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) and his latest book, Obliquity was published by Profile Books in March 2010. 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
British regulators have finally published their report into HBOS, the bank formed from the merger of Halifax with Bank of Scotland, more than seven years after its collapse. The 600-odd pages contain much detail on events and personalities. But there are general lessons for all businesses. Avoid the diversifier’s fallacy. Beware the winner’s curse. Fear adverse selection.
Finance professionals bemoan a decline in liquidity, blaming the global crisis and the subsequent intensification of regulation. In markets such as corporate bonds, they report almost no liquidity at all. But while the ease of exchanging one asset for another matters to traders, that is not the measure of liquidity that matters to savers.
Who owns a company? The answer is that no one does, any more than anyone owns the river Thames, the National Gallery, the streets of London, or the air we breathe. There are many different kinds of claims, contracts and obligations in modern economies, and only occasionally are these well described by the term ownership.
The Airports Commission reported in July, with a clear recommendation to build a new runway and terminal at Heathrow. It relied heavily on an elaborate modelling exercise that calculated costs and benefits for the next 50 years. Little weight should be attached to these calculations. And more consideration should be given to the Gatwick proposal.