Posts Tagged ‘banks’

I’ve been given a book to read by a colleague. I hate it when that happens.

After a month of gathering dust on my windowsill I have started it, with a sense of duty rather than because of any interest in the title itself. The book is “Life’s a Pitch: What the World’s Best Sales People Can Teach Us All”  and is by Philip Delves Broughton. Not my usual cup of tea would be an understatement.

Anyways, I thought I would try and get through the book by speed reading it on the bus to work and back so I could at least return it to its owner knowing broadly what the content is (helps answer any quiz questions!). And then, out of nowhere, the author neatly summarizes the following quote,


“” You get these young salesman who think they can sell anything, and in sectors like financial services they’re selling things with a very negative impact on people’s lives. They’re selling a crappy product with no accountability[.]…. I’ve been called  a huckster, a snake oil salesman, everything. But now more than ever, if a product doesn’t work, or people don’t think they’re getting value, they can destroy your reputation online. It’s easy. If that happened to me, I wouldn’t still be in business”.

The strange thing is, he’s right. Sullivan is exposed as s salesman in a  way the salesman of Wall Street are not. Institutions and governments protect the latter when things go wrong. Sullivan may only be dealing in toilet cleaners and mops, but his reputation is constantly exposed to the bleaching sunlight of consumer scrutiny and market response. His professional safety net when selling gadgets is far smaller than for those selling products that can sink an entire economy.”


Quite. Perhaps this book won’t be as painful as I first imagined…


Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Dowd at Liberty League Freedom Forum 2012.  


Kevin’s message is chillingly clear. The shit has yet to hit the fan. All the economic stimulus, money printing and bailouts haven’t solved any of the underlying problems in the economy – they have simply made the problem worse and deferred  it to a later date. 


I found Kevin’s explanation about why we have not experienced higher levels of inflation yet particularly interesting (and frightening). Using the government’s own figures he showed how the monetary base of the economy has been expanded several times over since the crisis in 2008 and how this extra money has been ‘trapped’ in the banking sector. The Bank of England bought the government’s debt with the freshly printed (or ‘clicked’, if you prefer) money. This depressed the interest rate that the government borrows at but also swamped the commercial banks with huge amounts of the new money. In a business environment severely lacking  confidence the banks are holding on to this money  rather than lend it out. After all, why would they go to the bother of lending this to small and medium businesses when they run the risk of going bust in the prevailing business conditions. The problem is that this money can’t stay there forever. Kevin used the example of a huge lake hemmed in by a glacier. Just like when the Ice Age ended, the glaciers melted and released a torrent of water across the land, leading to widespread destruction. The same thing will happen once this money is released into the wider economy. And once the inflation takes hold (and it will) it will be impossible to stop. According to Kevin, even Mervin King acknowledges that there is no exit strategy for this huge experiment in monetary policy. 


Other things to feel optimistic about include: 


  • Record low interest rates can NOT stay at these levels forever and the banks are in no fit shape to survive the consequences of higher interest rates. Another banking crisis, even bigger than the last time, is just around the corner. 

  • Inter-governmental interference in the world economy has exacerbated the problems (see Basel 1 &2 which created the regulatory framework which left banks hopelessly exposed to first the subprime and then sovereign debt crises)   

  • The next crisis will be bigger. The same  policy prescriptions, having been shown to fail at every previous attempt, will be implemented again. The potential for rioting and societal breakdown is huge and Kevin is surprised it hasn’t happened already. 


Gloomy stuff. Apologies if I’ve got any of it wrong on here, I wasn’t taking notes during his talk so this is all just from memory. Kevin seemed like a genuinely nice guy and we should all hope and pray he is wrong with all his predictions. Unfortunately I happen to think he’s bang on the money (so to speak) and would recommend people to look at his book “Alchemists of Loss”.