Success! The Cat and the Banker sold 515 pre-orders by July 15, 2017, was queried to 101 publishers, and is in discussions with publishers.
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“Absolutely savoured The Cat and the Banker. I just sat and read it right through – something I could never do with anything related to investing.”
“It's a really nice, easy read. I like how the characters are cats. It’s very easily digestible and the storyline format is really cute.”
"It’s a really good read! I couldn’t stop. Seriously."
Why should learning about finance and investing be dull and confusing?
The Cat and the Banker is a fun and unconventional illustrated book about investing for people who don’t know where to start. Truth be told, this really is most people.
The Cat and the Banker addresses these problems:
- Books about personal finance tend to be dry and boring. This book reads like a fun story.
- Personal finance books often give inadequate recipes. This book provides a framework for how things actually work and empowers readers to make suitable decisions.
- Investing looks confusing. It is hard to know what to decide when allocating your own money. This book takes readers step by step on a journey through how the most common financial products work, what they do, and how they relate to the real world.
- Few people find time to read conventional books about personal finance. The Cat and the Banker reads fast. Chapters are short. The story goes straight to the essentials without getting bogged down in unnecessary intricacies.
The message is unique:
(1) The form of the book allows the ideas to be distilled through a candid conversation between a cat and his banker. The underlying storyline puts the notions in context and helps readers relate to the concepts. The form is really light, but the ideas are deep.
(2) The book has many fun and clear illustrations to make seemingly complex ideas simple.
(3) The book offers a framework to understand how things actually work, instead of giving a ready-baked recipe which may or may not fit the circumstances of the reader.
(4) The purpose of the book is to empower readers and, in time, help them make financial decisions which are suitable for them.
(5) The problem with financial literacy is not that financial knowledge is not available, but that it usually isn’t conveyed in such a way that people would enjoy interacting with it. This well-designed book aims to fix that.
Nadir worked in investment banking in London and Singapore for over 10 years, is a photographer, and does design work.
Nadir decided to write The Cat and the Banker when he realized the gap of understanding between the industry he comes from - investment banking - and friends who worked in creative industries.
They did not have a solid financial education, but somehow everyone needs to make investment decisions. Nadir wanted to make the complex and unnecessarily confusing subject of investing simple and accessible. He wanted to empower his friends to make sound financial decisions and prevent them from being fooled by the authority of investment professionals.
This is not a book for traders. This is a book for people who wonder what the options are for them to allocate and invest their savings. The book will connect with people who are curious to find out about how to manage their money and are looking for a simple and playful way to learn.
The book has 21 short chapters, including an introduction, 4 intermissions, and an epilogue. The intermissions act as transitions and allow readers to take a quick breather between slightly denser chapters.
1. “Houston, We Have a Problem,” (introduction)
The main character, a cat named Socrates, inherits money from his uncle, but he has no idea how to make it grow. He stumbles upon a note from his late uncle, which recommends he make an appointment with a financial adviser.
2. “A Gift to Mice,” about inflation
Socrates meets a banker called Catsby. The banker makes Socrates realise that, if he does nothing with his money, inflation will slowly eat his savings.
3. “The Menu,” about investment portfolios, returns, and asset classes
Catsby tells Socrates about the six types of investments that he could consider: stocks, bonds, properties, currencies, commodities, and alternative stores of value. More importantly, Catsby stresses how these different investments are only tools. They do different things and behave differently in different sets of economic circumstances. The following chapters will clarify why.
4. “OK, Computer,” about personal circumstances, compounding, and magic number 69
Catsby stresses the fact that investors should understand their own situation in order to tailor their investments to their needs. He also introduces the notion that returns snowball over time when they are reinvested.
5. “Dream On,” (intermission)
Socrates, who is a designer, pitches a client for a big project. The client turns him down, telling him that he has to grow his agency before they can consider working with him.
6. “The Right Tool for the Right Job,” about equity and debt
Catsby explains how companies finance themselves in order to grow and how stocks and bonds are related to the financing of real businesses and governments.
7. “Locked, Stocks, & a Blown Barrel,” about stocks
The chapter takes a deeper look at what a stock is, how it works, why stock prices move, and why you’d invest in them.
8. “A Bottle of Milk,” about liquidity
Catsby introduces the important notion of “liquidity,” that is, how easy it is to get in and out of an investment.
9. “A Wet Cat,” (intermission)
Catsby and Socrates talk about how to manage risk through diversification and getting into investments little by little. They go sailing. A boat capsizing nearby will help introduce the concept of “duration,” or bond sensitivity, in a later chapter.
10. “Strong Bonds,” about bonds
The following meeting between Socrates and Catsby focuses on what bonds are, how they work, why you would invest in them, and why they can be safer investments than stocks, but not always.
11. “Volatile Bonds,” about bond prices and yields
The conversation carries on about how bonds can be volatile like stocks and only offer capital protection if they are held to maturity.
12. “Sensitive Bonds," about bond duration
Catsby stresses why “duration” is an important measure that investors need to pay attention to.
13. “Cat Me If You Can,” about credit risk
This chapter looks into why buying a bond is not just about how much it promises to pay, but is also about who you lend money to.
14. “The Butcher Sheep,” (intermission)
Socrates meets his neighbour, a sheep. The neighbour is about to fall for the advice of a streetwise but shady cat. The neighbour explains the seemingly attractive property deal he is about to get into. The following chapter will deconstruct why the deal is not only a bad idea, but is actually dangerous.
15. “Margin Call,” about property, leverage, and financial buffer
This chapter looks into the reasons that could lead an investor to buy real estate, the mixed effect of using debt on financial returns, and rental income as a measure of protection against a depreciation in the value of a property.
16. “Diamonds Are Forever,” about foreign exchange, commodities, and alternative stores of value
This chapter goes through the last three asset classes introduced earlier in chapter 3. It examines why currencies fluctuate and what those fluctuations mean. It also looks into why an investor would consider investing in commodities and introduces alternative stores of value as a form of wealth insurance.
17. “Dog Day Afternoon,” (intermission)
Catsby unexpectedly gets fired after another bank acquires the bank he works for. The new financial adviser is a thief and tries to flog complex structured products to Socrates. Socrates manages to escape and reaches out to Catsby to ask him if he could carry on teaching him informally.
18. “Pool the Wool,” about funds
Catsby introduces funds as a way to diversify investments and manage money with the help of a professional. He takes Socrates through what active and passive funds are and explains how to select a fund that is suitable for you.
19. “Any Way the Wind Blows,” about economic seasons and central banks
This chapter brings all previous chapters together. It explains how the economy follows seasons, and how different seasons impact different types of investments in different ways. Catsby draws a quadrant to explain to Socrates in which circumstances different asset classes perform best. He also explains what central banks do, which is important because what central banks do influences the economy and impacts the value of investments.
20. "Kill Bills," about fees & deflation
Investing is not only about what one may gain, but also about minimizing the fees one pays. The chapter also introduces the idea of deflation and how to invest in a deflationary environment. Catsby wraps up by explaining why an investor would opt for different portfolio allocations.
21. "You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do," (epilogue)
The cat and the banker part and leave each other on a warm note.
The original intended audience for The Cat and the Banker was the creative class. The core target readership being a casual, informed audience of 20 to 40-year-old professionals, both male and female, with an interest in money and creativity; people who have savings, but do not know where to start when it comes to investing.
However, the book has a much wider commercial reach. There is a large market for books about personal finance. But to my knowledge, few address the topic in a format that is fun, inviting, and engaging. There are 3 things people never tire of learning more about: health, relationships, and money.
The broader audience includes:
- Non-finance professionals who know that they would benefit from a crash course in investing.
- Finance professionals, many of whom do not know what to do with their savings. They are specialists but do not necessarily have a broader view of how things work and/or knowledge of what their options are. A lot of finance professionals also struggle to explain to their family and friends what they do. Gifting this book would make their life easier.
- Business school and MBA students. Finance courses for undergrad and MBA students in business schools generally focus on narrow and specific areas of finance: stock valuation, accounting, corporate finance, derivatives valuation and the like.
The Cat and the Banker gives a rare broad and comprehensive overview of the world of investing, from how different types of investments work and what they do, to how they fit with the way economies work; all in a fun way. The user-friendly and succinct format makes The Cat and the Banker an ideal read for students who want to understand how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together and give them an edge when later approaching specific subjects with greater perspective.
Nadir Mehadji worked in investment banking for over ten years for Barclays and JP Morgan in Europe and Asia.
Before joining Barclays, Nadir worked in various analyst positions in property investments, stock trading, and public finance projects. At Barclays, he covered and advised macro hedge funds, global institutional investors, and central banks on bonds and fixed income derivative products.
He holds a MSc. in Management with a specialization in finance from HEC Paris, which is regularly ranked as one of the top finance education programs in the world.
Nadir is also a published photographer and currently works in the field of strategic design and innovation. He facilitates workshops about Design Thinking to help organisations improve their innovation processes.
Being at the intersection between the worlds of money and creativity has given him unique insights into how to bridge the gap of understanding between investment professionals and the general public.
The crowdfunding campaign on Publishizer is the first step in the promotion of the book, to demonstrate that a keen audience exists for the topic and the book.
Next steps will rely on the strength of early-reader reviews, blogs of influencers, press coverage, and word-of-mouth.
Nadir also has close to 1,000 contacts on LinkedIn and has access to the HEC Business School alumni network, which counts over 50,000 people worldwide.
To pigeonhole a little, there are several types of books about finance:
1. “How I made it" and "Why I’m so smart and you should do like me” books. The main problem with these books is they have a historical bias. They assume that the macroeconomic conditions that presided over the strategy implemented will repeat themselves. In other words, in these books it is hard to differentiate skill from luck.
2. The “get rich quick” books. Everybody dreams of hacking the system, but it generally helps to learn how to walk before one can run.
3. “How to juice out this particular asset class,” written by people who are passionate about a single type of investment. These books lack breadth. A novice would benefit from having an overview of what tools are available, before learning more deeply about the intricacies of each asset class.
4. The technical books, which are meant for professionals and are narrow in scope.
This being said, there are a number of exciting titles out there, but they mainly cover economics rather than personal finance. Some examples of these books are listed below in alphabetical order:
- Blue Chip Kids, What Every Child (and Parent) Should Know about Money, Investing, and the Stock Market, by David W. Bianchi (Wiley, 2015). The format of this book feels too large. My illustrations have a more casual feel and make my book more appealing for such an intended audience.
- Economix, by Dan Burr and Michael Goodwin (Harry N. Abrams, 2012). A sweeping look at economic history through comic-book storytelling. Great work, but focused on economics.
- Investing for Dummies, by Tony Levene (Wiley, 2004). Too long and textbook-like.
- Man vs. Money, Understanding the Curious Economics that Power Our World, by Stewart Cowley (Aurum Press, 2016), has a similar starting point to my book: simple text with simple illustrations. But Man vs. Money openly uses maths, which may put off some readers, and is about economics.
- Money: Master the Game, by Toni Robbins (Simon & Schuster, 2014). It feels too long and dense for the casual reader. It leaves readers with various views and recipes from investment legends as opposed to a framework that they can navigate.
- Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki (Warner Books, 2000). It urges readers to become investors, but it doesn't tell them how.
- The Behaviour Gap (Portfolio, 2012) and The One-Page Financial Plan (Portfolio, 2015), by Carl Richards, have fresh, clear, witty, and engaging illustrations with a distinct style. But these books are about behaviours rather than a technical framework.
Some great, comparable titles outside of the finance section:
- Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon (Workman Publishing, 2012), for the great format, the lightness, and the casual feel of it. This book is about creativity, not about managing money. Why can’t finance also be fun?
-The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, by Daniel Pink (Riverhead Books, 2008). This book offers advice about careers, not personal finance. But somehow, it uses a a similar trick: using story-telling to deliver a message.
The Cat and the Banker sits somewhere between Economix by Dan Burr and Michael Goodwin, Investing for Dummies by Tony Levene, The Behaviour Gap by Carl Richards, Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, and The Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Daniel Pink.
1. Intro: Houston, We Have a Problem
Socrates Cat rolled over onto his belly as the ping of a message notification took him out of his slumber. He opened one eye and saw the message flashing: “LAST WARNING. Spending limit exceeded. AGAIN. Get your act together. NOW.” He pondered the thought for a second and dozed off again.
A year earlier, Socrates’ life had changed dramatically when he received inheritance money from his Uncle Apollo. The two of them had always been close. A successful technologist, Apollo had invented the Catbot, an artificially intelligent device that spoke Meowsic. The Catbot allowed felines to interact with their phones without having to type, a revolution in Catland and a major upgrade from Bluefang technology. Catland, despite being a small country, had a thriving economy, although its ballooning banking sector was a cause for concern. With his invention, Apollo acquired instant fame. He also made good money, incidentally.
Apollo’s will stated that he would hand down his possessions to his nephew Socrates, his closest family member. That’s how Socrates inherited the small fortune of C$150,000, the catdollar (C$) being the local currency in Catland. Socrates’ life changed overnight. Before then, he had been working as a freelance designer, and freelancing had been a rough ride. Now, fat fish, mouse mousse, and milk nectar were his diet on lean days.
But all wasn’t rosy. When Socrates finally got up, he reluctantly looked at his finances. The graph of his savings looked like a sinking ship. The thing is Socrates did enjoy the good life; he was a cat after all. He thought of former pawgilist champion Cat Tyson, who had squandered a larger fortune and now lived like a stray cat in his old days. Not the way to go. Socrates knew that he had to do things differently if he wanted a comfortable future. He needed to make his money grow.
As Socrates took out his wallet, a photo slipped out. It was a picture of him and his uncle that had been placed with the will. As the photo lay face down on the floor, Socrates noticed a small note on the back. He’d missed it before. “Don’t blow the money, invest it,” Apollo had written. “And call PiggyBank," he had underscored, “the only bank with a half-decent reputation. Make an appointment with a financial catviser."
“Is that it...?!” Socrates thought.
Socrates called the bank and explained that he was considering investing a sum of money. The clerk replied that they’d be delighted to discuss his circumstances.
This was how Socrates Cat embarked on his investment odyssey. He was scheduled to meet with PiggyBank the next day.
2. A Gift to Mice: Inflation
Socrates received a warm welcome at PiggyBank. He was ushered into a meeting room bathed in natural light. A tall bottle of branded milk stood on the table.
Socrates had stopped by the grocery store to buy a couple of cans of fish on his way to the bank. He placed his groceries on the seat next to him.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Cat,” the banker said with poise as he entered the room. “How should I address you?”
“You can call me Socrates.”
Catsby was an unusual sight in Catland. He was a lion. “I understand that you would like to make investments,” he said.
“I’d like to invest C$100,000 or so, but I have limited knowledge. I’m not sure how to approach investing. I don’t know where to start. I was hoping you could help me.”
“I’m glad you came,” Catsby said. “You know, Socrates, there was a time when I wasn’t much of an investor myself. But I became a good investor after I understood the six different types of investments and when to invest in them. We will talk about that as I teach you the ropes.
But first things first. Everyone has their own objectives when it comes to what they want to achieve with money.
My role is to try and understand what your objectives are and to help you make investment decisions that you are comfortable with.
Generally, cats who come here seek one of three things, or a combination of them.
First is to preserve the value of their wealth.
Second is to generate regular income.
Third is to grow their wealth.
You will need to think about which of these you want to achieve. So tell me, how does having money make you feel?"
“It gives me peace of mind,” Socrates replied.
“Money makes us feel safe, doesn’t it? It is tempting to keep it in a stash close to us. You know, hidden in a cardboard box, or in a ball of wool, or in a bank account. But if we don’t invest our money, it tends to lose value over time.”
“How could I lose money by putting it in a safe place?” Socrates asked.
Catsby pointed at the grocery bag on the chair. He could see its contents. “May I ask how much you paid for the cans of fish?”
“C$2 a can," Socrates replied.
“How much do you think a can cost five years ago?”
“Sounds like a fair guess. So the obvious thing would be to say that the price went up, right?”
“Another way to see it is that the value of a can hasn’t changed. A can of fish is still worth a can of fish.
Your money, however, is now worth twice as little. The same dollar today only buys you half a can. In other words, the value of the catdollar has shrunk."
Socrates hadn’t quite realised the implication until now.
“There is a word to describe the phenomenon of prices rising. It is called inflation. And just as inflation measures how fast prices are going up, inflation also measures the pace at which the value of your money depreciates.”
Socrates looked concerned. “How do you measure inflation?” he asked.
“Inflation in Catland ran at 2% last year. It means that the price of things are on average 2% more expensive than they were a year ago. What it really means for you though, as you have savings, is that inflation makes you poorer as time goes by.”
Catsby took a notepad and drew a chart. “The bite of inflation can be nasty. If you do nothing about your money, at a 2% annual inflation rate, in 10 years, your C$100,000 will have the same value as only $82,000. If inflation runs faster still, at 5%, your $100,000 will be worth about $60,000 in 10 years. And at 10%, your $100,000 will then have less value than $40,000.
Inflation may be silent. But its impact is real. Holding onto money in times of inflation is not a good idea.”
“Losing money to inflation sounds treacherous,” Socrates said. “It’s like giving money to mice to nibble. I want my savings to grow, not dwindle!”
“Then we need to find ways to make your money grow by at least the future rate of inflation, just to preserve the value of the savings that you currently have. We need to find better stores of value than just holding onto catdollars.”
Socrates was pensive. He was pondering the issues of money for the first time. Now that he had savings, he had to worry about seeing them evaporate...
“Let’s meet again tomorrow if you like,” Catsby said.
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