What do physicists do? Research, software, and finance

After I got my PhD in physics, I started working for a bank. People often ask why I left physics. I usually reassure them by saying that this career choice isn’t exceptional. In fact, most physicists don’t work “in physics”.

A report by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) tracked down physicists working in the private sector, who earned their PhDs in the U.S. about ten years earlier. The respondents were employed in a variety of industries, working as consultants, managers, (software) engineers, etc.

But what about the rest of the world? Are the AIP findings representative for all physicists? Continue reading “What do physicists do? Research, software, and finance”

Een nieuw mandaat voor de ECB?

Gisterenmiddag (26 juni) organiseerde Leergeld haar tweede evenement in Brussel. Leergeld, een initiatief van Europarlementslid Sander Loones (N-VA), wil mensen bewust maken van de impact van de Europese Centrale Bank (ECB) op hun financiën.

Het thema van de bijeenkomst was Een nieuw mandaat voor de ECB?. Twee eminente sprekers, Pascal Paepen en professor Lex Hoogduin, presenteerden hun visie op het beleid van de ECB. Continue reading “Een nieuw mandaat voor de ECB?”

My favorite finance and economics podcasts

Podcasts – radio shows you can download – are a great medium when you’re driving, in the gym, or cooking dinner.

Here is my current top four podcasts that deal with money and economics in general. For each series, I’ve picked one episode that I enjoyed a lot. Continue reading “My favorite finance and economics podcasts”

Problems with Christopher Balding’s analysis of Chinese banks and currency

Professor Christopher Balding has published a blog post with his views on the link between the China’s banking system and its currency: Can China Address Bank Problems without Having Currency Problems?

He believes that “it is much more likely that if there are systemic banking issues that currency problems will also arise.”

It is laudable that Prof. Balding summarizes his arguments. By being explicit about the assumptions, readers don’t just have to trust his opinion. Instead they can follow the logic and evaluate the strong and weaker points themselves.

The goal of this post is to counter some of the points listed by Balding to support his conclusion. Continue reading “Problems with Christopher Balding’s analysis of Chinese banks and currency”

A lost decade (for bank investors)

2007 seems ages ago. It was the final year of another era, the time before the Crisis. Whatever you prefer to call it – credit crisis, debt crisis, global financial crisis, banking crisis – the crisis has scarred the shareholders of banks. Even though ten years have passed, most bank stocks still have not recovered to their pre-crisis highs.

This post looks at the evolution of the stock prices of the largest banks1 in Europe and the US. For European banks, I made a distinction between institutions with headquarters inside and outside the euro area. Continue reading “A lost decade (for bank investors)”

WannaCry about cybersecurity? Consider this first

In an event that has been called the WannaCry ransomware attack, hackers encrypted data on computers all around the world. The victims – which included hospitals and car factories – had to pay ransom in Bitcoin to get their files back.

Computers without up to date operating systems were particularly vulnerable to the attack.

People who have never come into contact with the internal IT operations of a large company find this hard to understand. Why don’t companies just install the latest patches, like private persons do on their home computers?

Software engineer Jürgen ‘tante’ Geuter has a nice blog post that explains why things are not so simple in the real world: “Why don’t they just update?” Continue reading “WannaCry about cybersecurity? Consider this first”

Jaarvergadering KBC 2017

KBC Group is de enige beursgenoteerde bank-verzekeraar die België nog rijk is1. Vandaag vond de jaarvergadering plaats in de hoofdzetel aan de Havenlaan.

De resultaten van 2016 en de andere cijfers kan je in het jaarverslag (pdf) vinden. Alle agendapunten werden met een ruime meerderheid van de aanwezige aandelen goedgekeurd.

In tegenstelling tot vorig jaar, kwamen er veel vragen uit het publiek. Een activistische aandeelhouder van de “groene petten” had vragen over de rol van KBC in het dossier van de Nationale Bank van België (NBB). Deze affaire bewaar ik tot laatst. Continue reading “Jaarvergadering KBC 2017”

Hoe Tax-on-web je belastingen berekent in 2017

Eén van de populairste artikels op deze site legt uit hoe de Belgische personenbelasting berekend wordt. Door de taxshift zijn enkele details niet meer up-to-date. Dit is de nieuwe versie voor 2017. Ik heb de voorbeelden opnieuw doorgerekend en vergeleken met vorig jaar. Je zal zien dat de personenbelasting wel degelijk gedaald is1.

Donderdag 13 juli is de deadline om je belastingen door te sturen via tax-on-web. De website heeft een knop waarmee je je belastingen kan laten berekenen.

Knop bereken belastingen

Je kan dus laten voorspellen hoeveel je zal terugkrijgen of zal moeten bijbetalen van de belastingen.

Maar hoe werkt die berekening eigenlijk? Je krijgt een hele resem onbegrijpelijke sommen te zien, vol codes en onduidelijke ambtenarentaal zoals “om te slane belasting”.

Hieronder leg ik het simpelste voorbeeld uit: een alleenstaande zonder kinderen die heel het belastingjaar2 bij één werkgever werkte en geen andere inkomsten heeft dan zijn loon. Hij woont in Vlaanderen, vlakbij het werk, heeft geen huis en doet niet aan pensioensparen of andere zaken die recht geven op een belastingvermindering.

Wanneer je je loonbrief bekijkt, zie je dat er een (groot) verschil is tussen het brutoloon dat je werkgever betaalt, en het nettoloon dat op je rekening gestort wordt.

Er zijn twee belangrijke redenen waarom bruto en netto zo verschillend zijn: de RSZ en de personenbelasting. Van je brutoloon gaat 13,07% rechtstreeks naar de sociale zekerheid, de RSZ3. Deze RSZ bijdrage telt niet mee voor de berekening van je inkomstenbelasting in Tax-on-web.

Het brutoloon (na aftrek van de RSZ-bijdrage) dat je verdiende in 2016 kan je vinden bij code 1250 van tax-on-web:

Vak IV

Code 1250

Continue reading “Hoe Tax-on-web je belastingen berekent in 2017”

Stop calling banking ‘monetary intermediation’

Banks create money. To be more precise, when a bank grants a loan, it simultaneously creates a deposit. Bank deposits are functionally equivalent to cash.

The insight that bank lending creates money is a direct result of basic accounting, and has been explained many times. See for example the Bank of England, Positive Money, this blog, and most recently the Bundesbank (h/t Benjamin Braun) and Norges Bank (h/t Frank van Lerven).

A while ago, Daniela Gabor pointed out that economists have know this for a long time (see the replies to her tweet for even earlier references):

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Renaissance bankers who understood double-entry bookkeeping were well aware of the fact that they were creating money.

So how is it possible that some famous economists still don’t know that banks really do create money? Why do they insist that banks lend out savings?

Economics education apparantly fails to pass on some elementary knowledge to students.

It doesn’t help that the activities of banks are often described as ‘monetary intermediation’. Intermediation implies that bankers are the middle men between borrowers and savers.

Monetary intermediation is even an official term in the statistical classification of economic activities in Europe:

The English description of NACE code 64.1 is ‘monetary intermediation’. Source

However, there exists a much better description for banks. In Dutch, the formal description of banks is “geldscheppende financiële instellingen”, which literally means “money-creating financial institutions”:

The Dutch description of NACE code 64.1 means ‘money-creating financial institutions’. Source

As far as I can tell, Dutch is the only European language in which banks are described as active money creators1. All other languages use ‘monetary intermediation’.

Maybe everybody should take a cue from Dutch and start saying ‘money creating institutions’ from now on, so we don’t have this debate a hundred years from now 😛

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