Practical analysis for investment professionals
10 April 2015

Weekend Reads for Finance Pros: Ben Graham, Toughness, and “The Whoosh”

Posted In: Weekend Reads

If you’re a regular reader of these roundups, you’ll know that I love language. And hopefully by now you’ve also come to expect the unexpected when reading through my selections.

This week’s gem comes from Dwight Garner’s review of a recently updated version of Marco Pierre White‘s “vastly influential first cookbook,” White Heat. Two of my favorite passages involve “the Whoosh” and Garner’s description of White’s prowess in the kitchen.

As Garner tells it, White had a way of dealing with rude or obnoxious customers that was called the Whoosh.

Here’s how it worked:

A phalanx of waiters would swoop in on the offending table and clear away everything, including half-filled wine bottles, in a moment or two. At this point, the bemused diners might still be expecting fresh silver, port and chocolate cake. Instead they got Mr. White himself. He’d stride into the dining room and seize their tablecloth (whoosh!) with a bullfighter’s flourish. The humiliated guests didn’t have to pay, but their evening was over.

My jaw dropped as I read that. In my mind’s eye, I could see the scene unfolding to the horror of the hapless guests and their fellow diners.

Next is Garner’s description of the man himself:

He resembled Jim Morrison, Sweeney Todd and Lord Byron. He wielded a cleaver the way Bruce Lee wielded nunchucks. He seemed as if he popped supermodels into his mouth like ortolans. (If the British tabloids are correct, he more or less did.)

I admit I had to look up “ortolan,” which led me to this astonishing revelation: the ortolan is a tiny songbird “that gourmands, including former President François Mitterrand, used to covet, consuming the head, bones and body in a single, steaming mouthful, while covering their faces with a white napkin to conceal the act.” (The bird was so over-hunted that “France banished [it] from restaurant menus in 1999.”)

Gulp.

Here are some other interesting reads, in case you missed them:

Financial Advice and Investing

Neuroscience and Behavioral Finance

Board Diversity/Women in Finance

  • In a tweet, Lucy P. Marcus noted that “to build strong businesses, it’s vital that entrepreneurs get foundations right, incl. good boards.” In other words, their boards also need to have independent directors who are not investors serving on them. In the accompanying article, “A Start-Up Founder’s Biggest Blunder?” Marcus writes, “It’s important to have one or two people from outside the organisation, even if it first appears they will just muddy the waters with their questions or demands. Here’s why: without free thought, tough questions and counterweights, companies are destined to make disastrous mistakes born from incestuous, yes-man thinking. They are ordained to believe their own hype.” (BBC Capital)
  • We recently held an online forum to discuss the gender imbalance in finance with six esteemed panelists from a range of professions, including executive recruiting, asset management, and academia. You can read the day’s discussion by clicking on the embedded window/frame in this post and scrolling down: “The High Cost of the Gender Imbalance in Finance (Online Forum)” (Enterprising Investor)
  • Fostering Women Leaders: A Fitness Test for Your Top Team” (McKinsey & Company)
  • Research is making it increasingly clear that more diverse company workforces correlate with better financial performance: “Why Diversity Matters” (McKinsey & Company)
  • When it comes to board diversity, “a big stick is needed to create meaningful change.” (Financial Times)
  • According to recent research conducted by Cambridge University professor Sucheta Nadkarni and commissioned by BNY Mellon, quotas are not the best way of getting women onto boards and keeping them there. (The New York Times)

And Now for Something Completely Different

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Photoevent

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About the Author(s)
Lauren Foster

Lauren Foster is a content director on the professional learning team at CFA Institute and host of the Take 15 Podcast. She is the former managing editor of Enterprising Investor and co-lead of CFA Institute’s Women in Investment Management initiative. Lauren spent nearly a decade on staff at the Financial Times as a reporter and editor based in the New York bureau, followed by freelance writing for Barron’s and the FT. Lauren holds a BA in political science from the University of Cape Town, and an MS in journalism from Columbia University.

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