Hedge fund pioneer Jerrold Fine raced to the forefront of the financial world in the years when a new generation upended the status quo on Wall Street and forever changed investing. He has been a founding managing partner of a hedge fund since he was twenty-four years old.
Drawing from his own experiences in the turbulent ‘70s and ‘80s, Fine (pictured) blends a heartfelt story of a young man, Rogers Stout, fiercely intent on achieving independence, with a fascinating insider’s look at the perks and pitfalls of a high-stakes life in the world of financial markets in his debut novel Make Me Even and I’ll Never Gamble Again.
HW: What inspired you to write a novel?
Jerrold Fine: I wanted to be challenged again. When Rogers’ character came to me, I leapt at the opportunity to tell his story. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
HW: Why did you choose to write fiction over, perhaps, a memoir or a non-fiction book on investing?
Fine: Readers don’t need to suffer through another “What I Accomplished” book. Also, I thought Rogers’ character and journey were more interesting than a set of rules for successful investing in the financial markets.
HW: Do any of your characters’ experiences mirror your own?
Fine: I thought it was important to place Rogers in environments and during times that I knew well. Although I spent significant periods of my life in Cincinnati, at Penn-Wharton and on Wall Street, the characters in my novel are fictional. While some of Make Me Even… parallels my history, Rogers’ personality and experiences are his own.
HW: You have created a number of strong leading characters and captivating individuals with smaller roles in Rogers’ life. How did you build out your characters?
Fine: Once I grasped the complexity of Rogers’ mind — how he analyzed situations, his fears and motivations, his reactions to the risk of failure and the joy of success, I knew he needed to be surrounded by strong characters who could help him along his way. As Rogers came of age, so did the characters in his life.
HW: How did you choose the time frame for the novel? Was there something happening in the culture or in investing in the ‘70s and ‘80s that spoke to you?
Fine: As Rogers was emerging from his apathetic teenage years, the financial markets were in a period of great turmoil, exhibiting significant volatility. Traditional investment management wasn’t working and change was on the horizon. It was a perfect time for an outsider like Rogers to be at its forefront.
HW: Since then, what has changed in the financial world?
Fine: In those days, the stock market wasn’t so closely followed by mainstream America. There was no CNBC or Bloomberg, and the market’s moves were not worldwide news events 24/7 as they are now. Professional investors didn’t have the media competition, and companies and their employees were happy to talk to Wall Street analysts and money managers. Now, they are hesitant to do it; instead, they communicate at conferences and on regularly scheduled conference calls. Hedge funds in those early years had numerous advantages then that are not so apparent now.
Also, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, hedge funds were run as private partnerships. By and large, that meant you could suffer your mistakes privately, and if you were ultra-successful, you could keep the dollar thing to yourself. Now, everything so public. Managers are closely followed by the media. If you do well, you’re touted as a rock star, and if you stub your toe, it’s cited in print and across digital sites and you’re publicly humiliated. In today’s world, results are actively followed, which can lead to resentments as some outperform others. It’s not an attractive quality, but it’s out there.
HW: What are the life lessons you wove into the book for your main characters?
Fine: While Rogers’ experiences numerous life lessons throughout the book, the prevalent ones are:
1. Listen carefully and ask questions that lead you onward.
2. Understand that decision-making can be a very lonely proposition.
3. Realize that you probably won’t accomplish your goals unless you believe in yourself.