Risk vs reward. What is the contribution of the financial sector?
If risk-making were a value-adding activity, Russian roulette players would contribute disproportionately to global welfare. And if government subsidies were the route to improved well-being, today’s growth problems could be solved at a stroke. Typically, this is not the way societies keep score. But it was those very misconceptions which caused the measured contribution of the financial sector to be over-estimated ahead of the crisis.
Risk-management is a legitimately value-added activity. It lies at the heart of the services banks provide. Today’s debate around banking and bankers has usefully rediscovered that key fact, amid the rubble of broken balance sheets and wasted financial and human capital. Investors, regulators and statisticians now need to adjust their measuring rods to ensure they are not blind to risk when next evaluating the return to banking.
If you still haven’t read Haldane’s piece on the HFT “Race to zero”, we highly recommend it.