Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On risk-taking, retirement accounts, and lousy bank regulations.

What would have happened with anyone’s retirement plan if, when a young professional and starting to save, his instructions would have included paying his investment manager much higher commissions on returns produced by safe investments, than on returns produced by riskier investments. 

There is no doubt that in such circumstances, his investment manager would have played it overly safe, and he, the beneficiary, would probably have had to retire on a very meager income.

But, by means of their credit-risk weighted equity requirements, which allow banks to earn much higher risk adjusted returns on their equity when lending to something “safe”, than when lending to something “risky”, the regulators are instructing the banks to act in precisely this way.

Whether we like it or not, banks have a very important role to play as investment managers for our economies. And the reason we taxpayers implicitly agree to support banks, is not for them to avoid risks, but to, with reasoned audacity, take intelligent risks on our behalf. 

And so, even if we have to pay banks high commissions, we need them to act much more like aggressive growth funds taking risks but looking to produce for us investors better returns; and for our economies sturdier growth; and for our young better good future employment opportunities.

So let's get these regulators out of our way!