The usual schedule of posts is suspended until further notice.
This blog will discuss the economic effects of the coronavirus instead.
An impressive line-up of speakers from the public and private sector discussed why European banks don’t sell more services outside their home countries.
Some pointed out that regulation is still fragmented along national borders – despite the banking union.
But the recurring theme of the day was the lack of profitability. There is no business case for mergers and acquisitions. Countries like Germany and Italy have way too many banks.
The industry would be better off with fewer players, but nobody wants to take over small banks with wafer-thin margins.
You can read my Twitter thread about the event here.
The slides of the presentations are available here.
AI will disrupt finance, but not in the way some tech bros think.
In a viral thread, David Heinemeier Hansson describes how Apple Card discriminates against his wife. Nobody at the company can explain how the algorithm makes its decision. Just “computer says no”.
That’s the kind of bureaucratic horror you expect from an old-fashioned state-run company. Ironically, Apple markets its credit card as “built on the principles of simplicity, transparency, and privacy” and “Created by Apple, not a bank”.
Yeah, I’ll stick to my bank, thanks.
If you can’t explain your AI, lawsuits are coming.
Long lawyers, short black box AI.
Pseudonymous banking expert Johannes Borgen recently discussed the impact of low interest rates on European life insurers. Because insurers discount the value of their liabilities, low rates are a huge problem.
But as Johannes Borgen points out, the regulator lets insurers use a hypothetical long term rate that “is a f**** joke. IT IS NOT EVEN REMOTELY LOOKING LIKE REAL WORLD INTEREST RATES ; which mean that all insurer liabilities are grossly undervalued.”
You can read his thread here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1184391852046409729.html
By the way, yieldbug is a term used by Bloomberg journalist Joe Weisenthal to troll people who believe they deserve to receive interest on their risk free investment.
Swedish tv station SVT has investigated suspected money laundering by Russian and Ukranian customers of Swedbank. Oligarchs used accounts at Swedbank’s Estonian branch to move money offshore. The documentary is available online in English: part 1 and part 2.
At the end of part 2, Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Kiev is asked “why do you think they [i.e., the bank] let this happen?”. Ms. Kaleniuk replies “because it’s profitable!”.
However, I’m not convinced that is true. Payments are a low-margin activity that expose banks to a lot of downside risk. Violating anti-money laundering (AML) rules have cost banks hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.
In my opinion, criminals succeed in money laundering because compliance with AML regulation was (is?) not a priority for top executives.1 A lack of funding and management attention for compliance leads to a mentality of “just check the boxes, so it looks like we did what we had to do”.
Stronger enforcement, including higher fines and other sanctions, might change that situation.
[A] higher share of women on the boards of banks […] is associated with greater stability. As I have said many times, if it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers, the world might well look a lot different today. – Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
In today’s finance & crime news:
“Swedbank AB has fired its chief executive officer, Birgitte Bonnesen, amid allegations the bank was used to launder billions of dollars in Russian money on her watch.” – Bloomberg
For your information, five of the eleven members of Swedbank’s Board of Directors are women.
The ten year anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy is fast approaching. Some quick thoughts on what has changed and what we’ve learned over the past decade, with a focus on Europe.
The European support program for Greece ends today. Some called the program a bailout, others assistance or solidarity. Whatever you call it, the outcome has been abysmal.
You did it! Congratulations to Greece and its people on ending the programme of financial assistance. With huge efforts and European solidarity you seized the day.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) August 20, 2018
Greece fared worse than the US during the Great Depression. Emerging markets recovered faster from financial crises than Greece did. The only countries that have shrunk more than Greece in the past ten years are failed states like Libya, Yemen, and Venezuela.
“Congratulations” to all who were responsible for this “success”.
I wrote Bankers are people, too to help non-economists put the financial news into perspective.
Three recent news stories were no surprise to readers of my book.
I covered previous leaks in the chapter ‘Tax evasion and offshore services’ (p. 100).
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”