A Coming-of-Age Tale From the World of London High Finance

THE TRADING GAME: A Confession, by Gary Stevenson

A coming-of-age story needs a love interest, a nemesis, a sturdy foundation of adversity and a generous seasoning of youthful rage and yearning.

In “The Trading Game,” Gary Stevenson’s takes place in the world of London high finance — a promising setting. At its best, the book is nicely paced, with an engaging cast of drunkards and neurotics thrown together in Citigroup’s London trading room. You can learn a fair amount about the perils of excessive drinking and the loneliness of early love.

What you will not learn very much about is finance.

And the promise of “The Trading Game” is, implicitly, that while speeding along on Stevenson’s nonfiction romp through London one will eventually unlock the secret of how the rich get ever-richer while sending the global economy down the drain. On this, it does not deliver.

At the start of the story, the 19-year-old Stevenson, a scrapper from the East End whose math abilities have gotten him into the London School of Economics amid a class of Oxford-shirted nepo babies, wins a contest — the “trading game” of the title. The prize is a short internship at Citigroup, where Stevenson’s canny willingness to fetch lunch for the traders wins him another internship, and eventually a position on the London STIRT (short-term interest rates trading) desk.

Stevenson does a creditable job of explaining just what the desk does: Essentially, traders use “swaps” to bet on the direction of interest rates in multiple currencies. By no means, though, do you need a deep understanding of foreign exchange swaps to appreciate the book.

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