Funny, telling quote from Derman’s book My Life as a Quant:
Although options theory originated in the world of stocks, it is exploited more widely in the fixed-income universe. Stocks (at least at first glance) lack mathematical detail–if you own a share of stock you are guaranteed nothing; all you really know is that its price may go up or down. In contrast, fixed-income securities such as bonds are ornate mechanisms that promise to spin off future periodic payments of interest and a final return of principal. This specification of detail makes fixed income a much more numerate business than equities, and one much more amenable to mathematical analysis. Every fixed-income security–bonds, mortgages, convertible bonds, and swaps, to name only a few–has a value that it depends on, and is therefore conveniently viewed as a derivative of the market’s underlying interest rates. Interest-rate derivatives are naturally attractive products for corporations who, as part of their normal business, must borrow money by issuing bonds whose value changes when interest or exchange rates fluctuate. It is much more challenging to create realistic models of the movement of interest rates, which change in more complex ways than stock prices; interest-rate modeling has thus been the mother of invention in the theory of derivatives for the past twenty years. It is an area in which quants are ubiquitous.
In contrast, quants have been a rarer presence in the equity world. There, most investors are concerned with which stock to buy, a problem on which the advanced mathematics of derivatives can shed little light. Fixed income and equities have fundamentally different foci. When you walk around a frenetic fixed-income trading floor, you hear people shouting out numbers–yields and spreads–over the hoot-and-holler; on a busy equities floor, you mostly hear people shouting company names. Fixed-income trading requires a better grasp of technology and quantitative methods than equities trading. A trader friend of mine summed it up succinctly when, after I commented to him that the fixed-income traders I knew seemed smarter than the equity traders, he replied that “that’s because there’s no competitive edge to being smart in the equities business.” (ed: emphasis mine)
Or as Woody Allen recalled in his script for Match Point, “it’s better to be lucky than to be good.”