By Dimitris N. Chorafas (auth.)
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Extra resources for Basel III, the Devil and Global Banking
Supergearing carried enormous risk. It is indeed ironic that instead of strengthening the financial system by increasing the robustness of the individual institutions, some of the ‘New Economy’s’ basic elements did quite the reverse, inciting managers and traders to take inordinate risks and, comparatively speaking, reducing the banks’ capability to absorb loss. Technology was supposed to be been an enabling factor, and up to a point this was true. During the 1980s and 1990s it contributed significantly in enlarging the financial industry’s business perspective.
Its risk comes from the fact that some technological advances in the financial markets can have unwanted consequences. What HFT offers is a number of conceivable advantages for the markets’ efficiency, including greater liquidity and narrower bid-offer spreads. There is also a downside, where such things as data input errors, technical glitches and malfunctions are found. Because of the large volume of order entries affected, these lead to a massive price volatility, which generates uncertainty among traders, impeding the smooth functioning of financial markets and creating hazards that can lead to systemic risk.
On the other side of the fence, both the banking industry’s lobbyists and governments themselves have been watering down the rules, or dropping them out of sight. Sovereigns and legislators do not really appreciate that they aren’t protecting the banks by being paternalistic, giving them free reign or showering them with inordinate amounts of money, said Heinrich Steinmann, a former vice-chairman of the global Swiss bank, UBS (in a personal discussion). Because of the government’s paternalism, the credibility of banks may increase temporarily, but the longer-term results are negative.