5 Dec 2014

Being a 'Global' Bank brings extra Risks

One has to wonder if being a 'Global' Bank is really an intelligent business proposition. It requires Superman/woman to manage far-flung empires and activities that can span more disciplines than any normal human can realistically be expected to fully understand. And a particular risk factor are differences in business culture that senior management - be it located in New York, London, Frankfurt, Zurich or Tokyo - can hardly be expected to appreciate to the extent that would be required. Deutsche Bank lending money to build another hotel/casino in Las Vegas? Citigroup lending money secured by warehouse receipts in Chinese Ports? An Austrian Bank lending money to a steel business in Russia? Do these activities make sense or would concentration on a geographical area one understands and is familiar with be more profitable in the long run?

11 Sept 2014

Succession planning at Santander - an example to follow

Yesterday's announcement of the death of Emilio Botin, the man behind the immense growth of Banco Santander over the past decades, highlights the need to prepare for the smooth handover of leadership. While Santander may appear to be a special case - the succession is clarified on the next day - every business should be able to replace key personnel without delay. This applies not only to CEO roles but all managerial positions in the organisation. Internal promotions should be the rule as they boost morale and team spirit and usually are cheaper and quicker to realise.

11 Aug 2014

Regulators know no shame when they are after taxpayer's money

European Commission to investigate possibility of levy to fund EIOPA (IPE)The EU is particulary shameless as there is no proper supervision by any real government and the pretend-parliament is just a resting place for party hacks.

30 Jul 2014

7-Yr Bonus Clawback? You must be joking!

That is what a former Wimbledon Champion would probably say to the psychopathic politicians and regulators (including reckless Bank of England officials busy stealing from Savers). How anyone can be expected to work for seven long years and not be sure that the hard-earned money will be his for good is beyond me. Anyone contemplating a career in banking in the UK should have his head examined. Meanwhile our politicians are busy cleaning up the problems they or their predecessors created, safe in the knowledge that however big the waste of money they will NEVER be asked to compensate the taxpayer.

Why UK's new bonus regime could be the world's toughest (CNBC)

Regulatory Nightmare is here and now!

I quite often said that the control freaks in charge of our lives - i.e. psychopathic politicians - will not be satisfied with extending ever-more intrusive regulation into all aspects of society. In the realm of banking and finance that would mean that - in addition of the armies of 'compliance' staff that is an expensive millstone around the necks of savers and investors - there would ultimately have to be one 'Kommissar' next to each productive employee. Ultimately the whole economic system would atrophy under this burden - the direction is clear for anyone who has seen the 'success' of the Cuban economic model.
U.S. Seeks Eyes Inside Banks' Offices (Wall Street Journal)

10 Jun 2014

European Bond Markets have come full Circle

A few years ago (2005) we warned that anyone continuing to hold Italian government bonds yielding a measly 15 basis points more then German Bunds would be reckless. Now it is time to put out the warning again. While conditions may not yet be as extreme as in those days it is only prudent to consider an exit and take what is effectively a free option. Unless you believe in full political and fiscal union in the Eurozone this prepares you for the next (inevitable?) economic and financial storm.

7 Jun 2014

TLTRO - a can of worms

Last week's announcement by the head of the ECB, Don Draghi, that the Eurocrats will pump up to € 400 billion into a 'targetted' long-term refinancing operation immediately makes me curious about how exactly this new bureaucratic monster is supposed to operate.
Leaving aside the question whether or not this new confetti money will do much good to the real economy in the Eurozone area there is a number of problems even a cursory look at the scheme brings to mind. So when one member of the Commentariat calls the TLTRO the "Star of the Show" (Gilles Moec, Deutsche Bank) we would warn him to be less star-struck and more dispassionate. But maybe his employer really does need this shot in the arm (or gift from heaven, maybe that is the star Moec refers to)?
So I cannot wait for the full details to be published. A few critical points that need answers: Who shall be the beneficiaries of the additional lending? Giant Buy-out funds speculating on ever-rising share prices certainly will not be among them though there is a displacement effect as banks may well use the TLTRO money to fund one group of clients and therefore have more money available to property, buy-out groups and companies seeking to finance M+A deals.
And what exactly counts as a small (and possibly mid-sized) borrower? And who is going to monitor that the TLTRO money really goes into ADDITIONAL lending to this privileged group of clients. And what if most or all of the lending is done in 'stable' economies such as Germany or Austria?
One thing is certain - programs such as these will inevitably lead to additional jobs for the boys and increase the ever-expanding number of bureaucrats working for the ECB, the local Central Banks and favored 'Consultants' charging exorbitant fees that are ultimately paid by savers and taxpayers who as usual have no say in these dirigist extravaganzas.

2 Jun 2014

Bond business - down but not out

My prognosis for interest rates, esp bond rates, for the next few years gives a high probability that rates will meander around a relatively low base level. So the view that the bond trading business will be less profitable from now on is quite justified. But one has to remember that volumes during the previous 5-10 years were abnormally high. Declining and/or volatile interest rates are manna for bond traders. In addition, many innovations - some useful, some less so - in the bond market created new business opportunities. But there are no new products on the horizon, and some 'innovations' turned out to be duds. But taking all this into consideration, given the enormous volume of outstanding bonds and the large number of investors and issuers in a globalised bond market one can expect a good but down-sized bond market business from now on.

30 May 2014

US blackmails banks - EU useless

The US 'authorities' (if you can name them as such as the country becomes more and more ruled by out-of-control lobbies and zealots) prepare another drive-by shooting aimed at a foreign bank. This time it is the turn of French BNP-Paribas. The 'crime' was that the bank supposedly conducted business with a peaceful country as that is the only way one can describe Iran. Or can anyone point to an occasion where the country has been the aggressor and not the victim (do I need to mention BP, or Mossadegh?). So it is with growing anger that one watches the spectacle of a useless Eurocracy that drowns Europe in more and more intrusive and expensive regulation but is afraid (incapable? lazy?) to put a serious warning shot in the direction of the United States demanding that the extra-territorial reach of its 'laws' be stopped immediately. Europe - or at least its citizens - have no quarrel with Iran and do no longer want to support unaccountable lobbies and the policies they have imposed on the US government.
PS: Cleptocrats in the US have just upped the ante - $10 billion, and rising? Basically it is the behavior of the typical criminal, grab what you can get away with, only this time it is the government (or the shady lobbies that push idiotic and counterproductive foreign policies on a hapless majority).

9 May 2014

Barclays: how not to manage a business

Announcing that the number of jobs in the investment banking unit will be cut by 25 per cent over the next three years is as bad a decision as can be. Firstly it sends a clear signal to anyone who can get a job elsewhere to do so as soon as feasible. The remaining staff will be spending most of their time second-guessing where and when the next cuts will be made. Even worse, the instinct for survival will make it essential that each and every one tries to protect his employment by trying to put the knife into his or her colleagues' back. Above all it is not even clear why a down-sized and provincial version of Barclays - not dissimilar to a building society or - shock horror! - the Co-op bank, will be more successful in the long run. Is there something JP Morgan or Bankamerica know that Jenkins and the regulatory/political cabal here in the UK don't know? But never mind, Shipping, Car Manufacturing, Textiles, Steel Making etc were successfully destroyed by the Powers-that-be, so it matters little if British Banking is blow-torched as well. Makes it so much easier for other financial centres - in the EU and further away - to eat the City's lunch.

29 Apr 2014

London - what would be effect of 'Brexit'?

When senior banking figures warn that London's position as preeminent financial centre would be at risk from any British exit from the EU must be taken seriously. But at the same time one should not overlook the other side of the argument. Language and legal traditions aside the first question that comes to mind is the following: where would all the banks that are supposed to leave move to? A battle royal would ensue between the obvious candidates, Frankfurt and Paris. But some banks might also consider Amsterdam or Brussels, and the main European banks might find it unnecessary to maintain a major location outside their home country. If it ever comes to the question of 'Brexit' the main deciding factor might well be what the regulatory and tax regimes look like in the UK and the various possible alternatives inside the EU.

4 Apr 2014

Absurd Asset Quality Review

Every bank is bust if all depositors want their money back at the same time - unless a thorough reform (which we support) has mandated a strict maturity match (Disregarded by the Solons in Brussels, Frankfurt etc). It is also always possible to find a scenario that results in a bank failing a stress test - how about a Mega Earthquake in Yellowstone? an escalation of the Ukraine conflict or a nuclear exchange somewhere else? So to employ 25 Deloitte staffers to check more than half (which half?) of all loans at Austria's Raiffeisen Landesbank Oberoesterreich (12/13 Balance Sheet € 40 Bio) seems to be an expensive waste of money. The depositors/borrowers/equity owners have to pay the hefty fee of € 4.5 Mio for this extravaganza. It remains to be seen how 'expert' the Deloitte people are. Can we assume that they are banking experts? or just box tickers? Will these commissars really be able to properly assess each and every borrower? Are they just recent school leavers and Deloitte charges full whack for their (questionable) services? Was there a proper tender process when the contract was given to Deloitte? As the team will stay at RLB for a full five (!) months each of the 25 will be charged to the bank at a fee of approx. € 40,000 per month (!!). Talking of overpaid bankers! Now multiply all these shenanigans by a massive number - the same game is being played all over Europe, without a single citizen having had a chance to have a say - and you can see what massive amount of wealth destruction is being conducted at the behest of unelected politicians and their minions in the regulatory and central banking institutions. And the taxpayer is still not off the hook when the next disaster hits the financial industry!

21 Mar 2014

Celebrity Fund Managers can be an Achilles Heel

Relying on Celebrity Fund Managers can be risky even for the most prominent Fund Management House. Recent changes at Pimco are just the latest in a series of defections by high-profile managers.

Banking Stress Tests of limited value

Every bank can be shown to fail under certain assumptions. For example a 50 percent drop in property and/or share prices, a steep increase in interest rates etc. So you can always design stress tests that result in a positive or negative result, depending on the scenario you choose.

11 Mar 2014

Succession Planning often neglected

A new study released by Stanford Business School highlights the cavalier attitude that many organisations take when planning for the eventual replacement of their executives. While we are happy to assist any client in his search for alternatives we think that the first stop in any well-managed company should be their own pool of seasoned and well-trained managers.

6 Mar 2014

Monitoring Employee behaviour - a tricky problem

Despite the rapidly rising number of compliance officers and the tide of regulatory legislation the age-old problem of supervising employee behaviour keeps posing serious challenges to top management of banks and fund management firms. Surely the solution cannot be to put one compliance officer behind each and every trader or fund manager. And who would oversee these compliance officers? and so on....
Only management and an enterprise culture that are dedicated to maintain high standards of conduct can assure that incidents such as this one at are prevented. All-too often management is too far removed from the front line business, occupied with internal politics or simply not stable enough due to constant re-organisation (aided by clueless and inexperienced 'Consultants').

5 Mar 2014

Superbanks - too large to fail, and too large to manage?

Bank managements often argue that losses in far-away subsidiaries could not easily have been foreseen by top management. Such may be the case when Citigroup tries to explain loan losses that may have occurred in its business in Mexico. But is this really a valid excuse? A loss of $ 400 million is quite substantial, even when measured against the bank's total assets of approximately $1.9 trillion. The loss/exposure admittedly is only 0.2 percent of total assets but seen in a different way this would mean that the bank has about 4500 loans (if they would all be the same size). Any organisation should be able to set up a management structure that can cope with this number of transactions. The management pyramid would only about three layers if each senior loan officer is in charge of about 50 loans. Impossible in this age of instant communication? Not in my opinion, one would not even need (expensive) MBA's or PhD's, just honest hardworking employees with a good pinch of common sense.

6 Jan 2014

J.P. Morgan to pay $2 billion over Madoff case

Not sure if one should cry or laugh when reading headlines such as this one. How did the parties to this shameful deal arrive at the number? Did it get picked out of thin air? Is there any real proof of culpability? Since when is it a crime to conduct one's business prudently? If the regulators did not spot the Madoff fraud have they received any punishment? And why is JP Morgan management agreeing to this 'settlement' (which leaves the question where the money goes, is it just used to plug the hole in the government's budget?)

P.S.: it is gratifying to read that a 'portion' of the $2 billion penalty will be earmarked for victims of the Madoff fraud. How generous, and the state appropriates the majority of the loot for itself. Why don't the regulators make a contribution to the victims as well? I guess the only reason why regulators do not throw the book at specific JP Morgan executives is that they want to avoid questions over why they are spared jail after such a major cock-up as the failure to detect the Madoff fraud in good time.

Nothing can surprise me with respect to the ever-increasing reach that the 'authorities' give the interpretation of the ill-fated and useless money laundering laws. Soon the £5 loan that a schoolchild receives from a granny will have to be reported as 'suspicious' by anyone who has knowledge of it, for who but the 'regulators' can (with hindsight) determine what is suspicious or not? Already anyone trying to open a bank account (or even access a long-forgotten one) is basically treated as a potential criminal these days. And all this wasteful effort is expended in order to undo the results of bad laws imposed by an undemocratic process.