• Trillions

  • How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever
  • By: Robin Wigglesworth
  • Narrated by: Christopher Grove
  • Length: 12 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (130 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the Financial Times' global finance correspondent, the incredible true story of the iconoclastic geeks who defied conventional wisdom and endured Wall Street's scorn to launch the index fund revolution, democratizing investing and saving hundreds of billions of dollars in fees that would have otherwise lined fat cats' pockets.

Fifty years ago, the Manhattan Project of money management was quietly assembled in the financial industry's backwaters, unified by the heretical idea that even many of the world's finest investors couldn't beat the market in the long run. 

The motley crew of nerds - including economist wunderkind Gene Fama, humiliated industry executive Jack Bogle, bull-headed and computer-obsessive John McQuown, and avuncular former WWII submariner Nate Most - succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Passive investing now accounts for more than $20 trillion, equal to the entire gross domestic product of the US, and is today a force reshaping markets, finance, and even capitalism itself in myriad subtle but pivotal ways. 

Yet even some fans of index funds and ETFs are growing perturbed that their swelling heft is destabilizing markets, wrecking the investment industry and leading to an unwelcome concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands. 

In Trillions, Financial Times journalist Robin Wigglesworth unveils the vivid secret history of an invention Wall Street wishes was never created, bringing to life the characters behind its birth, growth, and evolution into a world-conquering phenomenon. This engrossing narrative is essential listening for anyone who wants to understand modern finance - and one of the most pressing financial uncertainties of our time.  

©2021 Robin Wigglesworth (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

 “A magisterial, delightfully written history offering up portraits of the academic scribblers and entrepreneurial practitioners who created the index-fund revolution. It also contains common-sense wisdom that will benefit all investors... With consummate skill, he brings to life the eggheads and the “iconoclastic” investors who guided indexing through its difficult birth pangs and oversaw its exponential development...A rip-roaring yarn.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“​​With well-researched accumulation of one story after another, Wigglesworth brings to life how all aspects of investing have been transformed by indexation....But Wigglesworth manages to bring life to even well raked-over events, such as the boardroom bust-up that led to the birth of Vanguard or BlackRock’s “deal of the decade” acquisition...[a] first-rate book.” (The Financial Times)

“A thoroughly reported and engaging account, featuring characters including the indomitable John \"Jack\" Bogle, founder of the Vanguard fund powerhouse, Larry Fink, architect of the even-larger BlackRock, and Louis Bachelier, a French mathematician whose 1900 PhD thesis made an early contribution to the academic underpinnings of passive investing...an enjoyable read.” (Reuters) 

What listeners say about Trillions

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REALLY entertaining!!

I know it sounds weird but this book is SO FUN, I listened to parts of it several times just to get the great stories being told. Best of all, while not “technical” you will learn a lot about what index and ETF funds are and, of course, the history. Very well read by Christopher Grove

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jd
  • 03-17-22

the interesting history of the index fund

Interesting and engaging story about the history of the index funds (currently an investment of many retirement plans). Passive index funds (just invest in the stocks that are in the index, such as the S&P 500) have shown a better return over time than active funds (where a fund manager is actively buying and selling stocks based on their own research).

1 person found this helpful

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Absolutely fascinating

It’s difficult to take something as esoteric as index funds and make the story interesting. Wigglesworth and Grove succeed in making the story riveting. Highly recommend for anyone interested in financial history or the ongoing debate between active vs passive investing.

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A fresh look on passive index investing

I highly recommend this book. It gives a fresh, unbiased perspective on the passive index investing revolution. I enjoyed how it showed both sides to the argument of passive versus active investing.