFT makes the traders rich but screws the customers who, once again, are intentionally kept in the dark about Wall Street's inner workings.  IEX is a new exchange intending to keep things fair. 

In my experience, Michael Lewis is best at character sketches.  The book flies when the focus is on the people and their relationships with each other.  Brad is not exactly Robin Hood as he still wants to make money for himself.  But the fact that he and his would-be merry men are willing to forego higher salaries with other firms in order to pursue a higher-minded ideal is endearing nonetheless.  All of Lewis's business books examine the complicated relationship between morality and the market.  At least in this case, it's pretty clear the protagonists are the good guys.

It's a muddier trudge when Lewis delves too deeply into the finance stuff.   As with his other books, I can't claim to understand all of it but the people help to make it relatable.

Apparently, Netflix has a movie in the works.


  1. customers always be victimized by traders in any kind of trading (business).

    Thank you for your well written review.

    Have a wonderful sunny day

    1. That is what I believe in my cynical heart, too. What's interesting, and refreshing, about this story is the fact that there are actually some who want their own industry to do better, even if it means they make less money themselves.

  2. Replies
    1. The movie will, as usual, rewrite to make the screenplay.

      Have you seen Big Short? A good movie.

    2. Big Short is great. In that case, I saw the movie first. If anything, the book is funnier. I can't remember if they included Steve Eisman (Steve Carell) attempting to play golf in the movie. That passage in the book is not to be missed.

    3. No, there was nothing about golf in the movie.

    4. A shame. Would have been quite an opportunity for a comic actor of Carell's caliber!