John Kay is one of Britain’s leading economists. His interests focus on the relationships between economics and business. His career has spanned academic work and think tanks, business schools, company directorships, consultancies and investment companies. For more details of John’s biography, see the About section.
John Kay chaired the Review of UK Equity Markets and Long-Term Decision-Making which reported to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on the 23rd July 2012. He is a visiting Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, a Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is a director of several public companies and contributes a weekly column to the Financial Times. He is the author of many books, including The Truth about Markets (2003) and The Long and the Short of It: finance and investment for normally intelligent people who are not in the industry (2009), Obliquity (2011) and his latest, Other People’s Money was published by Profile Books in September 2015. Some of his most influential, recent work has been on banking regulation, and you can read about his vision for the sector in his 2009 essay, Narrow Banking.
Other People’s Money: Masters of the Universe or Servants of the People?
Out now! Order your copy from the Books page. For dates of John’s book signings and talks check the NEWS section.
We all depend on the finance sector. We need it to store our money, manage our payments, finance housing stock, restore infrastructure, fund retirement and support new business. But these roles comprise only a tiny sliver of the sector’s activity: the vast majority of lending is within the finance sector. So what is it all for? What is the purpose of this activity? And why is it so profitable?
Industry insider John Kay argues that the finance world’s perceived profitability is not the creation of new wealth, but the sector’s appropriation of wealth – of other people’s money. The financial sector, he shows, has grown too large, detached itself from ordinary business and everyday life, and has become an industry that mostly trades with itself, talks to itself, and judges itself by reference to standards which it has itself generated. And the outside world has itself adopted those standards, bailing out financial institutions that have failed all of us through greed and mismanagement.
We need finance, but today we have far too much of a good thing. In Other People’s Money, John Kay shows, in his inimitable style, what has gone wrong in the dark heart of the finance sector.
“Thanks for writing this book. Only [John Kay] could have done it. This is going to be a classic.” —Frank Partnoy, Professor of Law and Finance, University of San Diego School of Law and bestselling author of F.I.A.S.C.O. and WAIT
Does it lift your heart to hear that “Britain is uniquely placed to lead the world in a smart power revolution”? Do you share the ambition of George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, to discover “what the government needs to do to become a world leader in 5G infrastructure”? Here’s why my heart sank when reading these words in the plans of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission.
Explaining your possibly complex financial affairs to unsympathetic journalists adds to the already too long list of reasons why able people might not want to go into politics. And such scrutiny draws attention away from genuinely serious and widespread tax evasion, corruption and money laundering, practices.
There is a world of difference between low-probability events drawn from the tail of a known statistical distribution and extreme events that happen but had not previously been imagined. And it is usually the latter that give rise to crises — and opportunities.