Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If asked by Janet Yellen about risk-weighted bank capital requirements, how would Margaret Thatcher have answered?

Although I am sure Janet Yellen fulfills all the formal qualifications, I really do not know sufficient about her so as to be able to provide any credible input as to her chances of doing a good job as the new Chair of the Fed. What I am sure of though, is that Yellen will need to show a type of Margaret Thatcher type of character strength, if she is going to be able to stand a chance against what is to come.

And in this respect I would also have liked, if Janet Yellen had been able to pose the following question to Margaret Thatcher:

By requiring banks to hold much more capital against what is perceived as risky than against what is perceived as absolutely safe, banks earn higher risk-adjusted returns on equity when lending to The Infallible Sovereign and to the AAAristocracy than when lending to The Risky. This causes of course banks to lend less than what they would ordinarily do, and more expensively so, to all “risky” medium and small businesses, entrepreneurs and start ups. Margaret do you think this is sane? Do you think this makes our banks safer? Do you think this helps the economy to grow muscular and sturdy?

And though certainly uttered in some much better way than what my poor British English allows me, I can almost hear Margaret Thatcher answering something as follows:

“No Dear Janet, that is as insane as it comes. We the western world did not become what we are by foolishly telling risk-adverse bankers to avoid taking risks, or by allowing bankers to binge profitably on what we for now, in shortsighted blissful ignorance, believe to be absolutely safe.”