28 Aug 2010

Cash bonuses reduce risk - Study

Banking regulators all over the world think that it will help to reduce the risk of the banking system if they require a larger portion of total compensation to be paid in the form of equity. A recent study refutes this notion and tries to demonstrate that cash incentives are better suited to achieve a less risky banking system.

27 Aug 2010

Musings of a Hedge Fund Manager

If ever you thought that the books on management you read at University were full of obvious platitudes you have seen nothing yet. Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater, may have been successful - being in the right place at the right time and starting a money management business at the bottom of the market in 1975 must have helped - but I wonder how he could have found it useful to concoct a philosophy or life and business that just is a very poor copy of what one can find in countless books about self-improvement that are so popular in America.

Bank Capital should be 13 pct - Basel Committee

The problem with defining the appropriate level of capital that banks should hold on their balance sheet is that in a general panic no amount of capital is adequate to deal with a bank run. For many decades banks could get by with wafer-thin margins of safety as generally confidence in the integrity of the banking system was high. Tinkering with capital requirements may be but one step in the right direction. Banking reform needs additional measures to be successful.

24 Aug 2010

Image Campaigns - do they make sense for Banks?

Both Credit Suisse and UBS have recently launched advertising campaigns that are aimed to bolster their brand image. But does the sponsoring of Formula One really help UBS to reclaim lost ground with the high networth clientele that must surely be the main target for its marketing efforts? 
Image Campaigns may well have a role to play for banks that are active in the mass market but for banks that are mainly involved in the institutional or high networth market a more focused approach must be the preferred route. 


23 Aug 2010

Who should regulators be accountable to?

The complaint by financial sector trade bodies about proposed changes to the UK's regulatory system raises the interesting question about the accountability - or lack thereof - of the financial regulators.  UK banks fear that the scrapping of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) will leave power in the hands of a small, unelected group. But can one really say that the FSA was accountable just because it was required to hold an annual public meeting and had to hold regular meetings with senior industry managers through its so-called Practioners' Panel? We wonder what the outcome of the Credit Crunch would have been if the regulators would have been subject to full democratic control during the past few years. If anything the reaction to the crisis would have been less decisive and therefore less effective. Democratic control would better be applied during the stage in the legislative process when the framework for the regulatory regime is designed and there is time for more - and more broadly based - discussion between all parties involved. That would allow the voice of taxpayers and consumers to have more weight in the ultimate outcome.

2 Aug 2010

Pay rules: Bureaucratic nightmare in the making?

A report by PriceWaterhouse raises the spectre that new pay regulations could be applied to thousands of financial services firms. While the usual sham 'consultations' are conducted by the FSA we can confidently predict that by implementing new pay regulations beyond the small group of systemically important banks the dead hand of government would certainly make one mighty step towards killing the goose that lays the golden (tax) eggs in the City of London.
The average employee has zero influence on the overall risk profile and financial performance of his employer. A small circle of top managers is wholly responsible for the success of any enterprise in our system of corporate governance and any major delay in paying the much-needed pay-checks to staff further down the rung will only massively demotivate staff - and in many cases make them willing to consider a move to friendlier shores.