released by Stanford Business School highlights the cavalier attitude
that many organisations take when planning for the eventual replacement of their
executives. While we are happy to assist any client in his search for
alternatives we think that the first stop in any well-managed company should be
their own pool of seasoned and well-trained managers.
Despite the rapidly rising number of compliance officers and the tide of regulatory legislation the age-old problem of supervising employee behaviour keeps posing serious challenges to top management of banks and fund management firms. Surely the solution cannot be to put one compliance officer behind each and every trader or fund manager. And who would oversee these compliance officers? and so on....
Only management and an enterprise culture that are dedicated to maintain high standards of conduct can assure that incidents such as this one at are prevented. All-too often management is too far removed from the front line business, occupied with internal politics or simply not stable enough due to constant re-organisation (aided by clueless and inexperienced 'Consultants').
Bank managements often argue that losses in far-away subsidiaries could not easily have been foreseen by top management. Such may be the case when Citigroup tries to explain loan losses that may have occurred in its business in Mexico. But is this really a valid excuse? A loss of $ 400 million is quite substantial, even when measured against the bank's total assets of approximately $1.9 trillion. The loss/exposure admittedly is only 0.2 percent of total assets but seen in a different way this would mean that the bank has about 4500 loans (if they would all be the same size). Any organisation should be able to set up a management structure that can cope with this number of transactions. The management pyramid would only about three layers if each senior loan officer is in charge of about 50 loans. Impossible in this age of instant communication? Not in my opinion, one would not even need (expensive) MBA's or PhD's, just honest hardworking employees with a good pinch of common sense.
Not sure if one should cry or laugh when reading headlines such as this one. How did the parties to this shameful deal arrive at the number? Did it get picked out of thin air? Is there any real proof of culpability? Since when is it a crime to conduct one's business prudently? If the regulators did not spot the Madoff fraud have they received any punishment? And why is JP Morgan management agreeing to this 'settlement' (which leaves the question where the money goes, is it just used to plug the hole in the government's budget?)
P.S.: it is gratifying to read that a 'portion' of the $2 billion penalty will be earmarked for victims of the Madoff fraud. How generous, and the state appropriates the majority of the loot for itself. Why don't the regulators make a contribution to the victims as well? I guess the only reason why regulators do not throw the book at specific JP Morgan executives is that they want to avoid questions over why they are spared jail after such a major cock-up as the failure to detect the Madoff fraud in good time.
Nothing can surprise me with respect to the ever-increasing reach that the 'authorities' give the interpretation of the ill-fated and useless money laundering laws. Soon the £5 loan that a schoolchild receives from a granny will have to be reported as 'suspicious' by anyone who has knowledge of it, for who but the 'regulators' can (with hindsight) determine what is suspicious or not? Already anyone trying to open a bank account (or even access a long-forgotten one) is basically treated as a potential criminal these days. And all this wasteful effort is expended in order to undo the results of bad laws imposed by an undemocratic process.
While some experts try to make things complicated busy market professionals need simple solutions when they reach out for independent advice about how to manage their careers. For most successful executives the most significant barrier to effective mentoring and coaching is the illusion that any outside help is superfluous. After this somewhat arrogant attitude is overcome it quickly becomes obvious even to the most self-confident person that adding another perspective can be a useful tool to overcome any personal or professional issue that arises at work.
News that another senior finance professional - this time
Hector Sants, Barclays Bank's Head of compliance - needs to take time off to
avoid burn-out, highlights the pressure that staff at all levels are facing
these days. This burden gets progressively stronger the more an executive moves
up the ranks of the organisation.
20-25 years ago hardly anyone in the
financial markets had ever heard or seen a compliance manual, let alone a
compliance officer. And the markets functioned quite well. Now the rulebooks run
to thousands of pages - and are constantly 'updated' and expanded with new rules
- everything is up to interpretation and everyone wants to cover his backside.
No wonder that people like Sants feel the stress (ironically he helped create
many of these rules!).
Another problem facing
senior managers is the fact that their jobs can be quite lonely ones where they
are constantly under pressure from two sides - aspiring subordinates keen to get
their job or pressure from their own supervisor who wants to squeeze out a
better performance from their reports.
Glad to see that another swap market (Chinese Yuan) seems to be in rude health, but nearly all swaps are facilitated by a bank acting as counterparty - and are these risks not contrary to what current regulatory efforts want to achieve? If some regulators advocate a move to a leverage ratio of 10 where does that leave the gazillions of over-the-counter swaps?
Having been on the receiving end of many a sales call trying to convince me of the necessity of buying identity theft protection for my credit cards,I can say that the present hysteria about this issue here in the UK can only be called a modern version of the witch hunt. Given that this dark period is but a few hundred years away it is remarkable that not much has changed in human nature - certainly not in the nature of those who want to bully and nanny the citizen.
Condemning banks in blanket fashion to 'compensate' those who were supposedly mis-sold protection products goes against all notions of legal due process. Only slightly worse is the silence of the guardians of our investment monies who should scream bloody murder as the companies they invest on our behalf get fleeced by regulators. Where is the Governance army hiding when it is really needed?
Government can play a role in protecting the consumer, as can all the worthy or unworthy organisations who claim to have the consumer's interest at heart. But let them issue warnings, educate the public so that people can make decisions that are (hopefully) protecting their own interest. Nobody forced me to buy any product, suitable or unsuitable. And maybe some people might have benefitted from the protection they bought. Who speaks up for them?
When the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) proclaims that women on average receive a lower bonus than men one has to wonder what purpose this Institute really serves. Without detailed forensic comparison on a job-by-job basis this discovery - if you want to call it that - is meaningless and can only be considered an effort to get a bit of publicity.