Damian Lewis
"actor, dad, redhead and ping pong champion"
Categories Billions

Bogged Down with Financial Speak in Billions? Let Us Help. *UPDATED – May 15, 2018

Billions Glossary

by Lady Trader | Fan Fun with Damian Lewis | May 15, 2018

We don’t think it’s essential to be a financial or legal expert to enjoy Billions. It is a show more about characters and their interesting relationships than about the workings of Axe Capital or the US Attorney’s office. Having said that, we believe we are more likely to enjoy Billions once we understand exactly what’s going on, which brings us to this Billions glossary.

We have seen it mentioned on various social media that some are distracted by the fact they are finding the stock market jargon difficult to follow. Only natural for those of us who do not spend our days talking about longing and shorting and looking out for people ditching stock through back doors at lunch time.

Think of this page as a constant work in progress. We list terms that we think could be helpful, in alphabetical order, and we will keep adding to it!  If you hear a term (or terms) we haven’t added yet, let us know and we will be on it!

Without further ado:

Glossary of Financial Terms

13F  –  Also known as Information Required of Institutional Investment Managers Form, this is a quarterly filing with the  SEC required of all investment managers with over $100 million in their qualifying assets and shows what positions a fund has.

Lady Trader says when the 13Fs come out, it shows if funds have increased, decreased, sold or bought positions. Those filings can move stocks. If a fund took a new position in something like McDonalds (MCD), it could make the stock price go up, since the street will believe the fund is positive on the name. Same if the fund had a position in MCD and then sold it. The stock would do down.

Activist Investor – purchases large numbers of a public company’s shares and/or tries to obtain seats on the company’s board with the goal of effecting a major change in the company. Then when does a company become a target for an activist investor? If it is mismanaged, has excessive costs, or could be run more profitably as a private company or has another problem that the investor believes s/he can fix and make the company more valuable.

Algo – short for algorithmic trading, is used for deciding the timing, pricing and quantity of stock orders An algorithm is set of rules for accomplishing a task in a certain number of steps. Algorithms are essential for computers to process information. Financial companies use algorithms in areas such as loan pricing, stock trading and asset-liability management.

Analyst – does the research. They analyse the data (relating to how stocks are doing) and then make recommendations to the Portfolio Manager.

Axe – next to being Bobby Axelrod’s nickname in Billions, Lady Trader hints that if you are called “axe” on a stock, that means you are the expert on that stock. It seems our Bobby has been aptly nicknamed, doesn’t it?

Benchmark – An investment benchmark is a standard against which the performance of an individual security or group of securities is measured.

Bivens Action/Claim – It is a claim against federal officials, sued in their individual capacities, for a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. It comes from Supreme Court Justice Brennan’s opinion in Bivens vs Six Unknown Named Agents. In Season 2, Axe brings a Bivens Claim against Chuck citing violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

Block Trade / Block Order – A block trade involves a significantly large number of shares or bonds being traded at an arranged price between parties, outside of the open markets, in order to lessen the impact of such a large trade hitting the tape.

Bitcoin – a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.

Bloomberg  Terminal – The Bloomberg Terminal is a computer software system provided by the financial data vendor Bloomberg L.P. that enables professionals in the financial service sector and other industries to access the Bloomberg Professional service through which users can monitor and analyze real-time financial market data and place trades on the electronic trading platform.

Book – A book is a record of all the positions held by a trader. This record shows the total amount of long and short positions that the trader has undertaken. Traders maintain a book to facilitate trades for their customers and to profit from the spread between their bid and ask prices.

Boutique Firm – A boutique is a small financial firm that provides specialized services for a particular segment of the market. Boutique firms are most common in the investment management or investment banking industries. These firms may specialize by industry, client asset size, banking transaction type or other factors to address a market not well-addressed by larger firms

Bucket Shop – A brokerage firm or hedge fund that makes trades on a client’s behalf and promises a certain price. The firm, however, waits until a different price arises and then makes the trade, keeping the difference as profit. If your firm is called a bucket shop, it’s not a compliment!

Buying a “Seat” – Seat refers to membership on a stock exchange, which enables a person to trade on the floor of the exchange, either as an agent for someone else, a floor broker, or for one’s own personal account, a floor trader. In the industry, owning a seat on an exchange was long considered a prestigious position, open only to a lucky and wealthy few. It was most commonly used to refer to membership on the New York Stock Exchange, in a structure that ceased to exist when it became a publicly traded company in 2005.

Buy-Side Analyst – The job of a buy-side analyst is much more about being right; benefiting the fund with high-alpha ideas is crucial, as is avoiding major mistakes. In point of fact, avoiding the negative is often a key part of the buy-side analyst’s job, and many analysts pursue their job from the mindset of figuring out what can go wrong with an idea.

Central Bank -A central bank, or monetary authority, is a monopolized and often nationalized institution given privileged control over the production and distribution of money and credit. In modern economies, the central bank is responsible for the formulation of monetary policy and the regulation of member banks. The central bank of the United States is the Federal Reserve System, or “the Fed,” which Congress established with the 1913 Federal Reserve Act.

CIO (Chief Investment Officer) – A chief investment officer is an executive position responsible for managing a company’s investment portfolios. The chief investment officer (CIO) usually oversees a team of professionals who have responsibilities such as managing and monitoring investment activity, managing pensions, working with external analysts and maintaining good investor relations. They will also develop short-term and long-term investment policies.

Cold Calling – Cold calling is the solicitation of potential customers who were not anticipating such an interaction. Cold calling is a technique whereby a salesperson contacts individuals who have not previously expressed an interest in the products or services that are being offered.

‘Covering’ is the term related to the short position. That is, when you short, you are selling the stock on the basis you expect it to fall in value and thus when you buy it back or ‘cover’ you expect to do so for less than you sold it and make a profit. However, if you get it wrong and the stock price rises, you must still cover the position and will make a loss.

Credit Default Swap – A credit default swap is insurance against non-payment. Through a CDS, the buyer can moderate the risk of their investment by shifting all or a portion of that risk onto an insurance company or other CDS seller in exchange for a periodic fee. In this way, the buyer of a CDS receives credit protection, whereas the seller of the swap guarantees the credit worthiness of the debt security. For example, the buyer of a credit default swap will be entitled to the par value of the contract by the seller of the swap, should the issuer default on payments.

Cryptocurrency – A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. A cryptocurrency is difficult to counterfeit because of this security feature. A defining feature of a cryptocurrency, and arguably its most endearing allure, is its organic nature; it is not issued by any central authority, rendering it theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation.

Dead Cat Bounce – a temporary recovery in share price of a stock after a substantial fall, caused by speculators buying in order to cover their short positions.

Deleverage – A company’s attempt to decrease its financial leverage and the best way to do it is through paying off any existing debt on its balance sheet right away.

Delivering Alpha Conference – We see Bobby Axelrod as a speaker at this conference in the pilot. Delivering Alpha is an annual conference hosted by CNBC (please note that Andrew Ross Sorkin, one of the Billions executive producers is also a co-anchor on CNBC’s pre-market morning news program Squawk Box) and Institutional Investor and held in New York City. Here’s a brief description of what the conference is about from the conference website:

Delivering Alpha continues to be an incomparable who’s who of the investor community, with hedge fund titans and institutional investors offering candid views, along with illustrious political and economic commentators appearing in panel discussions moderated by top journalists from CNBC and II.”

Lady Trader says “a hedge-fund manager can make or break a stock with his comments” at this conference. That is very telling about Axe being a speaker at the conference and him being a real influence on the markets.

Deposition – out-of-court oral testimony of a witness that is put in writing for later use in court or for discovery purposes.

Devaluation -Devaluing a currency is decided by the government issuing the currency, and unlike depreciation, is not the result of non-governmental activities. One reason a country may devaluate its currency is to combat trade imbalances. Devaluation causes a country’s exports to become less expensive, making them more competitive in the global market. This, in turn, means that imports are more expensive, making domestic consumers less likely to purchase them, further strengthening domestic businesses.

While devaluating a currency can seem like an attractive option, it can have negative consequences. By making imports more expensive, for example, it protects domestic industries who may then become less efficient without the pressure of competition. Higher exports relative to imports can also increase aggregate demand, which can lead to inflation.

Discretionary Investment Account (DIA) – A discretionary account is an investment account that allows a broker to buy and sell securities without the client’s consent. The client must sign a discretionary disclosure with the broker as documentation of the client’s consent. A discretionary account is sometimes referred to as a managed account; many brokerage houses require client minimums (such as $250,000) to be eligible for this service

Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) – an investment fund traded on stock exchanges much like stocks. ETFs usually track an index, such as stock index or bond index. They experience price changes throughout the day as they are bought and sold.

Event-Driven Strategy – Strategy adopted to take advantage of a merger or a restructuring that can result in a short run mis-pricing of a company’s stock.

Family Office – They serve as advisory firms for managing ultra-high net worth investors. Family offices are different from traditional wealth management shops that they cannot handle outside money but instead offer totally outsourced solutions to manage the financial and investment side of a affluent individual or family. For example, many family offices offer budgeting, insurance, charitable giving, family-owned businesses, wealth transfer and tax services.

We see in Billions Episode 2 Naming Rights that Steven Birch of Piedmont Capital settles with the US attorney’s office by voluntarily shuttering his hedge fund and turning it into a family office.

FCPA  ‘Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’ – A United States law passed in 1977 which prohibits U.S. firms and individuals from paying bribes to foreign officials in furtherance of a business deal and against the foreign official’s duties. The FCPA places no minimum amount for a punishment of a bribery payment. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act also specifies required accounting transparency guidelines

FERC – Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydropower projects. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave FERC additional responsibilities as outlined and updated Strategic Plan. As part of that responsibility, FERC:

Financial Leverage –  The use of debt to acquire additional assets. The more debt financing a company uses, the higher its financial leverage. A high degree of financial leverage means high interest payments, which negatively affect the company’s earnings per share.

Finder’s Fee (aka Referral Fee) – A commission paid to an intermediary of a transaction. The intermediary is rewarded for discovering and bringing the deal to interested parties.

Front Running – The unethical practice of a broker trading an equity in his personal account based on advanced knowledge of pending orders from the brokerage firm or from clients, allowing him to profit from the knowledge. It can also occur when a broker buys shares in his personal account ahead of a strong buy recommendation that the brokerage firm is going to make to its clients.

Fundamental Analyst – Fundamental analysts study anything that can affect the security’s value, including macroeconomic factors such as the overall economy and industry conditions, and microeconomic factors such as financial conditions and company management. The end goal of fundamental analysis is to produce a quantitative value that an investor can compare with a security’s current price, thus indicating whether the security is undervalued or overvalued

Futures – Futures are financial contracts obligating the buyer to purchase an asset or the seller to sell an asset, such as a physical commodity or a financial instrument, at a predetermined future date and price. Futures contracts detail the quality and quantity of the underlying asset; they are standardized to facilitate trading on a futures exchange. Some futures contracts may call for physical deliveryof the asset, while others are settled in cash.

Hard to Borrow List – An inventory used by brokerages to indicate securities that are unavailable for borrowing for short sale transactions. A brokerage firm’s hard-to-borrow list provides an up-to-date catalog of securities that cannot be shorted. The security may be on the hard-to-borrow list because it is in short supply or because of its volatility. In order to enter a short sale, a brokerage client must first borrow the shares from the broker. To provide the shares, the brokercan use its own inventory or borrow from the margin account of another client or from another brokerage firm

Hedge-Fund – “In the investment world, “I run a hedge fund” has the same meaning as “I’m a consultant” in the rest of the business world. In general, a hedge fund is a private partnership that operates with little to no regulation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

A hedge fund uses a range of investment techniques and invests in a wide array of assets to generate a higher return for a given level of risk than what’s expected of normal investments. In many cases, hedge funds are managed to generate a consistent level of return, regardless of what the market does.

To understand what a hedge fund is, it helps to know what hedging is. Hedging means reducing risk, which is what many hedge funds are designed to do. Although risk is usually a function of return (the higher the risk, the higher the return), a hedge fund manager has ways to reduce risk without cutting into investment income.”

Hedge-Fund Manager – A hedge fund manager can look for ways to get rid of some risks while taking on others with an expected good return. For example, a fund manager can take stock market risk out of the fund’s portfolio by selling stock index futures. Or (s)he can increase her return from a relatively low-risk investment by borrowing money, known as leveraging. Keep in mind, however, that risk remains, no matter the hedge fund strategy.

The challenge for the hedge fund manager is to eliminate some risk while gaining return on investments — not a simple task, which is why hedge fund managers get paid handsomely if they succeed.”

High Frequency Trading (HFT) – High-frequency trading (HFT) is a program trading platform that uses powerful computers to transact a large number of orders at very fast speeds. It uses complex algorithms to analyze multiple markets and execute orders based on market conditions. Typically, the traders with the fastest execution speeds are more profitable than traders with slower execution speeds.

Holding Company – Lady Trader gives us this one: “A holding company does not produce its own goods or services; rather it owns other companies’ outstanding stock. It exists to own shares of other companies to form a corporate group. Holding companies allow the reduction of risk for the owners and allow the ownership and control a number of different companies. A modern day example for a holding company is Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.”

Idea Dinner – Idea dinners  are a way for managers to not only socialize but discuss trading ideas and strategies.

Insider Trading – Lady Trader says: “Insider trading is when you buy (or short) a stock with information that is not known to the public. Example: if a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) tells me privately that their company had a very good quarter, but the quarter hasn’t ended, and I buy the stock at $20. When the company reports good earnings the stock goes up to $30, I made $10 per share. That’s a very clear cut insider trading case.

A good example comes from Billions pilot where Axe talks to his analysts Butch and “Dollar” Bill who want to long and short Superior Auto stocks, respectively: Bill gave $$ to a worker at Superior to get info no one else has (and seen they have lots of inventory). That’s insider trading for Bill, but not for Axe – he didn’t know where the information came from; he’s just taking the recommendation from his analyst.

Initial Public Offering (IPO) – Shares of a company are sold to the general public on a securities exchange for the first time.

Institutional Investor – An institutional investor is an organization that invests on behalf of its members. There are generally six types of institutional investors: endowment funds, commercial banks, mutual funds, hedge funds, pension funds and insurance companies.

Leverage up x times – That means you can trade x times what your account is actually worth. For example, if you have $1 million in cash in an account, you can trade $2 million worth of positions if leveraged up 2 times.

Leverage Build Up – The accumulation of additional debt to enter a position that has the potential for large returns. From the perspective of portfolio management, leverage build up involves partaking in excessive leveraged positions for the opportunity to magnify returns.

Limited Liability Company (LLC) – A business structure that operates like a traditional partnership. The company distributes income to the partners (who report it on their individual income tax returns) but also protects them from personal liability for the business’s debts, as with the corporate business form. In general, unless the business owner establishes a separate corporation, the owner and partners (if any) assume complete liability for all debts of the business. Under the LLC rules, however, an individual isn’t responsible for the firm’s debt, provided he or she didn’t secure them personally, as with a second mortgage, a personal credit card or by putting personal assets on the line.

Lock-Up Period –   A lock-up period is a window of time when investors of a hedge fund or another closely held investment vehicle are not allowed to redeem or sell shares. The lock-up period helps portfolio managers avoid liquidity problems while capital is put to work in sometimes illiquid investments.

The initial public offering (IPO) lock-up is a common lock-up period in the equities market used for newly issued public shares, typically lasting anywhere from 90 to 180 days after the first day of trading, so fund managers can keep a lower amount of cash on hand

Long or ‘long position’ – is where you expect the value of stock to rise. You buy this stock and own it.

Market Timing – A money manager who seeks a profit for clients from their own ability to predict when the market will rise and fall.

Municipal Bond/ Muni-Bond – A security issued by a state, municipality or county to finance its capital expenses, e.g. including the construction of highways, bridges or schools. These bonds are exempt from federal taxes and from most state and local taxes, making them especially attractive to people in high income tax brackets. Remember Axe tells Taylor this is the kind of giving he likes

Read more of the original article at Fan Fun with Damian Lewis