13. Risk Supermarkets

On August 4, 1930, Michael Cullen opened King Kullen, the first supermarket in Jamaica Queens in New York City, aiming to sell large volumes at discounted prices. King Kullen’s marketing slogan was: “Pile it high. Sell it low.” Increasingly resembling financial supermarkets, banks packaged risk into discrete, tradable bundles, known as derivatives.

Derivatives have no intrinsic worth, deriving their value from an underlying financial asset—share, bond, commodity, or currency. They allow hedging the risk of changes in the price of assets. Peter Bernstein argued that: “The revolutionary idea that defines the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery of risk: the notion that the future is more than a whim of ...

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