Benjamin Bowler, Managing Director and Global Head of Equity Derivatives Research at Bank of America - Merrill Lynch


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At first blush, market volatility and fragility would appear to be two sides of the same coin. But for Ben Bowler and his global team at BAML, the last 5 years has uniquely seen muted overall daily volatility punctuated by occasional but extreme market outbursts. In Ben’s role as global head of derivative research, he has studied this period - one in which market kurtosis, that pesky 4th moment, has been substantially high. Perhaps owing to the conditioning wrought by the heavy hand of Central Banks, investors have, in Bowler’s rendering, increasingly competed for “dip Alpha”. Thus, the market’s growing tendency to lurch from calm to calamity as crowded positioning is unwound and then ultimately re-established once the Central Bank asserts its desire to see easier financial conditions. The result is a remarkable change in the character of market volatility post crisis.

In addition to exploring the notion of market fragility, my conversation with Ben considers the volatility risk premium, the value of signals from the landscape of cross-asset vol, and the impact of vol selling on the market’s gamma profile and resulting level of realized index volatility. We also broadly discuss the impact of risk control funds, the speed with which exposures can be de-risked and the greater incidence of flash-crash type events.

Ben's insights are excellent. I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I did, my conversation with Ben Bowler on this episode of the Alpha Exchange.

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