9. The fallen Wall Street trader
If you’ve ever gambled on a risky investment portfolio which has blown up in your face, you’ll know how one minute the markets can look as if they are going in your favour, only to sweep the rug out from under you at the last moment. But while some people might dabble with a few $1000 here and there, they don’t usually find themselves out of pocket by $6.2 billion, which is what happened to former trader Bruno Iskil, aka the “London Whale”.
Nicknamed “Voldemort” because of his aggressive enthusiasm for big, risky trades, Iskil was ironically part of a team tasked with protecting JP Morgan from risk – but it all went wrong in 2012 when a renegade bet he made imploded. Whenever JP Morgan made a big investment bet, Iskil’s job was to insure it in case it went wrong – a practice commonly known as hedging. But Iskil decided to go rogue, and instead of following the usual hedging process, he decided to place bets on complex investment securities – hoping to make the bank enormous profits.
Unfortunately, the bold bet didn’t go his -or JP Morgan’s way – and the bank wound up losing $6.2 billion. Iskil obviously ignored the most basic rule of gambling – discipline – but to be fair, apparently he wasn’t totally to blame, as his superiors have admitted that others were involved too and that managers should have stopped the trades from happening.