Essay: Exquisitely Bad Timing

January 4, 2019- by Steven E. Greer, MD

A friend sent me a good book by Peter Thiel called Zero to One. In the first chapter, he discusses the Dot-com bubble and has a chart of the stock market afterward.

I started my Wall Street career in 2000 just a few months before the markets began their multiyear drop. I knew that, but seeing this the chart made me realize how screwed I really was.

My first job on the sell-side required IPO’s to drive business. Those dried up in 2000.

I then went to the buy-side at a hedge fund. It is impossible to truly hedge a portfolio with short positions. Amazingly, we squeaked by with a profit and our famous boss did not fire us. However, I did not make much money.

By all accounts, my stock picking was stellar. People, to this day, still talk about some of my contrarian calls, where I spotted mass insanity and took the other side. The first season of Billions even features one of my ideas (the show is based on my old hedge fund). But I was living at the wrong time in history.

When I finally became a portfolio manager at Merrill Lynch in 2005, that too was bad timing. The markets started to act funny as early as 2006. The whole house of cards collapsed in 2008.

People who become tycoons are the product of luck. They all had good ideas at the right time in history.

My former boss from the years 2001-2002, who was struggling back then, made hundreds of millions by shorting the bank stocks in 2008. Was he a genius? Hell no. Good timing? Yes.

 

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