Blog: Maybe the Banking System Works After All
On the 9th of August 2007 when French bank BNP Paribas disclosed that it was finding it "impossible to value certain assets", everyone knew the party was over.
Like naughty school children that had finally got caught taking penny sweets from the local grocery store, banking executives were ready to take their punishment.
After all, they'd had a good run. And while the world watched on as the industry scrambled for the high ground with the flood waters rising, those who'd seen it all before knew it was just the beginning, not the end.
There were of course casualties from the millions of people from all walks of life around the world who lost their livelihoods to the Lehman veterans who lost their pensions. But that was collateral damage. And while the tidal swell flooded through Main Street, the bankers sat tight.
So fast forward 26 months. The Dow's broken 10,000 - albeit briefly - financials are up 53 percent over the past six months and investors have mopped up $435 billion in new equity issuance from one sector alone over the last 12 months. Yes, you guessed it, from the banks.
Take the Swiss institutions. Sure, shareholders are hurting, UBS having lost 60 percent of its value since BNP started the ball rolling. But the industry is on firm footing.
Rich people still hold all the wealth and, with low inflation, the high rollers are in a position to call shots. There's nothing better than instructing your wealth manager to "go make me some money," rather than feeling the pressure amid a high inflationary environment.
Evolution, Not Revolution
New research conducted by Geneve Place Financiere, representing nearly 6,000 financial firms based in Geneva, says the "sentiment coming from this survey on the present and future of the financial centre is mitigated, even pessimistic."
As the net closes in on tax havens, centers like Switzerland have become the "victims." After all, the Swiss weren't responsible for the crisis. And the Swiss, with some justification, insist that they've got the expertise - and that is the light at the end of the tunnel.
If you consider a motorsport analogy: The KERS technology being used for the first time in this year's the Formula 1 season will be an option on your brand new Ford Focus in 10 year's time.
Likewise, the financial products being made available to institutional investors and the rich will ultimately be marketed for you and me in the years to come.
Even if governments withdraw the trillions of dollars of stimulus in time to stop prices soaring, people won't want to keep their cash in the safe at the bottom of the wardrobe forever.
So whether you've got $100 or $100 million in the bank, you're going to need the expertise.
All this plays right into Darwin's hands: it's evolution, not revolution. So when the fresh faced graduates from MIT emerge into the sunlight from their poster-laden dorms in the fall of 2010, there's only one industry they'll be applying to.