Capital Ideas

Full Name
Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street

Capital Ideas tracks the roots of modern Wall Street, from the groundbreaking work of early scholars and the advancement of new concepts in valuation, investment returns, and risks, to the actual application of these theories in the real world of investment management. Packed with profound insights and timeless advice, this title reveals how the extraordinary contributions of these experts deeply changed the practice of investment management as we know it today.

"In a thorough, well-written work on the modern financial marketplace, Bernstein traces the merging of academic research with the curbstone techniques of Wall Street. Previously considered impractical pursuits, the concepts developed in "ivory towers" by various scholars and economists forced the marketplace to rethink its methods in light of events of this century. From early attempts at predicting market behavior and developing the concept of risk and portfolio management theories, these thinkers contributed a theoretical basis to capital markets, bridging the gap in understanding between insiders and outsiders. The text presupposes a knowledge of market and economic theory, but a well-informed reader will find this an interesting summary of the development of modern finance."

— Kenneth J. Cook, Melbourne, Fla., From Library Journal

"A savvy appreciation of how a small band of disinterested academics has revolutionized the way Wall Street and its offshore counterparts manage the world's investment wealth. A securities-industry veteran and founding editor of The Journal of Portfolio Management, Bernstein provides a lively, lucid history of the scholarship that has helped advance institutional investing beyond the more-art-than-science stage. For openers, he focuses on an obscure French polymath whose turn-of-the-century doctoral thesis on the unpredictability of stock prices anticipated Einstein's work on relativity. Over the years, this Gallic ground- breaker was followed by other pioneers, including an English statistician who put paid to any notion that securities analysts can pick undervalued issues with any consistency, and an American astronomer whose main claim to financial fame was his discovery that stock prices move in random patterns. Eventually, a host of Nobel laureates in eyonomics (Harry Markowitz, Franco Modigliani, Paul Samuelson, James Tobin, etc.) contributed as well. As Bernstein makes clear, however, professional investors at bank trust departments, foundations, insurance companies, mutual funds, and elsewhere long resisted unconventional wisdom--in particular, that originating with ivory-tower theoreticians. Once the bear market of 1973-74 had wreaked its havoc, though, many of the recalcitrants conceded there just might be something in the idea of systematically controlling risk in the competition for above- average investment returns. At any rate, less than two decades later (with a big assist from powerful numbers-crunching computers), asset allocation, diversification, hedging, performance measurement, portfolio insurance, and allied techniques are norms, not novelties, in the management of large pools of money. While his text may prove a bit difficult for market tyros, Bernstein makes a fine job of tracing the town/gown links that are restructuring big-time investment strategy and practice."

 From Kirkus Reviews