July 08, 2012

Though a bad outcome is usually associated with risk it does NOT mean it was produced by something "risky"

Sir, “The tale of sober nonconformists... yielding to investment bankers with a thirst for risk” is how John Plender subtitles his “How the traders trumped theQuakers” July 7. 

He is wrong. Investment bankers do not thirst for risks but for profits, and therefore they loved and used the high leverages of equity they were authorized to have by their bank regulators, when engaging with something officially perceived as not risky. 

And the fact that we associate a bad outcome with something risky does not mean it was produced by something risky, in fact often the really bad outcomes, are produced by something perceived as absolutely not risky. Precisely what happened in this crisis, when the correlation of what went very wrong, and the low capital requirements allowed, is absolute. 

This, the fact that like Plender most experts keep on using the mistaken hypothesis of excessive risk-taking, is tragic, because that stops them from understanding what really happened, in order to be able to correct for it. That is why Basel III is digging our banks even deeper in the hole they were placed.