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Who's hoarding cash? Naughty, you'll be in trouble!

It's difficult to see much effect in the marketplace at the moment, at least not in the US. Claims are rife that banks are hoarding cash, even the cash that Treasury is handing out.

There'll be some stern words and I wouldn't be surprised by stronger action when the bankers and Congress next meet. I'd be surprised if there isn't a dismissal or other adjustment.

It's just too easy for the whole financial crisis to become a self-fulfilling prophecy especially if the bankers are so panicked that they've frozen their system, and in effect turned everyone into a potentially bad credit risks - letting the bankers off the hook for not lending. Circular cause and effect? They get a bag of cash to keep them going and wait it out, staying in a position to pick up cheap assets.

Mr Brown's government intervention was a little more business-like. The US has tried a voluntary system without linking the injection to lending. Given the record of many in the  US financial industry 'doing the right thing' I'd say the optimism is under-founded.

The US Senate may think it can wait a couple of weeks to see what happens, but I fear they are sadly mistaken.

I'd be calling those bankers back in tomorrow and making their future perfectly clear. There is probably some federal law against taking money from the Fed under false pretenses. If the specifically required outcome - lending - the consideration for which the Fed gives the money - isn't included in what they've already signed, then perhaps another meeting with the appropriate written agreement and personal guarantees? They could of course give the money back - and face nationalisation, whether insolvent or not, on the basis of national security and banks being essential infrastructure. I'm sure George has people who could think of something.

While the thought of a true depression may be attractive for some, the scale of the potential suffering isn't worth it, especially among those who know nothing of credit. We'd be a sorry human race if we couldn't see the mistakes and go forward rather than backwards. Whatever it takes, perhaps its evolution.

The 'ditching the Microsoft spreadsheet to save costs' allegory in one of my previous blogs might be more applicable, or at least prompt MS to make a universal spreadsheet more user friendly. The scale of global co-operation and the volume of calls for global financial controls and standards, from the Chinese Premier no less, signifies that we'll all be speaking the same language at least financially, very soon, and that means that a spreadsheet (and bank P&L sheets) must add up the same columns in the same way - be the same 'language' wherever there is commerce, and no hidden columns.

Perhaps then we'll see less views of people like Alan Greenspan looking like a stunned mullet.

I'd like to point out that I generally vote for less government intervention, but financial services are essential services, and I don't care who does it so long as it works reliably. So long as somebody does it. Where do we expect companies to go - to loan sharks?

If the public were to be asked "Do you think the bankers should lose their jobs and you keep yours?". No prizes for guessing what the most popular answer will be. If we're going to get all funny about lending, the government can probably do it less riskily than banks anyway if its going to be tick the box and follow the procedure.

In my experience, someone from within the industry who is really still dependent on that industry may not be the best choice to put the hard word on his buddies in that industry, or in fact do anything that might upset them (no burning bridges)  - that's just my experience. I've not yet appointed any Fed bosses but you never know and it might still apply.


Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 28 October, 2008, 13:50Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes


The answer is obvious - we need some competition - new banks in the UK and the US.

Instead of helping banks themselves, the Governments should help customers - by encouraging new entrants in the banking sector.

Another solution it to create new banks (with new management), capitalize them so that they can act as an anchor.

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