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Using whales to fish for minnows

So the final SIBOS session just finished with the excellent thoughts of Paul Saffo of Stanford University, and a co-found of the Long Now, at the closing plenary keynote.

Paul covered lots of good stuff, and here’s an interpretative summary:

We seem to be using ever more powerful technological tools in the pursuit of ever so much shorter goals. In fact, I would go as far as saying that we have used technological tools that are revolutionary in a way that appears to be similar to standing on whale fishing for minnows. A good example was the flash crash in May, which was like seeing the crack cocaine of the financial system in action.

So 2008 marked the end of the era of the great moderation, where everything went along according to expected principles for the decades before. What we are entering now is the era of the great turbulence, where everything is far less predictable.

In this context, is there something about capitalism that is inherently unstable, and what is the new normal in this long age of turbulence where pessimism is the new black?

The issue surely really lies with the fact that there are too many short-term views that are defining the long-term. Instead, we should think of the 2008 crisis as being more like a car skidding. Your instincts tell you to steer the wheel in the opposite direction, to slam on the brakes and to panic. That only makes it worse and your car will crash. Surely we should now be looking to the long0term and driving this industry through the skid, not steering blind.

We need to put back onto the balance sheet what is left out for example, and what is left out is social aspirations, the environment and the things that will be left for future generations.

Similarly, economies are just a conversation between buyers and sellers, citizens and governments, merchants and traders and banks and brokers. Those are horizontal conversations however, and what we need are vertical conversations between this generation and the next.

What do you want to leave your children, your grandchildren and their grandchildren?

So Long Finance is just a vertical conversation with future generations and today’s generation.

Long Finance is purely Future Value on steroids.

And if science can use technology to look into deep time – for example the CERN project with the Hadron Collider experiment – why can’t global finance?

He said a lot more about the different forms of capitalism too, with America’s individual capitalism compared to Asia’s community capitalism and Europe’s cultural capitalism.

All of it was very wise and powerful stuff.

Then Lazaro Campos, CEO of SWIFT and Stephan Zimmermann, COO Global Wealth Management & Business Banking for UBS and a SWIFT Board member, did the closing wrap-up, re-iterating the SWIFT strategy and the themes of regulation, recovery and rebuilding trust.

I’ll post one last summary of the week tomorrow, but now it’s time to get the party outfit on as we’re all rocking to the fusion DJ tonight as the SIBOS party returns after a one year break. Rock on…


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Paul Bevan

    This blog is required daily reading…even for a non FS person like me. Love the wit and repartee, so had to wonder how far you had your toungue in your cheek exhorting the industry to take a longer view. Have they ever? Will they now? In any case, when they hit the skid, they all have ejector buttons in their Astons…so what the hell!

  • I like the car analogy, even though I usually dislike analogies.
    Might it be extended to say that the ‘skid’ should alert us to question; who was doing the driving; how up-to-the-job they were; what steering and gearing devices were they able to use to known and good effect?
    … and you know… given the rise of China and the other BRICS, we might even question where the vehicle was manufactured?

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