The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

I attended the European Quantitative Forum a couple of weeks ago, organised by State Street. Several presentations were made by practitioners and academics on sundry topics of mathematical interest in financial modelling. One, by Peter Raicevic, a quantitative analyst with the First AP Fund, a large Swedish pension fund, was particularly interesting, not just for its technical content but also for the humorous and offbeat way in which Peter presented it.

He began by displaying a portrait of Hans Brask, a Swedish bishop of Linköping. This man, supposedly pro-Danish at a time when Sweden and Denmark were at war, was forced by a bunch of rebellious noblemen to add his signature to their document voting to dethrone the reigning Archbishop of Sweden. As his conscience clearly bothered him and because he was in fear of his life if he didn't sign, he put in a little caveat under his seal - "Till denna besegling är jag nödd och tvungen", meaning more or less "I'm forced to seal this agreement". In 1520, the Danes invaded, occupied Stockholm, grabbed the uppity nobility and Brask, and sentenced them to death. Brask, however, was able to point to his little mark of protest, and so was spared; the rest were murdered in the infamous Stockholm Massacre.

Brask's little bit of protest entered the Swedish language as brasklapp, meaning an exception note or a hidden reservation. At this point, Peter turned to us and said, "I've started my talk with this historical anecdote for two reasons. One, there will be at least one piece of new information that you will take away from my presentation. Second, I have my own brasklapp. I am not a mathematician so although the technique I describe is very sophisticated, I only approach it as a user. If you have detailed questions, I won't be able to answer them!"


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