Some years after the crisis of 2008, Dutch journalist and anthropologist Joris Luyendijk set out to learn more about the people in the financial industry. Through a series of interviews with bankers, he was able to paint an impression of what it’s like to work in London’s banks. Continue reading “What type of banker are you?”
Last week, Positive Money Europe celebrated its launch with an event in Brussels: Time to rethink the European Central Bank.
Several speakers noted that it is important for central banks to communicate with society, not only with the financial sector.
One of the people in the audience remarked that it is not enough that the ECB explains what it is doing. It also needs to respond to the needs of society.
The representative of the ECB replied that his institution has become more transparent in response to feedback from the public. For example, the meeting notes of its board are published.
However, this is a classic case of bike-shedding. Publishing notes is a trivial gesture. The real problems in the euro area are massive unemployment in the southern countries and the poor performance of the European economies compared to the US. A genuinely responsive central bank should do much more to support the well-being of Europe’s citizens.
So I agree, it is time to rethink the ECB. Let’s break some political taboos and rev up the engines.
The Vatican recently published a document on the economic-financial system. The Church notes “the irreplaceable social function of credit” and that “most of [the financial industry’s] operators are singularly animated by good and right intentions”. However, the text mainly condemns all kinds of “immoral behavior”, ranging from credit default swaps to offshore banks. Continue reading “Bankers’ guilty conscience”
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”
Transparency International EU has published a report about the European Central Bank (ECB). The author of the report, Dr. Benjamin Braun, has analyzed the independence, transparency, accountability and integrity of the ECB.
The launch of the report was accompanied by a symposium in Brussels on Tuesday. During an interesting panel discussion, it was debated how the ECB can improve the way it works. Carl Dolan and Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm from Transparency International EU stressed that the ECB had cooperated with the NGO.
Many topics were covered during the discussion. For example the status of whistleblowers, freedom of information requests, and the “cool-off period” demanded when ECB executives move to the private sector.
But my main interests were monetary policy and the ECB’s supervision of the banking sector. Continue reading “Baby steps towards more ECB accountability”
Or to be more precise, debate about the financial institutional framework edition.
How should banks be regulated? Ten years ago, this question would have only interested a few specialists. Discussions about bank supervision and the role of the central bank were way too boring for the general public1. Besides, bankers surely knew what they were doing?
The global financial crisis and its aftermath changed this complacent attitude. The existing rules did not prevent the worse financial crisis since the 1930s. Governments had to bail out banks at a moment’s notice. Politicians took drastic decisions during the panic of September 2008. While those actions were taken with little democratic oversight, national leaders2 were the only agents willing and able to stop the collapse.
The crisis spurred a thorough update of bank regulation. Both in the United States and in Europe, legislation was passed to make banks safer. Avoiding a repetition of ad-hoc bailouts became a priority. The U.S. got its Dodd-Frank Act. The European Union (EU) set up the European Banking Authority (EBA) and worked towards a banking union3. America and Europe implemented capital and liquidity standards based on the Basel III recommendations. Continue reading “What I like about America, finance edition”
As the end of 2016 is quickly approaching, it is time to reflect on the past year. For people working in large bureaucratic organizations like banks and government, this means filling out performance evaluations. Organizations collect these records of their employees’ professional histories. Managers can use old reviews to motivate (non) promotions of their subordinates.
One intriguing aspect is the fact that employees are expected to write negative things about themselves. In management speak this is called “opportunities for growth” or some other bullshit term. But basically the writers have to incriminate themselves. The self-evaluation provides the proverbial rope for somebody to hang them with.
This reminded me about something I read in a book1 by historian Orlando Figes on the Soviet Union. Members of the Communist Party had to write an autobiography which was regularly updated. The higher-ups in the hierarchy could use these documents to control their underlings and their rivals.
The more you think about it, the more parallels there are between modern business life and Soviet society.
It is well known that corporations are not democracies nor markets. But this post focusses on the cultural similarities that caught my attention. Continue reading “Annual reviews and other Soviet business practices”
WARNING: This post is NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK!
Decades from now, historians will be discussing how the political outsider Donald J. Trump could win the American presidency from a career politician like Hillary Clinton.
While the memory is still fresh, I – as a foreign observer – want to highlight a part of the presidential race that has not been covered well by the press. Especially as censorship is rapidly destroying evidence of what has really happened.
This article documents an aspect of the online battle for the hearts and minds of the public that was not organized by the official Trump campaing team.
This is my report on the Meme War of 2015-2016. Continue reading “Social media warriors for Trump”
The rise of Trump should interest everybody in “the West” for two reasons. First of all, many problems faced by the United States are similar to those in Europe. Secondly because of the immense economic, political and above all cultural influence America has on the world.
The media portray Donald Trump as a sexist, a racist and an ignorant warmonger.
Is this picture correct? Why are so many voters attracted to him? This post lists the items put on the political agenda by the Trump campaign.
Slogan: Make America Great Again
Summary: America First
Enforcing immigration law. This means that illegal immigrants – who by definition broke the law – should be deported from the USA1. A wall at the border with Mexico should prevent future illegal immigration. Trump links illegal Mexicans to crime. His adversaries reinforce this point by burning the American flag and waving Mexican flags while harassing his supporters at one of his rallies.