Damning verdict on City: ‘No longer fit for purpose’ – The Independent

The Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman on a v...

The Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman on a visit to Cambridge today. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A report commissioned by business secretary Vince Cable was made public earlier this week and finds a financial sector that is no longer fit for purpose. Professor John Kay, a leading economist, has made his recommendations after scores of submissions and interviews with top business and investment people.

In particular, Prof Kay says that regulation needs an overhaul and that traders seeking short-term profits are not acting in the wider interests of the public and should be marginalised.

His review comes when the stock of the banking sector has never been lower, given a seemingly constant run of scandals involving rogue trading, interest rate fixing and global money laundering.

The report finds that short-termism is an underlying problem in UK equity markets, principally caused by a misalignment of incentives within the investment chain and the displacement of trust relationships by a culture based on transactions and trading.

 His recommendations, which are aimed at key players in UK equity markets, as well as Government and regulators, look to:

  • Improve the incentives and quality of engagement, including by establishing an Investor Forum to foster more effective collective engagement by investors with UK companies
  • Restore relationships of trust and confidence in the investment chain, including by applying fiduciary standards more widely within the investment chain
  • Change the culture of market participants, including by adoption of ‘good practice statements’ by company directors, asset managers and asset holders that promote a more expansive form of stewardship and long-term decision-making throughout the investment chain
  • Realign incentives by better relating directors’ remuneration to long-term sustainable business performance and better aligning asset managers’ remuneration to the interests of their clients

Damning verdict on City: ‘No longer fit for purpose’ – Business News – Business – The Independent.

A wise man knows one thing – the limits of his knowledge

If you haven’t come across Prof John Kay before but “get” the following, I can recommend more of his writings. He is a regular contributor to FT and wrote an excellent book with invaluable lessons on modern business life: Obliquity

…I have been looking at some of the models people use, in both the public and private sectors to predict events.

The models share a common approach. They pose the question: “How would we make our decision if we had complete knowledge of the world?” With such information you might make a detailed assessment drawing together many different pieces of relevant information on matters such as costs, benefits, and consequences.

But little of this knowledge exists. So you make the missing data up. You assume the future will be like the past, or you extrapolate a trend. Whatever you do, no cell on the spreadsheet may be left unfilled. If necessary, you put a finger in the air.

John Kay – A wise man knows one thing – the limits of his knowledge.

If we now know what we “don’t know”, we should already know that, underestimating the unknown (unknowable?!) impact of future (unforeseen or unforeseeable) events, based upon assumptions, carries unknown dangers.

Organizations need to learn to distinguish between the kinds of problems that can be handled with traditional perspectives, where precise prediction and solution is possible, and the kinds of problems associated with unavoidable complexity.

Entrainment of thinking is an ever-present danger.

Basel III: Why bother when the prequel was a “flop”…

…and the warnings weren’t heeded?

The prophetic words in this extract weren’t written post crash but in 2001! The full report can be read here. Of course this was not the only warning.


Well before the banking collapse, the US National Academies/National Research Council and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York collaborated on an initiative to “stimulate fresh thinking on systemic risk”. The main event was a high-level conference held in May 2006, which brought together experts from various backgrounds to explore parallels between systemic risk in the financial sector and in selected domains in engineering, ecology and other fields of science. The resulting report was published late 2007 and makes very interesting reading.

So if the warnings were ignored…why and why have those who ignored them not been punished alongside those who, knowingly, flouted regulations in relentless pursuit of personal and Corporate reward at the expense of all else? 

WHO in their right mind thinks for one minute that more, different, regulation is ever (ever) going to be the answer???

More regulation is more complexity, more cost, greater fragility and less customer value…

Black Swans: A Corporate Governance “blind spot”

“…complexity breeds complexity, and is subject to diminishing  returns. Eventually the costs of increased complexity exceed the benefits” Prof John Kay

Regulators v Barbarian hordes

Regulators v Barbarian hordes

As a franchise  Alien v Predator has obvious appeal. Unlike our title it actually sounds like a fair fight. One worth watching!

But pin-striped Barbarians atop elephants at the gates of Basel, London and Washington. How could you tell the combatants apart in hand-to-hand clashes? Well apart from the conspicuous mode of transport lack of conscience and the sharp suits. But Holly wood blockbuster? I think not…Art of War “yes”, FSA Handbook “no chance”.


Image by Trois Têtes (TT) via Flickr

In his excellent article in this weeks Financial Times, (Barbarians at the gates of complexity) Prof John Kay, succinctly and effectively makes the point that the lessons from history are there to be learnt.


Please follow click these links for more Complexity Facts from Ontonix.

“…complexity breeds complexity, and is subject to diminishing  returns. Eventually the costs of increased complexity exceed the benefits” Prof John Kay

I would like to pose the question:

If the Barbarians of Financial Services have had the books but didn’t bother to read them what will be achieved by the introduction of more regulation?

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