Umber Ahmad

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Risk/Reward Review


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Of the 1,366-odd members of the New York Stock Exchange, only 44 are women. Unsurprising as it may be, this is an incredible statistic, the provenance of which the documentary Risk/Reward - which follows four women through the fluorescent-lit jungle that is Wall Street - hopes to shed some light on. Even though that isn't quite the case, this isn't a film that ever wanders too far from its sources to dig into the murky reasonings behind things, that doesn't mean it's an unrewarding piece of filmmaking, just an incomplete one.

In a leisurely manner, filmmakers Elizabeth Holder and Xan Parker set up their subjects, who are well-chosen to represent a good sample of different jobs on The Street and each of whom is, if not remarkable, still pretty impressive nonetheless. Carol Warner Wilke is a market researcher who is consistently ranked at the top in her particular field by the trade publications, and who seems to have no trouble balancing the demands of her family (she already has one kid, and is pregnant with another when the film starts) with the demands of her job. A world away from Wilke's calm, quiet office is the floor of the NYSE, where Louise Jones plies her trade. A high school graduate who basically talked her way into her job, Jones has an agreeably no-nonsense way about her ("It's kind of like playing poker on a very large scale") that probably helps her get by in that particular testosterone-heavy milieu - but this is an area that isn't really explored. Straddling these two settings is Kimberley Euston, a foreign exchange sales trader whose team is responsible for billions of dollars in trades a day. Cool doesn't even begin to describe the temperament of this woman, who calmly and rationally works her way through Byzantine international transactions that are so huge that a million dollars is referred to as "a buck." Representing the up-and-comer is Umber Ahmad, a Pakistani-American who's an MBA student at Wharton and suffering through a summer internship at Morgan Stanley that regularly keeps her in the office until 1am, making her feel as though "my life is passing me by."

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