If you didn't know what the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) is, you almost certainly do now after the correction.
Plenty of regular investors don't realize how the VIX works, though - what makes it move up, down, and sideways.
You can't trade the VIX directly - it's a mathematical calculation, after all. But a whole buffet of easy-to-trade, not-so-easy-to-understand exchange-traded products (ETPs) make it possible for anyone - mom-and-pop retail investors, institutional traders, risk parity funds, and newly minted hedge funds - to bet on the VIX moving up, down, and sideways.
These folks saw the VIX doing a whole lot of nothing for more than a year and bet accordingly, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.
And for a time... it was good (notice I didn't say "smart").
But earlier this month, when human and silicon investors and traders got spooked, the VIX spiked - spiked like never before, in fact - jamming an ugly, red-hot poker into that great big, happy, feel-good short volatility bubble.
All the investors and traders out there who spent a year or more picking up pennies in front of a double-decker bus got killed when their favorite ETPs blew up.
What happened after that... well, we're still dealing with it and could be for some time. The market's trying for a run higher from here. It's already pared about half its losses from the depths of the correction, but the road isn't as smooth as it was just four weeks ago.
Amazingly, the trade that started this whole mess is still out there. Sure, a few high-profile short volatility vehicles imploded, but it's still very possible for this to happen all over again.
About the Author
Shah Gilani boasts a financial pedigree unlike any other. He ran his first hedge fund in 1982 from his seat on the floor of the Chicago Board of Options Exchange. When options on the Standard & Poor's 100 began trading on March 11, 1983, Shah worked in "the pit" as a market maker.
The work he did laid the foundation for what would later become the VIX - to this day one of the most widely used indicators worldwide. After leaving Chicago to run the futures and options division of the British banking giant Lloyd's TSB, Shah moved up to Roosevelt & Cross Inc., an old-line New York boutique firm. There he originated and ran a packaged fixed-income trading desk, and established that company's "listed" and OTC trading desks.
Shah founded a second hedge fund in 1999, which he ran until 2003.
Shah's vast network of contacts includes the biggest players on Wall Street and in international finance. These contacts give him the real story - when others only get what the investment banks want them to see.
Today, as editor of Hyperdrive Portfolio, Shah presents his legion of subscribers with massive profit opportunities that result from paradigm shifts in the way we work, play, and live.
Shah is a frequent guest on CNBC, Forbes, and MarketWatch, and you can catch him every week on Fox Business's Varney & Co.