Note: This is the original longer version of an Opinion Piece arguing for imposing caps on banker bonuses that appeared in the Guardian newspaper on the 25th of Feb 2013.
The European parliament is right to limit the maximum bonus bankers can command as a proportion of base salary. This will help tackle the culture of excessive risk-taking and the bending of rules that has now become endemic to banking. Undertaking this at an EU-wide level will also limit any large-scale migration of the so-called ‘talent’. It will reduce the risks borne by tax-payers and go a long way to rehabilitate the industry, making it focus on serving the real economy again.
The world has still not recovered from the most serious financial and economic crisis in recent history. This exposed several aspects of financial system dysfunction which not only increased the instability of the financial markets but also impeded their normal functioning as tools to allocate economic resources efficiently throughout the real economy. Policy maker response to this crisis remains very inadequate and will do little to correct the deep structural flaws exposed by the crisis.
In this new set of blog posts, we will serialize our 2009/2010 e-book "The Financial Crisis - Causes & Cures" which was written for both the layperson as well as policy-makers at the European Parliament, the European Commission and national finance ministries and regulators. The book may be a bit dated, but the issues are current.
The EU banking system, as we have discussed, is facing a perfect storm. The sector faces unprecedented challenges and is in the midst of large scale changes facing grave uncertainties. At the same time, the European Commission has suddenly turned a rather old idea of a Banking Union into the new buzzword. As our new series on financial regulation comes online and we discuss the Banking Union proposals in the coming days, it is very useful to take a step back and reflect what banking is all about anyway.
It was while thinking this through that we found a forgotten concept paper on 'what a good banking system looks like' that we had first published in late 2009/early 2010. This concept paper highlights all of the most important issues in banking and what needs to be done to make it better serve the real economy and is a very useful read for experts and non-experts alike. We have reproduced it in full below, but it can also be downloaded in a pdf format here.
Our new paper for the European Parliament highlights how old approaches to international governance are increasingly out of date in the day and age of increasing globalization. We now live in a world that is highly interconnected, is full of externalities and is increasingly fast paced. (Available for download in our publications section)
The ever faster and larger cross-border flows of commerce, people, and information technologies has reduced the idiosyncratic risks by allowing us access to an increasing array of options for example for investments or suppliers. At the same time, the higher degree of interconnectedness that this has brought about means that the risk of system wide failure – the dominoes all falling together - has increased significantly as demonstrated by the recent world wide collapse in cross border finance and trade.
Existing international governance structures to pursue shared global goals and manage externalities were designed at a time when systemic risk, externalities and the pace of change was much slower. These institutions and their approach to global governance now look increasingly out of touch. There is an urgent need to plug this governance gap that grows by the day.
In a new Re-Define policy brief we have addressed the all important question of the incidence of financial transaction taxes, seeking to answer the question ‘who pays in the end’, should FTTs be widely introduced. We also demonstrate how a differentiated transaction tax regime can address market behaviour issues such as churning and excessive short termism as well as help reduce systemic risk.