While your family settles down in front of the TV for another viewing of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, you could be using your time more productively over the festive period. Burying your nose in a book may ostracise you from your loved ones, but in the New Year you’ll be armed with a feast of knowledge that can help your finance career. Here are our picks.
1. Overwhelmed: Work, love and play when no one has the time, by Brigid Schulte
Finance demands long hours, high pressure and can attract workaholics who are glued to their smart phones on holidays, weekends and evenings. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, actually, there is. Stress is on the up in financial services, burnout often results along with depression and anxiety conditions and never mind the strain it places on your family, particularly for women in finance.
Schulte’s book aims to uncover how our lives became so busy and how you can find some moments of peace in an otherwise non-stop schedule. Ultimately, it will help your career.
2. Thinking, fast and slow, Daniel Kahneman
Kahneman is a Nobel Prize winner and this book has been at the top of the best sellers list since its release in 2012. If you wanted a ruthless perspective on its benefits, Thinking, Fast and Slow will give the tools to get one over your colleagues. It analyses how we make decisions by two methods – intuitive fast thinking and slower, rational consideration. It teaches you how to do the latter and thereby make better decisions at work (and at home) and potentially make the choices that will get you further up the slippery career pole.
3. The Second Machine Age: Work, progress and prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
Technology will make our lives better in the future; this is one of the conclusions of the research that led to this book. It will also eliminate the need for companies to employ certain types of workers. In a sector where back office processes are being automated, banks are struggling to compete against digitally led start-ups and big trading floors are likely to require ever-less human intervention, it’s worth knowing how to survive.
4. You only have to be right once: The unprecedented rise of the instant tech billionaires, by Randall Lane
Finance professionals have been launching everything from new social media websites to online mentoring businesses this year in a bid to turn their business acumen into the Next Big Thing that will make them an overnight sensation. You Only Have to Be Right Once offers in-depth case studies of 16 Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who share their stories on what made the likes of Tumblr, Twitter and Spotify (relatively) quick successes. Think of it as inspiration.
5. Breaking into investment banking: an unorthodox approach, by The ibanker
One for the aspiring investment banker – an anonymous ex-M&A banker claims to offer an unconventional way of breaking into the industry. In reality, it’s more of a way to avoid wasting your time on activities that will make little difference to your application – you still have to do the hard work. Handy nonetheless.
6. Market mind games: A radical psychology of investing, trading and risk, by Denise Shull
In the Hour Between the Dog and the Wolf by John Coates, traders learn just how damaging their emotions – and hormones – can be when making investment decisions. A bad run can result in a build-up of stress hormone cortisone, which in turn leads to more bad decisions. Bringing emotion into the equation is never a good thing. Except Shull believes emotions are a positive thing to bring to your trading experience – they’re your ‘psychological capital’ and simply need to be channelled in the right way to make the best decisions. In a world where human traders are being replaced by algorithms, this could be a lifeline to beleaguered traders everywhere.
7. Eat and run: My unlikely journey to ultramarathon greatness, by Scott Jurek
In case you’re not aware, investment bankers are mad for ultramarathons – finance professionals comprise over 30% of most big events worldwide and a lot of those participating are in the senior ranks. As unlikely as it seems, ultramarathons – like long cycle rides among affluent MAMILs – are becoming de facto networking events. This book, written by one of the leading forces in long-distance running, could inspire you to take it up in the new year.
8. Dataclysm: Who we are, by Christian Rudder
Big Data is likely to be taken up by financial services firms in a more aggressive way next year. Data scientists will be hired by banks, but they’re likely to be deployed on trading strategies (rather than working on regulatory projects) in the coming 12 months. Most finance professionals will not have much to do with Big Data, but it’s worth acquainting yourself with something that will gain traction within your employer. Dataclysm’s irreverent approach is a way of understanding how scary, and silly, Big Data has the potential to be.
9. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty
Yep, you should read this, if for no other reason than to defend banker bonuses at dinner parties.
10. First, break all the rules, what the world’s greatest managers do differently, Marcus Buckingham
At a financial services conference a couple of months ago, a CEO of a boutique investment bank – who was making his comments off the record – advised students that if they thought they were good at managing people, they should go for it: “The City is full of crap managers,” he said. So, contained within the vast reams of vacuous management books is this one, which gives some less conventional advice. It’s not finance specific, nor is it the musings of a successful CEO, but it should give some pointers on how to manage teams in a way that is neither the benevolent team-builder nor Machiavellian tyrant.