Thirty years ago, Gordon Gecko delivered his memorable speech in Wall Street that ended with three little words: “Greed is good”.
Greed is good.
It’s a theme that has rippled through my blog and presentations ever since as, in banking, greed is good and can be satiated if unregulated.
You only have to look at the debate today about the bonus culture, rogue traders, tax avoidance and executive compensation to realise that greed is good, but this is nothing new.
Names like Frank Quattrone, the broker who talked up internet IPOs in the 1990s only to see the internet bust ruin his empire (he’s still going though); or John Meriwether who used arbitrage to ruin Salomon Smith Barney and then Long Term Capital Management (he’s still going though) to realise that greed is good.
Like Bernie Madoff, all of these guys have the same thing in common: they offer you a get rich quick scheme and, in financial markets, the get rich quick scheme is what everyone wants.
Whether it’s to spend four years at a trading desk raking in huge bonuses to move on just as your portfolio crashes or to offer property investments that allow you to see 10, 20 or 30 percent or more gains year on year, everything is about get rich quick.
The Nigerian 401 scams are the same. The idea that some wealthy dead tycoon left his estate and, out of the blue, you can get twenty percent seems preposterous but, believe it or not, I’ve heard of several stories of little old men and women turning up at bank headquarters in Canary Wharf saying: “where’s my five million dollars then you thieving scum”, only to find out it’s the Nigerian who’s the thief and not the bank.
It’s the reason we play the lottery, gamble on horses, play fruit machines, buy scratch cards … you name it, we’ll take a bet on it, invest in it, trade with it, hope and pray for it.
That’s because greed is in our nature. It’s a basic human instinct.
As mentioned, I’ve blogged about the seven sins of finance before, but I’m blogging about it today because we have a debate on this theme next Tuesday night at the Financial Services Club.
The debate is titled: this house believes the City is rife with greed and corruption, which is proposed by journalistic investigators Ian Fraser and Nick Kochan; the opposition includes Brian Mairs, Head of Strategic Communications for the British Bankers’ Association (click on their links to see why this is must attend event!).
Should be good and, if you want to register, just click here.
Other Financial Services Club meetings to conclude our 2011-2012 season include:
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Everything you wanted to know about the City but were too afraid to ask
Geraint Anderson a.k.a. Cityboy
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
The Eurozone – a road to nowhere?
Laurens Vis, Chairman, KAS Bank
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
The Price of Fish
Michael Mainelli and Ian Harris
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
How BIAN helps banks work better
Hans Tesselaar, Executive Director at BIAN
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Plenary meetings of the Clearing & Settlement Working Group (CAS-WG)
BT Auditorium, Newgate Street
You can register for all meetings by clicking here.