Weekend Reads for Finance Pros: Ben Graham, Toughness, and “The Whoosh”
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.”)
Here are some other interesting reads, in case you missed them:
Financial Advice and Investing
- “Would Benjamin Graham have hated index funds?” Jason Zweig has the answer. (Wall Street Journal)
- “Why Robert Shiller Is Calling This US Stock Market ‘A Great Enigma‘” (MarketWatch)
- American women represent an economic powerhouse. But how well are they being served by advisers? (Pershing)
- “Yale’s Swensen: Consider Climate Change When Investing” (ThinkAdvisor)
- “We’re in the middle of a shifting trend where there are newly wealthy women putting their money to work.” See: “Female-Run Venture Capital Funds Alter the Status Quo” (The New York Times)
- “The Battle of the Robo-Advisers Heats Up” (Reuters)
- None of us like thinking about cognitive and mental decline as we age. But it’s an increasingly important topic. This week, we asked CFA Institute Financial NewsBrief readers the following question: What is your experience dealing with elderly clients who exhibit diminished mental or cognitive capacity? About 40% of respondents indicated they had dealt with the issue while the majority confirmed it’s an area worth further explanation (i.e., “No experience but believe the issue will grow in importance”). As it turns out, this topic was also on Bob Seawright’s mind: he recently penned a thoughtful piece, “Dear Future Me: Please Listen!” imploring his future self to listen to his children and to keep listening to them when they tell him he needs some help. (ThinkAdvisor)
- “Vonnegut: Are Clients Getting What They Want?” (Wall Street Journal)
- Carl Richards, author of The Behavior Gap, has a new book out, The One-Page Financial Plan, and it’s gotten a lot of press. For starters, see the review by Ben Carlson, CFA, and Tadas Viskanta’s interview with Richards. CFA Institute is also hosting a Twitter chat with Richards on Thursday, April 16, from 12 to 1 p.m. EDT. Use #CFAchat to join the conversation.
— CFA Private Wealth (@CFAwealth) April 2, 2015
Neuroscience and Behavioral Finance
- “Heads of Business Need Neuroscience” (Financial Times)
- “Behavioral Finance for Family Offices” (Barron’s)
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)
"empowering women and girls outside the boardroom is key to getting them into the boardroom -and staying there” @MorrisseyHelena
— Lauren Foster (@laurenfosternyc) April 8, 2015
And Now for Something Completely Different
- The mental health effects of eating too much sugar: “This Is What Sugar Does to Your Brain” (Huffington Post)
- “If Algorithms Know All, How Much Should Humans Help?” (The New York Times)
- “25 of the Most Creative Sculptures and Statues from Around the World” (boredpanda)
- Some great tips on building mental toughness — and they don’t just apply to runners. (Runner’s World)
- And last but not least: “In order to experience, accomplish and create amazing things, you must be willing to tolerate a certain amount of discomfort. The quality of your life is directly proportionate to your capacity to tolerate uncomfortable feelings — and take the next step, anyway.” (Be Leaderly)
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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.
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