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With Great Power Comes Great Wealth

I grew up as a fan-boy of all things Marvel, and have been delighted with the way the Marvel Universe has panned out for next generations. In particular, Spider-Man has always been a highlight, and I regularly use one of the lines from these comic books: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.

Attributed as a line to Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, it actually originated in the Amazing Fantasy 15 (1962), the first Spider-Man Marvel comic, as a caption.

However, if you do further investigation some say it was a line introduced by Voltaire during the French Revolution, although I cannot find any direct evidence of this via Google. Equally, I prefer to think it was a variation of this line from Luke 12:48 in the Christian Bible:

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Anyway, I diverge. Why is this important? Because it’s a theme I’ve used often in banking and finance. Money creates power and with great power comes great responsibility; more than this though is that power creates wealth. In fact, it’s a virtuous circle: the more money you have the more powerful you become and the more powerful you become the more money you generate.

It is for this reason that some of those in power can become dictators, such as Saddam Hussein of Iraq. After the Iraq War:

US forces broke through a wall in a small building in Iraq in April 2003 and found a number of metal boxes, each containing crisp new American dollar bills. They must have thought it was their lucky day because, by the end of that day, they had discovered 164 of these boxes around Baghdad with a value to the tune of $650 million. It may have been a lot more than that, but that is how much was declared.

Thing is, before the war, he needed that secret stash to buy favours, pay off protesters and enemies, cover the costs of his personal army and police force, and ensure that the Imams followed his lead. In other words, money creates power and power creates more money to keep the power.

That is the nature of some dictatorships, and this hits home when I look at Belarus today.

Alexander Lukashenko is purely keeping his power because all of the state forces are on his payroll. That’s why he can bring down a Ryanair flight and no one in Belarus can do anything about it, even if the rest of the world is shocked.

In a similar way, why do you think Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has remained in power for so long? It’s over two decades since he first took office and he stays in power because he is popular with the oligarchs and state forces. He rewards them, and looks after them. In return, they protect him and do what he asks. If they don’t do what he asks, a spot of Novichok does the trick.

But then we in the rest of the world may look at these leaders as bad, but are ours any better?

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.

When I look at Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Nicolas Sarkozy, Benjamin Netanyahu and many other leaders, we can see their web of deceit. The web is funded by greed and wealth to create more and more power to create more and more wealth. It is the reason why politics is called politics. The term politics comes from the Latin poly for many and tics as in blood-sucking parasites. 

This reminds me of the time I heard the portrait photographer Platon talking about his career and how it started with an unusual angle on Bill Clinton. At one United Nations Summit, he was given the privilege of photographing every world leader attending from Gadhafi to Berlusconi. On presenting these photographs, he noted that nearly every single leader was now on trial for corruption, fraud, bankruptcy or just generally on-the-run, and most of these leaders were men.

But it is changing. When we talk about great leaders of today, many of them are great women. Whether it has been New Zealand under Jacinda Ardern or Taiwan under the presidency of Tsai Ing-Wen or Germany under Angela Merkel, female-led countries have been held up as good examples of how to manage a pandemic.

Is that because women have a different attitude towards wealth and power to men?

From The New York Times:

Many women, those who grew up wealthy and those who did not, have long been steered away from the unapologetic drive for wealth.

It’s bound up with the way girls are often schooled to place the needs of others above their own, to repress or deny outward signs of ambition. Even as women have pushed into once-male bastions in business, many still feel the sting of professional and personal backlash if they are perceived as too aggressive.

“Girls as they are growing up are not socialized to feel that it’s O.K. for them to have ambition about creating wealth, not the way it is for little boys,” said Mariko Chang, the author of “Shortchanged,” a study of the wealth gap between men and women. “They’re encouraged to take on roles that let them take care of other people” …

From her perches both in investment banking and city government, [Alicia Glen, New York’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development] has watched men relish the rewards money brings …

Many women I interviewed said they viewed money as a means to help others rather than to increase their own profile. Those attitudes, admirable as they may be, have helped fuel a power gap that separates men and women.

Of course, many recoil at the idea that women should pursue money and clout just the way men do. That flies in the face of increasing political anger about inequality. There’s a longstanding rift in the women’s movement and beyond: Does the path to power require acting more like men, or can women wield influence in ways that are different but just as effective?

“There are men for whom there is no amount of money that is enough,” [Joline Godfrey, author of the book “Raising Financially Fit Kids”] said. “The quest of more, bigger, better has taken this planet to a place of unsustainability. It seems to me that women are making different choices. And those choices may be healthier for all of us.”

The article is well worth a read, and sits on trend with all of my experiences in business, banking and tech. The male view of the world is greed is good, and its very difficult to untie that. The male view of the world is of an army of troops who you command. The male view of the world is beat all the others, no matter what cost.

The male view of the world is a balloon that has a massive needle hanging over it. The needle is called women.

The female view of the world is wealth can help. The female view of the world is to raise and nurture. The female view of the world is to support and counsel. The female view of the world is if we can raise one, we can raise all.

I’m being stereotypical and will probably get called out as some woke misogynist, but I was talking about such things way back in the 1990s. My first boss was a woman; because I was in marketing, where most women work in department that “makes things pretty”. I worked for women most of my initial career; working for and with women made the environment far more fun and equitable than when I worked with most men.

I just can’t believe that it’s still a thing thirty years later. But the thing is changing. We now have Citi Group run by Jane Fraser and Stephanie Cohen a likely successor to David Solomon at Goldman Sachs; we have Alison Rose running NatWest and Ana Botin at Santander Group; and we mustn’t forget Christine Lagarde at the ECB and the many other powerful women of the world.

The trend is notable. The trend is that world leaders, prime ministers, CEOs, bank and investment focused people, are becoming more and more oriented towards Mother Earth and female virtues, driven by wealth to do good for society and the planet. That world is very different.

Oh, and don’t think I’m saying women are taking over the world. They will be lucky if they’re even considered equal two centuries from now.

Source: Chris Skinner photo at the World Economic Forum, 2020

 

About 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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