Trust, Risk and stifled Innovation

In the light of the recent Citigroup’s settlement of mis-sold Hedge Fund investments, we issue this brief opinion piece on the interactions of Risk, Trust and Innovation:

Citigroup

We don’t think it is so much about TRUST or trusting institutions anymore but has always been about Caveat Emptor (Buyer beware).

No investor can or should trust institutions without conducting their own due diligence and risk profile / risk appetite assessment first.  In the past investors could possibly rely on professional ‘trusted’ advisors to help then navigate the due diligence part, at least in theory.  Risk and risk appetite assessment was the more tricky part and not even the professionals had sophisticated enough tools to help their clients through this quagmire landscape.

In some recent papers, researchers argue that ...
In some recent papers, researchers argue that the return from an investment mainly results from exposure to systematic risk factors. Jaeger, L., Wagner, C., “Factor Modelling and Benchmarking of Hedge Funds: Can passive investments in hedge fund strategies deliver?”, Journal of Alternative Investments (Winter 2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We believe this is the unintended consequence of over regulation or an over regulated environment.  Relational trust has been eroded in favour of ‘legislative trust’ and therefore the impersonal ‘hand of public scrutiny’ is supposed to protect the innocents.

Trust
Trust (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

We need to ensure the pendulum swings back to a happy balance between relationship and legislative trust, unburden ourselves from the over regulated and expensive compliance environment we have allowed to engulf and overwhelm us, not adding any value, but stifling innovation instead.

theMarketSoul ©2012

 

Source Article: http://www.garp.org/risk-news-and-resources/risk-headlines/story.aspx?newsid=44034

A Disconnected World – The Information Age Irony

As economic beings we are extremely ‘short-sighted’ by nature. We don’t fully appreciate the differences and interactions between the short-, medium- and long-term.

English: Watt's steam engine at the lobby of t...
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It was Burns & Mitchell (1946) who tried to measure the economic cycles. Today there are four broad classifications of business cycles as follows:

  • Kitchin cycle (3 – 5 years) – The rate at which businesses build up their inventories
  • Juglar cycle (7 – 11 years) – Related to Investment flows into Capital such as factories and other capital means of production
  • Kuznets cycle (15 – 25 years) – Period between booms in corporate or governmental spending on large scale Infrastructure projects, such as rail, roads, etc.
  • Kondratiev wave / cycle (45 – 60 years) – The ‘super-cycle’ referring to the phases of capitalism.  Crises such as the Great Depression and the current Financial & Sovereign Debt driven contraction.

But the Information Age has undermined these cycles? Or only undermined our understanding of these cycles?  That is the key distinction we need to draw.

Are there any longer-term term cycles, which are beginning to contract with advances in Technology.

The Dark Ages (lets say from the collapse of the Roman Empire) until the enlightenment lasted around 1,000 years.  The Enlightenment (approximately 1650s) through to the First Industrial Revolution (from mid 1700’s to mid 1800s) lasted around 200 years.  The Second Industrial Revolution (driven by electricity from around mid 1800s) lasted another 100 years.

Another view of the bridge
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The Third Industrial Revolution, or rather the Digital Revolution is the COMPUTER or DIGITAL AGE.

However, interesting this brief synopsis of economic history is, the actual relevant issue is recognising the length of the TRANSITION period between these ‘Leapfrog’ Technological advances.

We are not very good (yet) at recognising, never mind managing these tectonic shifts in the economic landscape.

Is this were we found ourselves today?

English: Plot of growth of exponential economi...
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theMarketSoul ©2012 

Where will all the new money come from?

Seal of the United States Department of the Tr...
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Today’s brief analysis of US Treasury Yield curves and the Debt profiles of both the USA and Italy highlights the enduring question in the title of this post.

The first graphic highlights one important issue.  We chose 2 August 2011 versus 17 February 2012 as key dates to compare the US Treasury Yield curve.  If we cast our minds back to 2 August 2012 two key facts emerge:

  1. This was the D-Day of the US Debt Ceiling vote
  2. The US still had a Triple A credit rating

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The key take-away from the Yield Curve comparison is that even with a ratings downgrade, the US is actually able to borrow new capital at a lower rate of interest 6 months on.

However, to pour a bit of realism into the analysis, we highlight two interesting Debt profile graphics below.

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The first one is the USA Treasury Maturity curve (admittedly 6 months out of date), highlighting when the current debt will need to be redeemed or rolled over.  The second is the Italian Bond Maturity curve.  You will notice just how similar the USA and Italy Debt Maturity profiles are.

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From this comparison, the critical question currently for us is:

Where will all the new money come from to roll over the debt maturing during the next 3 – 12 months?  QE is one option, but investors still need to be convinced that their capital is safe and relatively risk-free.  It is the Risk-free equation (or investor risk appetites) that needs to be explored in more detail.

theMarketSoul ©2012

A matter of CULTURE or PSYCHOLOGY in Europe?

Are the European and more specifically the Euro-zone problems purely a matter of cultural differences, engrained in generations of ‘Nation Staters’ or something deeper in each nation-people’s psychology?

 

Countries using the Euro de jure Countries and...
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It cannot purely be a difference of political ideology between the leaders and individual nations of Europe that has lead us to the brink of the Euro abyss. But, yet maybe the way the debate and challenges facing Europe are being framed, has a great part to play in it.

 

Europe always seemed to be a halfway house between cultures, trade, ideologies, beliefs and norms. And the fact that the Euro single currency zone was stitched together based on these ‘halfway house’ ideas should therefore not have been a surprise.

 

How long does it take to build a vision? Or rather, why did Europe take so long to get to the chasm, build a rickety Monetary Union bridge, without firming up the foundations that holds together the infrastructure once the traffic crossing that bridge started increasing in volume?

 

If there is something Trade theory should have taught us, it must be that once opportunity (to trade and create wealth) is established, the trickle would eventually turn to a steady stream and the steady stream to an eventual throng. Yet not one European leader or institution foresaw this? Takes us full circle to the original question, namely: “How long does it take to build a VISION?

united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web
Image by kevindean via Flickr

 

The truth might lie somewhere in the nature, establishment and deep rooted psyches of the Europeans themselves. Europe might be the collective noun; yet staunch nation state individualism (the communities we all hunker after) is the actual bedrock and foundation of the people who live in Europe. Unlike the USA, with a common language, full monetary and federal fiscal union, Europe is and will always remain a loosely led together community (but not a collective) of nation states and peoples.

 

Fairness, freedom, equality and openness, some of the most fundamental tenets of a market and community to function properly, are not necessarily on the agendas when ideological political, rather than economic (for the greater good), issues are considered by both politicians, technocrats and bureaucrats in the institutions and fabric at the heart of a (dis)United Europe.

 

Therefore, until and unless we can prize Europeans from there deeply held ‘national interest’ debates and frames of reference, in terms of establishing a common and united front; we feel that there is no hope of sustainably solving the Euro-zone sovereign debt and monetary union problems.

 

A possible mechanism might have to be the establishment of a ‘fourth branch’ of governance, outside the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, being an outside force or rather an Adjudicator comprised of non dominant European member countries and quite possibly with an Advisory Board consisting of non Europeans themselves, to allow for the establishment of a fair, free and an open implementation of the Legislature’s policy decisions, hence and overseer of the Executive, but an equal to the Judiciary, with a final veto by the citizenry of Europe themselves, as a balancing mechanism, should a stalemate ever arise.

 

The enabling driver of such an European Adjudicator must surely be the Digital Economy with its various platforms and reach extending now and in the future across the ‘Net’ that is European integration.

 

theMarketSoul ©2012

Irony and Downgrade Anger

It is with a little amusement that we scanned through the Economic headlines today, following Standard & Poor’s decision to finally downgrade France’s and other Eurozone nation’s Sovereign Debt rating.  France lost its prestigious triple A (AAA) grade to AA+.

Sarkozy and French anger?  Indeed!

This image shows Nicolas Sarkozy who is presid...
Image via Wikipedia
Off course the irony is that an “outsider market agency” has at last pushed a button it has threatened to utilise, forcing a pause for both governments and investors alike.

But the problem is timing as far as Mr Sarkozy is concerned.  This is a Presidential election year in France, so this comes as a slight humiliation to Mr Sarkozy.  And so it should be! He should be shamed out of office! Therefore, hopefully S&P’s decision will  help the voters and tax payers of France sit up and realise that incompetent leadership and decision making in the Eurozone economies now urgently needs to be ‘punished’.

Thank you S&P, for taking this action, because the actions (or rather inaction) of the Eurozone bureaucracy and leadership so far in addressing the root causes of the multiple crises, is continuing to drag the global recovery off course.

Decisions to circumvent exiting (inadequate) European Institutional frameworks and pulling the wool over European Citizens eyes over the inadequate administrative burdens the bureaucrats have imposed on its Citizenry must finally come to an end.

Eurozone 02
Image by slolee via Flickr

Hopefully, we’ll see some slightly more competent new faces in the Eurozone leadership pool and summit photo call line ups very soon… Innovation in Europe might have to start with a new set of leaders?

Countries using the Euro de jure Countries and...
Image via Wikipedia

theMarketSoul ©2012