In 1983 Howard Gardner proposed a theory of ‘multiple intelligences,’ and to date has listed eight different types: Spatial; Linguistic; Logical-mathematical; Bodily-kinesthetic; Musical; Interpersonal; Intrapersonal; Naturalistic. The interesting point about this is not the concept, which is itself reasonably obvious. The interesting point is the list itself, those specific eight areas of intelligence. A simplified version of this theory breaks intelligence down into just the two categories, the classical IQ and a measure of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ or EQ.

In many walks of life, especially those associated with highly technical skills such as physics, programming, mathematics, law, and increasingly certain aspects of banking such as risk management and derivatives, it is common to find people who have very high IQs but low EQs: High IQ, Low EQ, or hiqleq (pronounced hick-leck).

The jobs in modern investment banking have become very technical, requiring advanced mathematical and programming skills, and at the same time these bankers are having less interaction with customers, people from a wide variety of backgrounds with diverse personalities. Banks have become a safe haven, if perhaps not a breeding ground, for hiqleqs.

I enjoy conversations with people who can bring together many disparate subjects and weave them to make an illuminating, entertaining, and fun, wide-ranging and free-flowing discussion, typically those people with both high IQ and high EQ. However, hiqleqs seem to feel uncomfortable when any discussion begins to stray in an unexpected direction or if conversational parameters are not defined to their satisfaction.

In discussing research I similarly find that some people ‘get it’ and can improvise with an idea, being very creative, while others do the exact opposite and seem to stifle any originality. I don’t mean they do it at all deliberately or maliciously, but just because they want rules or structure when there doesn’t have to be any. Or to be more precise, discussion and exploration of ideas should be fluid and do not have to be as constrained as if they were a branch of rigorous mathematics.

When speaking about risk or valuation ideas to mathematicians in investment banks, I often feel as if I am trying to explain the beauty of a red rose or the colours of the rainbow to someone who only sees in black and white.