31 Jan 2012

Dual CEO'S - if anything a formula to be promoted

The recent troubles at Blackberry manufacturer Research in Motion seem to suggest that dual leadership can be damaging for an organisation (FT). But Rome had two consuls during its rise to dominance, and they were limited in their power to a tenure of one year. Goldman Sachs in the late 1970s and early 1980s had co-chiefs - and that was when the firm laid the foundation to its rise to dominance. The challenge for boards and shareholders is to make sure there is a deep bench of talent - a thing that is sorely missing in many companies, why else would a company ever look for an external candidate for any of its top positions?

What is the future for banking pay?

Asks Gillian Tett (FT). When even the shares of Goldman Sachs, the company that is supposed to be the Gold Standard for banks, are at best marking time since the IPO in the late 1990s it becomes obvious that something is wrong not only with the compensation structure in the (investment) banking industry but with the whole business model (and the managements that are responsible for this state of affairs)

Why is Adoboli alone facing the music?

Seeing Kweko Adoboli as the lonely accused in the Courtroom creates a certain amount of sympathy for the young man. It is easy for senior UBS staff to pin all blame for the billion dollar disaster on one person. This makes it easy to escape blame for a  management culture that allowed a completely insufficient risk control to exist. Senior managers were busy enough chasing profits at any price with a firm eye on the next bonus payment they expected to receive. But Risk Management should mean that fail-safe procedures are in place - if necessary in triplicate - that make it impossible for any single person to play the markets the way Adoboli is accused of having done. Senior managers have been fired (with or without a 'golden handshake' as farewell present?) but should there not be other people facing justice in the courtroom? Oswald Gruebel may have wished for a more glorious end to his career, but he will certainly not feel any pain in his pocket.

23 Jan 2012

Is there any 'Leadership' in the City of London?

The 'Leadership' of the City of London (if there is something worth that name) is outmaneuvred at every stage. Not surprising as it is composed of superannuated 'worthies'. Decisive action a la De Gaulle would stop the interventionists on the Continent dead in their tracks. What would happen if anyone would want to dismantle the EU agricultural subidy gravy train over France's wishes?

20 Jan 2012

Tobin Tax: Political Caste in Germany wants your blood!

Norbert Lammert is the current President of the German Lower House (Bundestag). Today a headline tells us that he is also 'supporting' the introduction of a financial transaction tax. While some might argue in favour of such a tax it is revealing that its supporters have mainly one common denominator: they are supporters of more state spending and indirectly in support of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' (or pay themselves or their political clients). Particularly galling is the fact that people such as Lammert - who as far as we could find out has never held a proper job in the private sector - have the temerity to put more and more onerous taxes and 'charges' onto the shoulders of the powerless citizens. In the case of Germany one also has to say that the country has a long tradition of putting (too much) faith into regulations and top-down dirigism. Despite the economic and political success after 1945 one should not forget that this was just to compensate for the disastrous policies pursued in the decades before and as a consequence the net balance is not that encouraging. The irony is that Germans worked hard in order to deliver goods on credit to all their customers in the Eurozone who now can not repay the loans. So there is a huge bill coming due and the good standing of Germany in the credit markets is to a large extent only the reverse side of the fact that many other countries are in distress. So by necessity some markets must have low interest rates as they offer a refuge - but they are not of much higher quality. Putting another tax on business will not improve things for anyone - but it will guarantee that the German financial markets will become even more a backwater.
PS: Readers who want to support a fundamental change in political systems that allow professional politicians and lobbyist to run roughshod over the interests of citizens may want to support Dirdem - Campaign for Direct Democracy here and here

14 Jan 2012

Who wants to submit to the degrading 'FSA approval process'?

News that Richard Moore, a very senior and experienced financial market executive that Lloyds TSB wants to hire as its global head of trading, 'has yet to receive FSA approval' before his appointment can be finalised illustrates the absurdity of recent regulatory 'innovations' in the UK.  It reminds very much of the old boy network that 'regulates' entry to British Universities where personal interviews are nothing but a smoke screen to weed out 'undesirable' applicants or favour those who appear 'politically correct. In a rational system of regulation one should assume that an executive with more than twenty years experience in senior and responsible roles should be more than suitable to take on a role such as head of trading at Lloyds TSB. If he has done something that contravened regulations or laws that would be a reason to prevent him from taking a senior appointment. But to give unaccountable bureaucrats - often with hardly any or much less practical business experience - the final say in an inquisitorial and secretive procedure will do nothing to help London its pre-eminent role as a global financial centre.

12 Jan 2012

Hire and Fire backfired!

The disaster that is currently played out in many banks and brokerage firms stems from poor judgement and (irresponsible) people management. There was no reason to indulge in a renewed frenzy of hiring after the 2008-09 credit crunch and staff that now has to be fired was hired based on speculation that the business would follow. Unfortunately playing with people's lives carries very low penalties for those responsible higher up the hierarchies.

No more listing schools on job applications - British Deputy Prime Minister

Given the abysmal approval rating that the British Deputy Prime Minister already receives this 'proposal' confirms that the lunatic fringe is alive and well in the ruling establishment. Logically the only way to hire people would be not to discriminate at all and just pay everybody a salary from the sheer inexhaustible money spigot the Bank of England provides. No questions asked about previous experience, pay, age, skill, 'race', political views, - that is unless you are a right-wing 'extremist'. We do not support the BNP in any way but it is noteworthy that some of their supporters have been deemed to be politically not correct enough to be allowed into certain jobs here in the UK, so this might well be the thin end of the wedge.

MF Global - famous last words

"If there is a relevant risk, we will have a relevant measure and limits around that risk"
Thus spoke Michael Stockman, Chief Risk Officer of MF Global (Risk Magazine, April 2011)

7 Jan 2012

Banks may lose Euro 1 Billion in Hungary

A Fiat Law imposed on banks in Hungary by the 'democratic' Orban regime could cost them nearly Euro 1 billion. This is due to the setting of an artificial exchange rate on foreign currency borrowings by Hungarians (mostly to finance mortgages at cheap Euro or Swiss Franc interest rates).
We have always scratched our heads when we read about the absurdly high prices that were paid for East European banking 'assets' before the credit crunch. The financial structure was also wrong - the subsidiaries in the individual countries should have been organised on a stand-alone basis so they could be cut loose in a worst-case scenario. Local funding would mean than devaluations would not be a problem for the parent company.