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Making money out of a crisis

We have terrible moments of human strife and suffering. Wars, famine, pandemics, earthquakes and more. People dying, parents and friends lost, grief and tears, a world that could not be worse …

But for some, it’s good times. There’s always money to be made out of a crisis.

I was reminded of this when talking with a friend in South Africa. They’ve been locked down like all of us but, unlike most of us, the government banned the sale of alcohol and tobacco. I thought it extreme, but my friend said it had opened the door to huge amounts of black market trade.

Entrepreneurial South Africans are doing regular bootleg runs to Namibia, stocking up on crates of wine and cigarettes and driving the long way back. There are even some South African ministers engaged in such trade, he claims.

It reminded me of an experience I had in the Middle East (or is that West Asia?). I had been at a conference for the week where it was dry. No alcohol allowed. The organiser asked me to join the end of conference party, and I thought: why? He said, no worries, you will like it. And I did.

The party was a real party. Beer, wine, whisky and more, whatever you wanted. I was quite incredulous, and asked my friend who organised the conference how come there is alcohol. He said it’s the Christians. In this country, Christians are legally allowed to consume alcohol, as long as they register. Then, having purchased the alcohol, they drive booze buses and sell it to the Muslims.

Amazing … and the reason why some Middle Eastern countries have terrible drink-driving offences (check it out). A little like prohibition in America in the 1930s led to the rise of Al Capone and the American Mafia.

It reminded me of many years ago, when the first Gulf War started, my friends in the Government markets were going out for a big party. I asked what they were celebrating. My colleague said: The War! I asked why they would celebrate the war? Because we will sell millions, my colleague said.

And sure enough, that year they sold more compute power than they had ever sold before. All the salespeople made the achievers club – top of the table – and times were good …

… but not for the people being killed in Kuwait and Iraq.

It is the nature of human strife that for every winner there is a loser; for every good day, there’s a bad day; for every gain, there’s a loss.

This also came home to me when I heard the great news about finding a vaccine for COVID19.

Everyone celebrated and hope the good times will come back. But the guys who created the vaccine are a married couple from Turkey who work in Germany.

They are billionaires, but they are humble. They even worked the day they got married. They are also immigrants, and some Germans don’t like immigrants. In fact, most people in most countries carry a distrust of immigrants. Of strangers.

But, in every crisis, there is always an opportunity to make money … even in migration.

The family paid a smuggler about €5,000 to €6,000 to take them on the boat [Four Iranians who died crossing Channel were part of same family]

If I post something like this, people often say: So what? What’s the point?

I guess the point is that we know that crisis means opportunity and danger.

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”

― John F. Kennedy*

For the majority it is danger, for the few it is opportunity. It is a great opportunity to make a great deal of money and, right now, many are making a fortune out of coronavirus (especially those who are digital).


* This is not true by the way




About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.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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