Systemic Risk

On why long-term investors should fund infrastructure

Investing in developing country infrastructure is a win-win strategy for long-term investors

Note: A version of this article was first published in the OECD DAC Newsletter

The world faces two major financial problems for which, luckily, there is an attractive common solution. This might be just the right time for taking the first steps towards implementing it.

The first problem is the scarcity of capital in general, and of money for infrastructure investments in particular, in large swathes of the developing world. It is widely recognised that poor infrastructure holds back development, reduces growth potential and imposes additional costs, in particular on the poor who often do not have access to energy, water, sanitation and transport.

The second problem is the current sclerotic, even negative real rate of return on listed bonds and equities in many developed economies. The concentration of the portfolios of many long-term investors in such listed securities also exposes them to high levels of systemic, and often hidden, risk.

Why we must cap banker bonuses

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.

Seven Lessons from Finance as a Traffic System

Causes of the Financial Crisis

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.

How to design a good banking system?

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.

What Europe Needs to Do to Tackle the Triple Crises of Tax, Finance & Climate

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.