Volume 3: What is LobbySeven


A Mathematician's Apology

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions" - Samuel Johnson

I’m sorry for writing this.

I’m sorry that writing it carries an implication that you might want to read it.

But, if this is to eventually become a successful endeavor, eventually it must pass into the hands of people who haven’t known me personally for a decade or more. Those people likely want to know where I’m coming from.

We all have cognitive bias. What we say and think is determined by our view of the world. Show me somebody who claims to communicate without bias, and I’ll show you a liar. The best we can hope for is to understand who is passing us information and why. For those of you who don’t know me, hopefully this note – which I will try to keep mercifully short – will help you to see the biases in my writing. Then, you are free to incorporate it into your world view, forming part of the bias of your own communication.

  • Who are you? What is LobbySeven?

  • What cognitive biases are you preemptively declaring?

  • What’s your angle? Why are you writing this in the first place?

 

Who are you? What is LobbySeven?

My name is Nicholas Cohen. At the time of writing this, I’m 36 years old. I live in a townhouse in Brooklyn, with a wife and two small children. I have never before written for public consumption and have no formal training as a writer - but you probably figured that out on your own.

A brief resume(1) would include:

  • Graduated from MIT with a degree in Mathematics (Theoretical) in 2002.

  • Drafted out of school into the Equity Derivatives Group at JPMorgan.

  • Spent 5 years at JPM in sales, electronic trading, flow trading and a year managing one of the largest derivative transactions in history.(2)

  • Moved to BNP Paribas in 2007 to manage Equity Index Exotics.

  • Promoted several times to larger management roles at BNP, 2009-2016.

After 15 years at large banks, I felt like doing something a bit different. Going out on your own isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s just nice to have a new set of problems to solve. So I decided to start a consulting firm.

While trying to avoid this project becoming a pitch for consulting work,(3) I have a few areas of specialization where I hope to add value:

  • Structured Products and Exotics: Having run BNP’s structured business in the Americas for 2 years (and been a senior member of the business much longer), I can work with banks, asset managers or others to build out and execute a business plan. Specifically – I had a lot of success at creating products/lines of business in the “new regulatory environment”.

  • Systems Integration: A big problem that financial institutions have today is massive, complex systems architecture which generate huge costs while still failing to meet users’ needs. LobbySeven is not set up to rebuild your entire infrastructure, but I have had success designing tools to meet specific demands. At a minimum, an independent voice is often better positioned to help determine an organization’s needs.

  • Risk Management: In today’s investment management world, the realized risks of an investment vehicle must align with what was promised to investors and other stakeholders. But CIOs and PMs are rightfully more focused on their investment strategy than building a risk management framework. Having managed all types of risk, I’m well positioned to help people formulate a risk management strategy, and systematize or code it as applicable.

End of pitch.

As for the name – “Lobby 7” is the main entrance to MIT’s campus.

What cognitive biases are you preemptively declaring?

My goal is to make this newsletter as fact-oriented as possible. When I say something which requires verification, I include a footnote that states where I found the information. If I do not put in a reference where one is needed, please tell me, I’ll add it. I use footnotes so that readers can see the information on which the narrative is based. I use only sources I believe to be reputable; the US Census Bureau is a rigorous organization and I trust their reports. If I report something from a source you do not think is reputable, please let me know this too – preferably with some evidence. I’m a mathematician, I like things that I can prove.

But regurgitating census.gov is not going to lead to interesting content.(4) One piece of feedback I’ve received is that while fact-based and historical information is interesting, it is also important to include my thoughts about what may happen in the future. When I’m giving my opinion as opposed to stating a fact, I’ll try to phrase it as “My view is…” or something similar.

I take all of this seriously. No matter what your political persuasion (and don’t worry, mine will be disclosed shortly), the recent election has told us about the importance of understanding why people write something or say something. I actively try to read things written by people I disagree with. It is a critical element of my thought process. But whatever I read, I do so with as much awareness as possible of where it is coming from.