The Great Reckoning (Part 1)

27 January 2009

By anyone’s standards, 2008 was not a good year. Banks, seemingly solid corporates, and finance companies collapsed like dominoes, ‘bailout’ was the new buzzword, and ‘foreclosure’ and ‘mortgagee sale’ were heard or read about on a daily basis.

The world, we are told, is in the grip of a financial crisis, the likes of which has not been seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The question on everyone’s minds is: will 2009 be any better or will it, as forecast, just get worse?

Most of the pundits are saying (a) it will get worse and (b) it will take a long time before it gets better. This may well be true, but from my own past experience I am sure that whatever the scenario, the future holds out HUGE opportunities for those prepared to take cautious risks.

Having said that, I would like to start this new year with my (often unorthodox) views on a number of topics by way of painting a background for what I see coming in the months and years ahead.

The role of the banks
Readers of my books and previous articles will have surmised already that I have a healthy disrespect for banks and bankers. I don’t harbour any disrespect for the almost universally sweet and helpful tellers, or even the bank managers (who are, after all, only mere ex-tellers in drag ). No, it is the faceless ones I distrust. Those who hide in ‘Head Office’, whose names are unknown — but who hold the power of financial life and death over ordinary folk foolish (or unlucky) enough to be ensnared by their cunning ways.

Once upon a time a bank manager was your friend. You could talk to him or, increasingly, her. You could get real help and advice on a personal level. It was not unusual to have lunch together, or to meet for a beer after work, even to be invited home for a barbeque. That all ended in 1987 with the underhanded and often heartless modus operandi that followed. Now look where it has got us.

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