Fixed Income

How VaR Modeling Gone Wrong Cut Pay of Wall Street’s Most Powerful CEO, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, by Half

Posted on January 17, 2013. Filed under: Financial Crisis, Fixed Income, Operations, Securities, Strategies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon (Eric Piermont / AFP/Getty)

JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon (Eric Piermont / AFP/Getty)

President Barack Obama’s favorite Wall Street CEO, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon is facing more than having his pay cut in half to $11.5 million for 2012, compared with $23 million a year earlier. He is facing the prospect of seeing his reputation, cemented until now by his smart handling of the bank during the financial crisis, becoming tarnished as he has been deemed ultimate responsible for the banks’ loss of more than $6.2 billion in the first nine months of 2012 on bets by U.K. trader Bruno Iksil, nicknamed the London Whale, who operated under Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew.

The Chief Investment Office (CIO) was supposed to manage excess cash while minimizing risk using credit derivatives as part of a hedging strategy; instead, their trades became so large that the bank couldn’t easily unwind them. At the bottom of this miscalculation were blunders in the development, testing and approval of a new VaR model to measure the risk of their Synthetic Credit Portfolio.

VaR (Value at Risk) is a metric that attempts to estimate the risk of loss on a portfolio of assets. A portfolio’s VaR represents an estimate of the maximum expected mark-to-market loss over a specified time period, generally one day, at a stated confidence level, assuming historical market conditions. Through January 2012, according to the 129-page report from a task force led by Michael Cavanagh, co-head of the firm’s corporate and investment bank, the VaR for the Synthetic Credit Portfolio was calculated using a “linear sensitivity model,” also known within the Firm as the “Basel I model,” because it was used for purposes of Basel I capital calculations and for external reporting purposes. The Basel I model captured the major risk facing the Synthetic Credit Portfolio at the time, which was the potential for loss attributable to movements in credit spreads.

However, the model was limited in the manner in which it estimated correlation risk: that is, the risk that defaults of the components within the index would correlate. As the value of the tranche positions in the Synthetic Credit Portfolio increased, this limitation became more significant, as the value of these positions was driven in large part by the extent to which the positions in the index were correlated to each other. The main risk with the tranche positions was that regardless of credit risk in general, defaults might be more or less correlated.

This limitation meant that the Basel I model likely would not comply with the requirements of Basel II.5, which originally had been expected to be formally adopted in the United States at the end of 2011. One of the traders responsible for the Synthetic Credit Portfolio therefore instructed an expert in quantitative finance within the Quantitative Research team for CIO to develop a new VaR model for the Synthetic Credit Portfolio that would comply with the requirements of Basel II.5. They believed that the Basel I model was too conservative, that it was producing a higher VaR than was appropriate.

Early in the development process, CIO considered and rejected a proposal to adopt the VaR model used by the Investment Bank’s credit hybrids business for the Synthetic Credit Portfolio. Because the Investment Bank traded many customized and illiquid CDSs, its VaR model mapped individual instruments to a combination of indices and single name proxies, which CIO Market Risk viewed as less accurate for CIO’s purposes than mapping to the index as a whole. He believed that, because the Synthetic Credit Portfolio, unlike the Investment Bank, traded indices and index tranches, the Investment Bank’s approach was not appropriate for CIO. The Model Review Group agreed and, in an early draft of its approval of the model, described CIO’s model as “superior” to that used by the Investment Bank.

The Model Review Group, charged with the formal approval of the model, performed only limited back-testing, comparing the VaR under the new model computed using historical data to the daily profit-and-loss over a subset of trading days during a two-month period, not even close to a typically required period of 264 previous trading days, a year. In addition, they were pressured by the CIO to accelerate its review, overlooking operational flaws apparent during the approval process; for instance, it was found later that the model operated through a series of Excel spreadsheets, which had to be completed manually, by a process of copying and pasting data from one spreadsheet to another. The Model Review Group discovered that, for purposes of a pricing step used in the VaR calculation, CIO was using something called the “West End” analytic suite rather than Numerix, an approved vendor model. CIO assured the Model Review Group that both valuations were in “good agreement.”

Sandy Weill, left, and Jamie Dimon, then with American Express, at a conference in California in 1983.   (Photo: Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis)

Sandy Weill, left, and Jamie Dimon, then with American Express, at a conference in California in 1983. (Photo: Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis)

On January 30, the Model Review Group finally authorized CIO Market Risk to use the new VaR model which would utilize the Gaussian Copula model, a commonly accepted model used to map the approximate correlation between two variables, to calculate hazard rates and correlations. A hazard rate is the probability of failure per unit of time of items in operation, sometimes estimated as a ratio of the number of failures to the accumulated operating time for the items. For purposes of the model, the hazard rate estimated the probability of default for a unit of time for each of the underlying names in the portfolio.

Once in operation, a spreadsheet error caused the VaR for April 10 to fail to reflect the day’s $400 million loss in the Synthetic Credit Portfolio. This error was noticed, first by personnel in the Investment Bank, and by the modeler and CIO Market Risk, and was corrected promptly. Because it was viewed as a one-off error, it did not trigger further inquiry. Later in May, in response to further losses in the Synthetic Credit Portfolio, a review of the West End calculated discovered that it was using the Uniform Rate model rather than Gaussian Copula model, contrary to the Model Review Group approval.

Although this error did not have a significant effect on the VaR, an operational error was found in the calculation of the relative changes in hazard rates and correlation estimates. Specifically, after subtracting the old rate from the new rate, the spreadsheet divided the result by their sum instead of their average, as the modeler had intended. This error likely had the effect of muting volatility by a factor of two and of lowering the VaR, minimizing the estimate of the potential loss in the Synthetic Credit Portfolio, which ultimately grew to more than $6.2 billion. Despite this humongous loss, JPMorgan Chase disclosed full-year 2012 record net income of $21.3 billion on revenue of $99.9 billion, guaranteeing Dimon’s survival at the helm for the moment.

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The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 Shanghai at Hult International Business School

Posted on June 3, 2012. Filed under: Economy, Event Announcements, Exchanges, Fixed Income, Practitioners, Private Equity, Securities, Strategies, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Mr. Edgar Perez, Author of          The Speed Traders

Edgar Perez, Author, The Speed Traders, Speaker at The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 Shanghai: How Algorithmic and High Frequency Traders Leverage Profitable Strategies to Find Alpha in Equities, Options, Futures and FX, June 6

New York, NY, May 26, 2012 — Edgar Perez will be the presenter at upcoming The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 Shanghai: How Algorithmic and High Frequency Traders Leverage Profitable Strategies to Find Alpha in Equities, Options, Futures and FX, June 6, to be held at Hult International Business School’ Shanghai campus.

Hult International Business School (formerly known as the Arthur D. Little School of Management) is a top business school with campuses in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai. It offers a range of business-focused degree programs including MBA, Executive MBA, Master and Undergraduate degrees. Hult is affiliated with the privately held company EF Education First and is named for EF’s founder, Bertil Hult. The school is incorporated as Hult International Business School, Inc., which is a not-for-profit organization incorporated under Massachusetts law.

Hult has a list of faculty which is on par with other business schools, and includes many faculty members from colleges in the northeast of the USA. Some of the Hult faculty also teaches at Babson College, Harvard, INSEAD and other business schools.

Hult organizes the Hult Global Case Challenge, an annual international case competition that takes on global social challenges by generating ideas and solutions from students from around the world. The organization is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. At the event, student teams of five from business schools from around the world are invited to participate at one of five international locations where teams compete to develop the best solutions around the proposed challenge area. Cities of competition include Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai, where The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 will be held.

Mr. Perez, author of The Speed Traders, An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World, published by McGraw-Hill Inc. (2011) and currently being translated into Chinese, has been engaged to present to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, CFA Singapore, Hong Kong Securities Institute, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University and Pace University, among other institutions. In addition, Mr. Perez has spoken at Harvard Business School’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Conference (Boston), High-Frequency Trading Leaders Forum (New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, London, Singapore), MIT Sloan Investment Management Conference (Cambridge), High-Frequency Trading Happy Hour (New York), Institutional Investor’s Global Growth Markets Forum (London), Technical Analysis Society (Singapore), TradeTech Asia (Singapore), FIXGlobal Face2Face (Seoul), 2nd Private Equity Convention Russia, CIS & Eurasia (London), among other global forums.

Mr. Perez is one of the great business networkers and motivators on the lecture circuit; he is available worldwide for the following speaking engagements: Present and Future of High-Frequency Trading, The Real Story behind the “Flash Crash”, Networking for Financial Executives, and Business Networking for Success.

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Miss It at Your Own Risk: World’s Only High Frequency Trading Seminar, Now in China

Posted on June 1, 2012. Filed under: Economy, Event Announcements, Exchanges, Fixed Income, Practitioners, Private Equity, Securities, Strategies, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Speed Traders Workshop 2012

Edgar Perez, Author, The Speed Traders, Speaker at The Speed Traders Workshop 2012: How Algorithmic and High Frequency Traders Leverage Profitable Strategies to Find Alpha in Equities, Options, Futures and FX, Shanghai (June 6)

Mr. Edgar Perez, author, The Speed Traders, and former McKinsey & Co. consultant, is leading the world’s only high frequency trading seminar, aptly called The Speed Traders Workshop 2012: How Algorithmic and High Frequency Traders Leverage Profitable Strategies to Find Alpha in Equities, Options, Futures and FX, for the first time in China.  The Speed Traders Workshop will next take place in Shanghai on June 6.

Mr. Edgar Perez is widely regarded as the preeminent speaker in the specialized area of high-frequency trading.  He is author of The Speed Traders, An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World, published by McGraw-Hill Inc. (2011) in English and China Financial Publishing House (2012) in Chinese. In addition, Mr. Edgar Perez is course director of The Speed Traders Workshop 2012, How Algorithmic and High Frequency Traders Leverage Profitable Strategies to Find Alpha in Equities, Options, Futures and FX (Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Warsaw and Kiev).

Mr. Edgar Perez has been featured on CNBC Cash Flow (with Oriel Morrison), CNBC Squawk Box (with Geoff Cutmore), BNN Business Day (with Kim Parlee), TheStreet.com (with Gregg Greenberg), Channel NewsAsia Business Tonight and Cents & Sensibilities (with Lin Xue Ling), NHK World, iMoney Hong Kong, Hedge Fund Brief, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Dallas Morning News, Valor Econômico, FIXGlobal Trading, TODAY Online, Oriental Daily News and Business Times.

In the last months, Mr. Edgar Perez has been engaged to present to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, CFA Singapore, Hong Kong Securities Institute, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University and Pace University, among other institutions. In addition, Mr. Edgar Perez has spoken at Harvard Business School’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Conference (Boston), High-Frequency Trading Leaders Forum (New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, London, Singapore), MIT Sloan Investment Management Conference (Cambridge), High-Frequency Trading Happy Hour (New York), Institutional Investor’s Global Growth Markets Forum (London), Technical Analysis Society (Singapore), TradeTech Asia (Singapore), FIXGlobal Face2Face (Seoul), 2nd Private Equity Convention Russia, CIS & Eurasia (London), among other global forums.

The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 will reveal how high-frequency trading players are succeeding in the global markets and driving the development of algorithmic trading at breakneck speeds from the U.S. and Europe to India, Singapore and Brazil. The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 kicks off a series of presentations in the world’s most important financial centers: Jakarta, Indonesia, June 13; Mexico City, Mexico, July 27; Hong Kong, August 4, and Moscow, Russia, August 10.

Mr. Edgar Perez is one of the great business networkers and motivators on the business circuit; he is available worldwide for the following speaking engagements: Present and Future of High-Frequency Trading, The Real Story behind the “Flash Crash”, Networking for Financial Executives, and Business Networking for Success.

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Edgar Perez, The Speed Traders, Opening Keynote Speaker at FIXGlobal Face2Face, Seoul, South Korea

Posted on November 15, 2011. Filed under: Event Announcements, Exchanges, Fixed Income, Practitioners | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

High-Frequency Trading Leaders Forum 2011

FIXGlobal Face2Face

Mr. Edgar Perez, author of The Speed Traders, An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World (http://www.thespeedtraders.com), will be presenting at FIXGlobal Face2Face, Seoul, South Korea, November 25, on “The Present and Future of High-Frequency Trading“.

Every year, over 200 industry professionals gather in Westin Chosun at the FIXGlobal Face2Faceforum to discuss the latest issues that are affecting the industry, from trading practices, through to the use of technologies. With the use of FIX Protocol in Korea breaks down fairly evenly in the Securities and Futures arenas and a strong growth potential of FIX Protocol adoption across Asset Managers, both new adoptions or migrating from non-standard FIX implementations, the event will continue to bring you the latest information on the usage of FIX on different stages of within the trading cycle.

FIXGlobal Face2Face forums feature lively debate between experts, sharing ideas and insight on implementing an effective electronic tradingstrategy, global exchanges competition, the use of algorithmic trading strategies etc. in Korea and regionally and what it means to the markets going forward.

The Speed Traders, published by McGraw-Hill Inc., is the most comprehensive, revealing work available on the most important development in trading in generations. High-frequency trading will no doubt play an ever larger role as computer technology advances and the global exchanges embrace fast electronic access. The Speed Traders explains everything there is to know about how today’s high-frequency traders make millions—one cent at a time. In this new title, The Speed Traders, Mr. Perez opens the door to the secretive world of high-frequency trading. Inside, prominent figures drop their guard and speak with unprecedented candidness about their trade.

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For Edgar Perez, Author, The Speed Traders, Increased Volumes and Volatility to Feed High-Frequency Trading on Monday

Posted on August 6, 2011. Filed under: Economy, Exchanges, Financial Crisis, Fixed Income, Securities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

For Edgar Perez, Author, The Speed Traders, S&P Debt Downgrade Wake-Up Call to Get Serious about U.S. EconomyMr. Edgar Perez, author of The Speed Traders, An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World (http://www.thespeedtraders.com), wrote on Modern Finance Report (http://www.modernfinancereport.com) that a short-term stock plunge (increase of volume) and a spike in volatility on Monday are reasonably expected given S&P’s downgrade of the U.S. debt rating; the U.S. stock market was coming off its worst week since the financial crisis. “So we have here two of the main requirements for high-frequency trading, volume and volatility. Therefore, it will be reasonable to expect Monday to be a busy day for speed traders, as they provide the liquidity long-term investors will need to survive the day.”
Mr. Perez indicated that he would not be inclined to kill the messenger and instead see S&P’s decision in a positive light as it should serve as an effective wake-up call to get Washington’s warring players to the negotiating table again. He gave the example of S&P’s past decision to put the UK’s AAA-rating on negative outlook in May 2009, which fueled a debate on the need for significant fiscal tightening, and tough decisions taken by the new coalition government, which were eventually rewarded by S&P with the UK’s outlook being revised back up to stable in October last year.

Mr. Perez wrote: “We cannot deny the significant psychological impact of S&P’s decision on the markets and the view of foreign governments and investors of the U.S. economy. However, I expect Monday’ stock plunge to be a short-term event that will lose steam quickly. In fact, investors can be tempted to use it as reason to snatch value plays, as there would have not been a fundamental change from where we were last Friday. At the end of the day, S&P’s main theme, that U.S. finances are in bad shape, is not news to investors and traders; for instance, Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund, had stepped away from US government debt back in March; in addition, savvy money managers had already positioned themselves for a potential rating downgrade.”

For Edgar Perez, Author, The Speed Traders, S&P Debt Downgrade Wake-Up Call to Get Serious about U.S. EconomyFinally, he summarized: “I agree with experts who sustain that the downgrade will not lead to sharp rises of lending rates to the corporate sector or households in the U.S., as Fitch and Moody’s still maintain their top rating for U.S. debt. Also, a sudden sell off of U.S. Treasury instruments looks unlikely, as there are still not many safe assets to replace them. Once the dust settles, attention will turn back to the economic fundamentals. Disregarding the S&P downgrade comes with high risk for the U.S. economy, particularly if Washington prioritizes electoral concerns over the long-term health of this great nation, the United States of America.”

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