Bash the Bankers !

Until about 1.5 years back, Investment banker was one of the hottest and wealthiest job anyone could ever have. It was the ‘Angelina Jolie’ of all campus placements. But today, if there is one profession you want to bash and kick at and get an applaud – just lash out at any top executive employed with one of the global financial institutes or banks.

And of course our hope president Obama is not going to fall back. So he has lashed out at the bonuses declared by the banking institutions and asked them to pay up first before throwing away all the bonuses and has declared a $ 117Bn levy recovery plan over the next 10 years. In what I think is one of the most logical decisions made by the government, he has rightly decided to bash the big guys with more than 50bn worth and that too as a tax on all ‘wholesale finance’ and not the retail deposits and equity capital. So banks dependent on retail public deposits are relatively better off, but bad news for the likes of Goldman Sachs.

But what puzzles me is, is all this really required? Was the bailout money just thrown away at these people while they were out with the begging bowl without a fixed plan to recover every penny of the taxpayers money back? Or more importantly, are the top financial institutions still so greedy and shameless that they have absolute no moral responsibility of taking things easy for about 2 years until they have paid back what they owe to the world(World because when these guys decide to go down, they don’t go down alone. They take the entire world with them). It is like your house catches a fire, you don’t have money to rebuild it and the local sheriff convinces the neighboring community to help you out. You rebuild the house and in 6 months buy a new porche before paying your neighbors back.

So instead of saying – ok, we messed up, thank you taxpayers for bailing us out & we will not take a bonus and get things back on track, you take a big perk and flaunt it shamelessly. Banking institutions seem to be moving towards a role of milking the economy rather than serving the economy. Does this not expose the cultural degrade due to hard core capitalism.

India has a relatively closed banking and financial system that kept it that much insulated from the global crisis. But the big question is, I don’t know if it will happen, but if we are talking about India becoming a developed super power – do we become an easternized- eastern super power or a westernized eastern super power. So will we be able to keep the advantages that our culture has ingrained in us-  for e.g. the attitude of saving, or will we adopt the mistakes of the west as well while moving ahead. Imagine a bank employee from India and I am sure for most who have visited the bank at times, the image would be an honest and sincere middle aged employee who counts the notes for you and hands them over with a smile. I am not aiming at keeping things primitive, but the important point here is – ‘honest and sincere’, not oversmart and sly. I hope we retain that always.

A closed banking system will give rise to more number of alternative finance institutions which would then pressurize the government into securitizing their mortgage products. And though it may seem far off, we know what can happen with our government policy decisions. And a completely open will inflate the bubble again. Hopefully, we can hang on to that golden mid way somewhere.

Lets hope when its our turn to dictate the world, we become a socially, morally and culturally responsible capitalist giant. Fearlessly smart and aggressively good !