September 24, 2015

Is Ermotti suggesting UBS tinkers with risk measuring, like Volkswagen tinkered with pollution emissions measuring?

Sir, I refer to your most important editorial in over a decade, “Banking cannot prosper within a culture of fear”, September 24.  A more correct title would be: “Our economies cannot prosper when bank regulators have been overtaken by a culture of senseless fear”.

You, who proudly proclaims a “Without fear”, seem to at long last have to come to grips with the fact that risk-taking is much needed in order to avoid even worse risks. Sadly, you should at the latest, have written that in June 2004 when Basel II was announced.

Then silly risk adverse regulators, who clearly had never read The Parable of the Talents, imposed a culture of fear of “The Risky” by excessively embracing “The Safe”. Its risk-weighted capital requirements, clearly instructed banks to avoid taking risk on The Risky, by giving them permission to leverage incredibly, much riskier, with what is perceived ex antes as safe.

And you write: “Sergio Ermotti, the chief executive of UBS, has been so bold as to urge his staff to embrace risk-taking again”. Great, and of course I agree full heartedly with him. That is our responsibility towards those coming after us. God make us daring!

Unfortunately, Ermotti can urge his staff to embrace-risk taking as much as he wants, that will still not happen, not as long as the credit-risk weighted capital requirements remain in place. That is of course unless Ermotti is now suggesting that UBS tinkers with risk measuring, along the way Volkswagen tinkered with emissions measuring.

PS. On a personal note I wish of course you would have had the decency to at least acknowledged that this, Basel’s dangerous regulatory risk aversion, has been the leitmotiv in the over thousand of letters I sent you, which you preferred to ignore. The letters though are still all out there on my, for the world to see.

PS. When bankers grow old and begin to fade away... what would they regret the most, the risk they took or the ones they did not dare to take?