Moneymanagement’s Weblog

Banking Crisis – A blessing in disguise

Posted in banking by moneymanagement on September 17, 2008

While most of us are panicing at the banking crisis, it may prove to be sharp wakeup call and a blessing in disguise. The crisis is leading to re-evaluvating our priorities in spending and saving

We are finally curbing our excesses. In countires like India, which have been partly insulated due to controls of the ministry and Reseve Bank, we are truely counting our blessing.

If the current crisis will lead to better checks and controls Kudos to it.

This is not to discount the people who have lost savings and are still gapling with problems….but we definately need to look at the brighter side and say – this is not all too bad – to come out as tough winners instead of winning losers,

 

Within a matter of months, three of the “Big 5” independent Wall Street merchant banks have collapsed. Other banks are de-leveraging at a brutal pace. So far, the global banking industry has written off half a trillion dollars. The IMF has estimated the full extent of the global bad debt at some $1 trillion, including at non-banks andNouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, has been talking of an ultimately $2 trillion size problem. Alan Greenspan said just last week that “there’s no question that this in the process of outstripping anything I’ve seen and it still is not resolved and still has a way to go and, indeed, it will continue to be a corrosive force until the price of homes in the United States stabilizes.”

 

Problems in the banking sector spill into the broader economy. As these complex Wall Street investments sour, banks need to keep more capital on hand to assure investors that they can weather any future losses from loan portfolios. That means banks are playing defense.

If you want a business loan, car loan, home loan, student loan or virtually any other kind of loan, they’re hesitant to lend, lest they wind up with more bad loans. With lending drying up, auto dealers are sitting with inventory they can’t move and real-estate agents are showing homes they can’t sell. The economy is slowing as credit is squeezed.

The crisis feeds on itself. As banks and corporations are perceived to be short of capital and their stock prices fall, their need to raise capital grows even as lenders are defensive. That forces them to sell assets at low prices, and it becomes a vicious circle. That’s what insurance and finance giant American International Group now faces.

 

 

Says Jeremy Siegel in today’s WSJ

The turmoil in the financial markets will reorganize the financial landscape. But this does not mean the financial industry will shrink dramatically. In fact the current crisis could well lead to an increase in the demand for financial services, as the world grapples with the need for new financial instruments, new risk management techniques, and the increasing complexity of the financial world.


Despite the recent turmoil, there is good evidence that the worst is over, especially for the commercial banks with access to Federal Reserve credit. Despite yesterday’s severe sell-off, most are significantly higher than their July 15 low, and some such as Wells Fargo and UBS are up over 50% (see chart above).
Nevertheless, the current crisis will change the financial landscape. Certainly Bear, Merrill, Lehman and others will disappear as separate corporate entitles. But other institutions, specifically the commercial banks that absorb these firms, and who have direct access to Federal Reserve credit, will become larger.

The demand for financial services will in no way disappear as the automobile pushed out the horse and buggy a century ago. Although unemployment on Wall Street will undoubtedly rise, many workers will be reabsorbed elsewhere in the industry. The current financial crisis calls out for new products and services as well as more, not less, information about what is safe and profitable in the future environment.

It is easy to be pessimistic about the future of financial services in the current climate. But objective facts indicate that the future demand for these services will be high. Looking beyond past losses, the demand for financial services, especially internationally, has been strong. The growth of the developing countries, combined with the aging in the developed countries, will lead to huge international capital flows that will be facilitated by new and existing financial intermediaries.
It is shocking that firms that withstood the Great Depression are now failing in what economists might not even call a recession. But their failure was not caused by lack of demand for their services. It was caused by management’s unwillingness to understand and face the risks of the investments they made. The names of the players will change, but the future growth of the financial services industry is assured.

 

In Germany, Speigel reports 

Industry representatives are fond of saying that Germany is “overbanked.” In their view, there are too many financial institutions with too many branches — and not enough profit. And under these conditions, they say, German banks stand little chance of prevailing in the long term against their international competitors, which — thanks to soaring profits in their home markets — are expanding into more and more markets.

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