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“Pining for the Fjords, and something Completely Different”

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Since the 17th of November 2019 there has been a new reality for all of us to live in.

Back then, on the 17th of November 2019, there was a different world trending on Twitter than we are seeing today. Anything from “National Take a Hike Day” in the USA; to Kosovo fans waving the St George flag during God Save the Queen in show of support for England; to continued unrest in Hong Kong. Today that day must seem like an eternity to those of us who have been stuck in lockdown for the last few weeks.

Here at #DisruptionBanking there have been stories themed on Alice Through the Looking Glass and Monty Python’s ‘and Now for Something Completely Different’ during coverage of the events since the World Health Organization declared a Global Pandemic on the 11th of March. Was anybody really ready for the 30th of January when the W.H.O had only got so far as declaring a “Public Health Emergency”? Are we living in some sort of surreal realty akin to Fairy Tales and Comedy Sketches at times? Or is it much more serious than anyone ever thought it could be? #stayathome #savelives

#DisruptionBanking has identified that there are several different demographics that are interested in following the UBER moment that Banking at all levels is going through, now probably more than ever. All of us have noted the amount of people moving onto online banking during volatility in the FX and other markets. Here at #DisruptionBanking, this week’s Articles are dedicated to ‘Quants, the hidden superstars of finance’ – the Quantitative Finance Industry – those who like Algorithms, Mathematics, Data, Statistics, Facts, Logic, Probability and if there has to be Risk, then let the Risk be served Calculated.

The tricky thing about the ‘Chinese Virus’

As Donald Trump so eloquently calls COVID-19, is that any content someone tries to write; we all get this feeling a few days later that our content is already well out of date. Quite a conundrum for any publication trying to help its’ readers navigate the variables that the Lockdown continues to hurl at them. Groundhog Day may be a better way to describe what happens every morning in most trading platforms, how low can we go? And how many pictures of goats and wild boars and dolphins swimming or parading around various harbours, towns and cities across the world will we see before this all ends?

So, to start off with we had a look at FiveThirtyEight @FiveThirtyEight and what they posted on the 11th of March 2020 – and strangely enough the nearest remark to the Virus was related to the Biden and Sanders Campaigns in the US and how the Virus was going to be a big problem for these campaigns. Since the 11th of March there have been pages and pages of Articles about the Virus on their site, before the 11th of March there were only 2 Articles about the Virus… So, the W.H.O didn’t hit the mark on the 30th of January and with 1.1 million followers on Twitter, FiveThirtyEight is just one example of how the global press and even some trade press related to the Hidden Superstars of Finance underestimated how dramatically things would change. What was the date that the New York, Chicago, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong and other Exchanges noted the first drop in share prices related to the Virus?

By April FiveThirtyEight starts to discuss the Corona Exit Day with more enthusiasm, pointing at the high number of variables that need to be taken into account to better work out when this could all end and how the future will look.

Come April many of us had different priorities and the reality of the lockdown was settling in. Although it is great to see how people like Laura Bonner and others are trying to work out where this is all heading, many of us have taken to watching dashboards built on Python to track the Virus, in some this has turned into a daily obsession too.

I have already seen multiple models posted on LinkedIn, Github and Twitter all projecting trends of the developing Pandemic. So far, my favourite model is a Dashboard provided by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) and Johns Hopkins University where I have been following the Virus since the onset, and all of the time the map of the World continues to change a deeper Shade of Red:
COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)

If you have a better dashboard, then please do share this with us so we can give our readers a wider view of more libraries being used in a dashboard.

With Unladen Swallows, Seaborn and Pandas it’s great to see Python being used by so many to chart out the many variables we are faced with. Speaking of Python, of course one has to mention Guido van Rossum who has stated that Python may or may not have been inspired by Monty Python, and how apt that we live in times as strange as those depicted by the Flying Circus.

Learning Python and Global Markets, many Quants are young geniuses who share one trait – the desire to learn. Let’s consider individuals like Dr Emanuel Derman @EmanuelDerman, who in 2011 had the book ‘Models Behaving Badly’ published. In his book Derman argues that: ‘Models are merely metaphors that compare something you would like to understand with something you already do’, he has a lot more praise for the theories of Newton, but he left a mark with his experiences of the 2008 financial crisis.

There is plenty of inspiration to reach out for while we have this time during lockdown, and although the normal events are not happening (PyCon UK @PyConUK , which was supposed to take place in October 2020, is now cancelled, do they know something that we don’t?), many in the Macro-economics and IT fields were always used to working online and things have actually improved in that area. 

According to the Financial Times in early March 2020 there had been a large increase in students enrolling in quant finance courses, so now there are more people than ever looking to learn about Python and related careers. Just looking at the University of Michigan’s latest Enrollment for Python (180,000 have rated this course already), indeed Coursera last week declared to the market that they are giving unemployed workers free access to 3800 online courses, many of them in Financial Risk, Data Science, Python and Quantitative Finance. Other than this there are lots of things being offered in the market and companies like WorldQuant continue to offer free world-class training online as well:

In our next Article there will be a little more about what the reality of the variables we are facing mean for the role of a Quant in the current market. But in the meantime, there was a story about a defective Parrot that someone was sold in Canada that finally had its’ day in court a few days ago, ‘Sale of defective parrot leads to B.C. lawsuit’ (CBC).

The story isn’t about Risk though, it is just here to remind us of the Pining lumberjack inside of us and the beautiful landscapes of the Fjords of Norway and the Great Lakes of Canada…

#staysafe #stayhome #savelives

Author: Andy Samu