Learning from Rudi Bogni: The Thin Space of Financial Activity

Every good morality tale needs heroes as well as villains.  In the past few weeks all we’ve seen are the villains raping and pillaging and despoiling all that we hold dear – rather like the first hour of the original and uncensored Mad Max.

I’ve made it pretty clear what I think about the villains that have got us into the current meltdown mess.  Even I need a break from cynicism every now and then, however, to remind myself that better is truly possible.  I thought I would take the opportunity of my post this week to reflect on a personal hero who epitomises what banking once was and whose philosophical writings can point us toward what banking should be again when the dust settles and we contemplate rebuilding our collapsed financial house of cards.

No one is perfect, and I’m sure he’s not either, but he’s shown consistently good judgement, intellectual curiosity and resistance to orthodoxy over the years.  If we had a hundred bankers in the world like him, we wouldn’t have today’s crisis.

The bravest decision he took was in 1995, following the collapse of Barings Bank, as he explained in The Prospect:

I am a 47-year-old banker – chief executive of Swiss Bank Corporation in London, to be precise – and I have just decided that I need to go back to university for two years to study mathematics. Some of my friends think I am mad, and perhaps they are right. But perhaps something strange has happened to banking too.

It is hard to imagine that there is anything really new in banking. The tools of the trade have been around and in use, pretty much unchanged, for hundreds of years. Yet within the span of my own career, the world of international finance has enjoyed a renaissance-a spurt of creativity in the 1970s and 1980s, when new techniques emerged which have transformed the conduct of many banks and bankers. These techniques-collectively known as derivatives-have spawned a new jargon (would you know what to do with a Jellyroll, or an Alligator Spread?), huge new sources of profit, and mystifying new types of risk.

Imagine devoting yourself to the study of advanced mathematics in your mid-40s from the lofty heights of CEO of a Swiss bank!  I wouldn’t be so noble, from more modest altitudes.

SBC had acquired O’Connor Associates, a Chicago derivatives trading partnership.  The O’Connor partners were soon installed as senior executives throughout SBC, and changed it from a sleepy private bank to a powerhouse of aggressive power trading in the newly emergent global derivatives markets.  Rudi needed to go back to school to know the business he was managing.  He stepped down from the top job and got a degree in advanced mathematics at Imperial College, London.

That made Rudi an instant legend in the City and was the first I heard of him.  He returned to finance as the Chief Executive of UBS Private Bank and Member of the UBS Group Executive Board.  Since then I have followed his writings.  For some years past I have enjoyed his friendship.

One year into the course, he emphasised again the importance of executives confronting the changing requirements of banking:

IC Reporter (10 February 1997)

Despite holding a degree in economics and business administration, Mr Bogni really did go back to basics under the tutelage of the Centre, sitting mock GCSEs and A levels in maths and statistics. Probability theory, calculus, algebra and stochastical modelling are also on the programme. “It’s a course not really designed towards a degree,” said Mr Bogni, “but towards the specific mathematics required for my type of business.”

Not all of those who share Mr Bogni’s business of derivatives are convinced of the benefits to be gained from the study of modern applied mathematics. However Mr Bogni believes that those who do not recognise its importance are avoiding the changing nature of financial markets. “Among the people that I respect there is a genuine understanding of what the issues are. It’s not a question of derivatives being a part of the financial markets, they are the financial market now.”

Rudi Bogni wasn’t afraid to admit that his bank had become unmanageable within the limits of his traditional banking background and understanding, and to take a hard look at his own qualifications to wager the bank’s capital on derivatives.  If more CEOs had done that, then the proprietary dealing desks would never have gained the leverage that leaves the banking system so woefully undercapitalised today.  If more CEOs pondered the philosophical basis for creating and allocating wealth, and the political means of asserting or coercing state power in the cause of more wealth accretion, then perhaps the destruction of jobs, savings and security would be less threatening to the investors, pensioners and taxpayers facing systemic financial failure this week.

In June of this year, Rudi published a piece in Wilmott Magazine (subscription only – the most expensive monthly on either side of the Atlantic, according to Forbes).  At the risk of stretching fair use, and with the author’s consent, I’m going to quote it extensively here as it gets to the heart of the crisis we now face:

The Thin Space of Financial Activity

Those of you who may have read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of NearlyEverything will certainly recall his thesis that life on earth as we know it is an exceptional event and a possibility that materialized only within very small boundaries.

I wish you to consider how much smaller those boundaries are for the existence of financial activity.

First of all, you need a thinking species that lives and prospers in a cooperative environment.  Second, you need a reasonably developed economy. Third, you need the ability to save and do more than survive only hand-to-mouth on a daily basis. Finally, you need reciprocal trust and a framework of law, as well as accepted customs and rules.

. . .

We have just witnessed last year—and we are still witnessing this year—how a relatively minor breakdown in trust and information has brought two markets, the interbank money market and the CDO market, to either display strong anomalies or freeze. Worse could come if we do not all learn to respect the boundaries within which financial activity can exist and thrive.

Investment bankers have to learn that if you have ambitions to act as an agent for an issue of a financial product, you should also have the means to make a market in that very same product in good and bad times—and investors should hold you to that. Regulatory walls between origination and trading have solved some problems, but they have also become an easy alibi for not standing behind one’s responsibilities.

Furthermore, they must understand that a revaluation of financial assets because the cost of capital has sharply decreased is not due to their genius. It is a physical law as much as conservation of energy, and therefore they do not deserve bonus payments for that. They should also realize that when they push bonus expectations beyond the moral threshold of 50/55 percent of net revenue, they are forcing their employers to take unacceptable risks to meet such expectations and that such a course of action can only end in tears.

Rating agencies have to learn about financial history and free thinking, not only about ticking boxes. Furthermore, they have to learn that the theory of overcollateralization differs from the historical experience, if you dig long enough into the past.

Regulators must learn that any new rule is a starting point for regulatory arbitrage and the mother of unintended consequences. Hence, there should be a few good rules, not thousands aimed at covering each potential circumstance.  Most governments seem to have understood the lesson that the pursuit of inflation as an easy solution will bring them down in due course and for a long period. They seem to be deaf, however, to the fact that corporate taxation above 30 percent and personal direct taxation

over 40 percent, as well as an overall tax take including indirect taxation of over 50 percent, will either cripple both financial and economic activity, force people to take excessive risks, or push them elsewhere.

Retailers of financial products and solutions must realize that they are dealing with people’s lives and families’ futures. They cannot behave as street peddlers. Clear ethical boundaries must be the first line of defense, even before any legal framework is considered, because the law is unlikely to be as clear-cut as morality.

Finally, investors must be realistic about expectations. The best you can hope through financial activity is to preserve your wealth. If you want to create it, become an entrepreneur. If you want to gamble, stop whining when you lose.

If we do not all learn to be guided by such simple principles, financial activity as we know and need it will be put at risk. Trust will be eroded, impossible expectations will be created, and we will look back to the past 60 years as a golden age of economic development and financial maturity that may not be replicated any longer.

. . .

Politicians and regulators must stop hectoring and accept responsibility for having unintentionally pushed financial activity beyond sound boundaries by meddling without really understanding.  Basel 2 in particular requires a very critical new look, if not a recall, as you would do for a line of cars when you realize that the brakes do not work as expected.

. . .

An excess of CO2 may be a major threat to civilized life as we know it, but the malfunctioning or freezing of the financial system could happen much faster, and we would have no control over it, as it depends on the psychology of literally billions of individuals. The consequences of such a malfunctioning do not bear thinking: breakdown in trade and investments, freezing of savings and pensions, advent of totalitarian regimes, war, and so on.

The financial system is a delicate mechanism and an essential one. Let us all treat it with some respect.

The thin space of financial activity requires a carefully calibrated commitment to balance by all parties participating in defining the sphere and scope and framework for financial interaction.  In trying to deliver ever-increasing profits all around by growing the pie with inflationary monetary policies, executive excess, heightened investor expectations, regulatory and rating agency forbearance and other unrealistic and unsustainable policies, we have each and every one of us contributed to the current collapse.

Soon we will be doing a forensic analysis of what went wrong, and then look to craft new policies as a basis for rebuilding.  We could do worse than look to Rudi Bogni’s analysis of the thin space of financial activity as providing the template.


More excerpts from Rudi’s writing over the years:

Re: Excessive Liquidity, Self-Indulgence and Self-Deceit (1 March 2007)

I read Dr Malmgren’s submission to ATCA with great interest. As in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, there is an increasing risk in our less and less enlightened and less and less educated societies for the financial operators to be blamed for all economic evils, the same way that unfortunately the Jewish and Lombard bankers used to be blamed for the disasters caused by the excessive indebtedness of the European monarchies of the time.

Reality is much simpler. Take a bathtub and fill it to 1/3, then throw a stone into it. It may cause waves, but it might not flow over. Take the same bathtub and fill it to the brim, then throw a stone into it. It is most likely to flow over.

What we are experiencing is an unusually long period of extreme liquidity. Whatever the motivations for it, they are essentially political motivations, driven by political intents. Whether it is to finance wars without increasing taxation, whether it is to make people feel good about the inflated value of their assets so that they are going to spend more and promote GDP growth, whether it is to buffer one country’s voters from the natural effects that working less should entitle them to a lesser share of global goods and services, there are political intents behind the excessive liquidity.

Politicians are shying away from telling the truth to their voters and a vicious circle of self-indulgence and self-deceit is being buttressed by excessive liquidity.

Blaming incorrectly the equivalents of the Jews and Lombards of today, ie hedge funds and private equity investors, is the modern version of the French kings locking up the bankers in order to avoid taking the due blame and repaying the debts.

Long term it is a strategy which can ultimately lead only to decline.

Turning difficult issues which require courage, like global warming or global competition, into a religion of fear is the novel way by which politicians aim and unfortunately short-term succeed in keeping the masses, and often even the intelligentsia, in the dark and unable to confront policy-makers on the rightful field of rationality.

Rudi Bogni

The Left and Right defined the 20th century.  What’s Next?

Prospect Magazine (March 2007):

Left vs Right was and is purely a nominal distinction between two strands of the same totalitarian posture.  The real problem of the 20th century was that the demographic and economic pressures that fractured the empires gave rise to national states with leaderships ill equipped to face the nihilist challenge.  The vacuum was filled by totalitarian regimes, whose ideologies set fire to Europe and the world.  Remember that Hitler was a failed architected, Staline had studied for the priesthood an Mussolini was a schoolteacher.  The heirs of the 19th and 20th century nihilists are today’s faith-based terrorists.  If today’s democracies fail to win against the new nihilists on the intellectual and communication level, they will have no chance to win in the security space and will create another dangerous vacuum, ready to be filled.  Nation states have proven a disastrous political experiment in the 19th and 20th century; they may well prove catastrophic in the 21st century, due to nuclear proliferation. Nevertheless, I hope that the 21st century will see a substantial reduction of political infrastructures. If a conglomerate is bad or indifferent at most of what it does, shareholders force it back to its core competences. Everything else has got to go. Why should it be different for governments? This is neither left nor right; it is common sense. Large countries’ politicians love to deride small countries’ direct democracies. Why? Because they fear their example and their nimbleness. The political systems inherited from the 20th century, whether democratic or totalitarian, are neo-feudal, incompatible with a 21st century when electors vote every so many years, but consumers vote and bloggers blog 24/7.

The Stars and Gripes (12 July 2002):

Curing hatred of America is not easy. The European intelligentsia, because of the value its educational system places on knowledge for its own sake, tends to develop a highly critical sense and a healthy scepticism. US elites, despite being trained to think for themselves, tend to be less self-critical, perhaps too focused on getting rich. This creates a big communication gap. I concentrate on Europe versus America because if there is anybody who can help America to shed its self-satisfied myths and treat the rest of the world as equals with whom it is OK to disagree, it is us Europeans. US and European interests often converge, even when our hearts and minds do not meet.

What is certain is that half-educated people, with puerile, dogmatic, self-centred half-knowledge, are the salt of tyranny. The greatest tyrants of the century we have just survived, Hitler and Stalin, were half-educated men of hatred. Only knowledge accompanied by self-deprecating critical spirit can dispose of hatred, whether of America or of the rest of the world.

But I must admit – and this is why this book created a sense of emotional release – that until now I have never seriously confronted my close American friends with what I did not like about their country. I used the same polite diplomacy to avoid taking to task my Jewish and Arab friends over Palestine. This is wrong. Discourse is the stuff of civilised life; complacency is the crystallisation of ignorance and the begetter of lost lives.

Raised by the Yankee Game  (3 May 2002)

When I hear the debate as to whether capitalism won over communism, triggering perhaps the end of history, I get very annoyed. Capitalism did not win a thing. Thatcher and Reagan may have pushed down communism’s crumbling walls, but the revolution was elsewhere. It was in places such as the City of London, beacons of freedom, where young men and women of any nationality could go to work every day reporting to a person of different background and culture, working for shareholders perhaps of a different country, free to choose their career, employer, lifestyle, perhaps even work attire. Free to speak their mind and to pay the price for it if necessary. But what a small price in comparison to that of living in an autocratic society such as the Soviet Union.

24 Responses to "Learning from Rudi Bogni: The Thin Space of Financial Activity"

  1. Anonymous   September 26, 2008 at 7:36 am

    What a relief to read something like this between all these *panik mode* comments!Statements like these give me back faith into humanity including bankers :-)LB, thanks for these insights…

  2. London Banker   September 26, 2008 at 8:32 am

    @ AnonymousMany thanks for the kind words.It seems superfluous for me to shout “panic” when everyone else is already doing so. Instead, I hoped to whisper “hope”.

  3. MA   September 26, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I shout hope!not too many listen…

  4. MA   September 26, 2008 at 9:20 am

    The Debt Servicing CorpBy Rich HartmannSummary:For the purpose of restoring confidence, order, and value to a besieged and suspect fixed-income/asset-backed-security market I have put together the concepts for a Debt Servicing Corporation. In short, debt will be “registered” for tracking, pricing, and oversight. From the security’s origination, to the complex securities where they are housed, a completely interconnected infrastructure will serve as the foundation for the new age of the fixed income and securitized debt industry.What Went WrongThe chicken or the egg? Dot.com or Greenspan put? Housing bubble or Secondary market financial voodoo?From general consensus, “cheap money” led to an overheated Real Estate Market. That led to sub-prime, Alt-A, loan repackaging, ABS, RMBS, CDO’s, CDS’s, leveraging though collateralization and then ultimately, a fresh new batch of “cheap money” based on that collateralization. …The vicious cycle was born. It was neither chicken, nor egg!From there, inaccurate corporate valuation models, along with rating agency blunders (which where both largely affected by the complexity of the securities, conflicting interests, and their oversights in risks that fell out of standard deviations) have caused a crisis in this market that needs an immediate return to transparency.The ConceptCurrently, there are custodians, accounting firms, and various other financial institutions that already provide debt servicing, but there is no formidable centralized registry that stands as a base for the various types of fixed income products and their underlying debt.There are existing parallel structures (such as DTC or Euroclear) that stand as conceptual models, but they do not strip the debt to its core, provide tracking of underlying assets/debt or current amortized valuation. The centralized functionality would provide near instantaneous re-valuation for its holders.A unique security master file will be the first step in organization. All debt is deposited at this depository, will be stripped down to identify every single underlying piece of debt. (for pre-existing debt a cutoff date for deposit and registry may be determined. See restrictions and deadlines for more details) Each and every security will have a unique identifier. (See security master for more details) All underlying assets will be directly linked to their parent security.The second an underlying asset goes into default, it immediately reflects that risk on the parent. (parent securities value will be broken down into percentages based on the current performance of the underlying assets.) Likewise, official “bankruptcies” are reflected in the same way, but directly deflate the parent asset accordingly.The StaffHaving a background in custody operations I have a first person view of how rudimentary custodial servicing is. These current providers of debt servicing commonly poorly paid/green/mid level employees that are not nearly guided enough to handle the complexity of these financial instruments.I have found that when you compartmentalize service functions in the finance industry, you create market specialists. These are the types of people we need to strip these complex assets down for the purpose of truly servicing them. They would be able to tear through the tranches and provide the holders of the securities a much better picture of what they own. They would be able to take quite a bit of speculation out of the current game.I believe a specialized staff comprised of experienced custodial workers, former traders, and financial engineers could legitimately register all current debt within a few month span. (a staff of 1,000 could easily input 1,000 securities in 2 weeks time. 1,000 * 1,000 = 1,000,000. I estimate that there are less the 50million of these securities in existence, and that significantly less would actually be registered.)Based on voice recognition software that I am extremely familiar with, the registration process could move far more swift! (I have direct contact with creators of patented software that already provide this technology to over 25% of US Hospitals. The accuracy is impeccable, along with modernized dictionary database capability. I have seen the product first hand and see this as the future in the securities industry.)Why would holders of debt want to expose their debt?How would they benefit, other then instantaneous servicing?As far as the various holders are concerned, this concept would not be something they want, rather something the NEED. The concept of “no bailouts for unregistered securities” is nearly enough to do the trick. (Holders could choose to keep some registered and some un-registered (much like they do with DTC/Euroclear securities), but only the registered portion would be entitled to federal help.) As it stands now, investors, countries, gov’ts want transparency. Until it exists, this market is purely speculative.If you’re holding junk and want to register it, but you don’t want the world to know it’s value, you just continue to hold it as opposed to selling it.. (Movement via trade of registered securities would require disclosure to new party) …and for those holding registered junk, well upon sale/realized loss, they qualify for “bailout”. Client confidentiality will exist, but there will be regulatory oversight. Likewise, bailouts are not “guaranteed”. The only “guarantee” is that unregistered debt will NOT be eligible for aid.In addition, quite a few complex securities are selling below their value. Holders of this good debt would be able to trade it at or around fair market value.How does the government / regulatory authority benefit from this?The Government or regulatory authority could get a better picture of market stress, along with a central view of total registered market risk. This could streamline aid that is needed in true emergency conditions as participants would receive the first line of relief. (As clients, they would still maintain some confidentiality rather then face panicked market thrashing.) In addition, the reverse tracking of defaulting debt can be retraced to their sources of inception, for the purpose seeing other potential trends and holding responsible parties accountable.Where we stand now, monoline insurers can NOT come close to covering the debt they insure. Any true collapse will have to be covered by the Government or regulatory authority regardless. This allows the Government or regulatory authority to circumvent the insolvent insurers and the incompetent ratings agencies and helps return much needed legal certainty to this industry.

    • MA   September 26, 2008 at 9:21 am

      This propsal looks much neeter in WORD format. My apologies as Cut and past looks bad here.

    • PhilT   September 26, 2008 at 10:49 am

      In the spirit of learning that LB brings to this thread, can you enlighten me on how your proposal compares with what BlackRock was put in place to do regarding Toxic Asset management/disposal in the FED intervention of the BSC failure/forced marriage to JPM?Thank you …

      • MA   September 26, 2008 at 11:54 am

        Sorry PhilTI cannot comment on BR

  5. Mother of God   September 26, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I’m pretty new to this site, and what an honor and joy it is to be here. Here be good teachers, here be heroes to humanity, here be the bellwethers, trying to move the human herd to safer pastures. The above is such an awesome article! I can’t thank you enough, London Banker, for introducing me to Mr. Bogni’s superb writings, and for all your utterly helpful contributions in comments sections as well. Finding Mr. Roubini’s site has been another stroke of amazing luck I have had in finding excellent teachers, and I wish I had words to say how grateful I am to the very generous Mr. NR (and to others who share their enlightenment and explain the details of financial instruments), for allowing us all free access to such valuable information and analysis as I find here.Namaste, London Banker. I am happy to keep working to save the good workhorse of capitalism from those who are working the good horse so badly!My greatest wish is to be surrounded by rational people who are EAGER for education and enlightenment – so this place is an oasis! When the majority are seeking out articles like the above, I will be a very happy camper.cheers to all the fine people here, and thanks SO MUCH, NR, LB, and Yiz who remain unnamed for the sake of brevity.

  6. Guest   September 26, 2008 at 10:34 am

    The moral of this story: ATTEMPTING A FINANCIAL COUP D’ETAT within The United Socialist States of America

  7. PhilT   September 26, 2008 at 10:38 am

    @ LB”…Rudi Bogni wasn’t afraid to admit …”The above sentiment is IMHO the salient point in your aticle. (Intellectual) honesty, is the key missing ingredient nowadays.

  8. Guest   September 26, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Support HR 2755 ABOLISH THE FED

  9. 2cents   September 26, 2008 at 11:54 am

    @ LBNot sure if you’ve posted this anywhere @RGE, so I’m reposting your comment from Brad’s site.Excellent and timely, Brad. I’ve been speculating all week that the pressure being used on the Congress to pass the Paulson Plan is the threat of Fed illiquidity. As of two weeks ago, the Fed had lent out more than $600 billion of its $800 billion balance sheet Treasuries against crap MBS collateral.The Paulson Plan would have allowed the banks to unwind the repos putting the Treasuries back in the Fed, get cash for the crap MBS, and get more Treasuries from the issues financing the $700+ billion funding of the Plan. As a bonus, the Paulson mark-to-maturity price becomes the implicit Level 3 price for capitalisation of all the firms and banks in the system, giving them some breathing room to stay in business. Everyone wins except the poor American taxpayer.The Fed is very close to being illiquid. That is the fear factor we are seeing at work, and the reason no one will discuss why the bailout is needed – only emphasise the urgency.I think that ths is a very good insight as to what is going on behind the curtain.

    • London Banker   September 26, 2008 at 11:58 am

      @ 2centsI did cross-post with a link to Brad’s analysis over on the Professor’s blog this morning, but I guess it does no harm to have it here again.Sadly, I think this is right. The corrupt assets eroded first the banks’ balance sheets, then the Fed’s balance sheet, and now the liability is to be passed to the Treasury’s balance sheet – and ultimately the taxpayer, pensioner and investor of the future for years to come.

      • 2cents   September 26, 2008 at 12:14 pm

        @LBSorry for the double post, but I just got on today and haven’t been through all the comments yet.Anyhow, I saw a quote in your article attributed to Rudi Bogni that I thought stated the basic problem in terms that anyone from a 6 year old to grandma would understand. It is a very important lesson for humanity.Finally, investors must be realistic about expectations. The best you can hope through financial activity is to preserve your wealth. If you want to create it, become an entrepreneur. If you want to gamble, stop whining when you lose.

    • artichoke   September 27, 2008 at 3:27 pm

      I don’t understand how the Fed can be illiquid. They can always create more balance sheet by printing. Am I missing something basic?Or are we saying that within a constraint that the money supply must not increase, the Fed is illiquid?

  10. Guest   September 27, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Welcome to the beginning of THE NEW WORLD ORDER

    • Anonymous   September 27, 2008 at 7:40 pm

      Actually I see this as a rejection of it, so far. The People’s Voice has power. The people do not want to pass a plan without knowing what it is and why they are doing it.

  11. DJC   September 27, 2008 at 9:55 am

    It’s not surprising the the CNBC pimps for Goldman Sachs would be pushing for Paulson’s bankster bailout. It has gotten to the absurd point that the US Treasury will be sending multi-billion dollar Corporate Welfare checks to Goldman Sachs monthly. General Electric owns CNBC, but CNBC is operated as the Ministry of Propaganda for Goldman Sachs. With only the exception of Rick Santelli from Chicago, the rest of the motley crew of CNBC financial analysts are on the Goldman Sachs payroll.Beware on any stock market tips by CNBC financial analysts. Goldman Sachs alumni Jim Cramer was pushing Bear Sterns stock two days before the bankruptcy. The unsuspecting US general public is duped repeatedly by massive disinformation.Paulson’s Taxpayer Bailout for Wall Steet to be approved with political payoffs to Congresshttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/26/AR2008092601240_2.html?sid=ST2008092700401&s_pos=

    • artichoke   September 27, 2008 at 7:12 pm

      It’s great that when Buffett bought into GS, he admitted he would not have done so if a bailout were not coming. That means he bought in to get the bailout! I would prefer to avoid bailing out Buffett, maybe this time he gets a nasty surprise — I hope!

  12. Christopher Ormell   September 28, 2008 at 5:23 am

    We would like to reprint your current article in the THE in the journal #Prospero# (founded 1995) “A journal of new thinking in philosophy for education” (for ‘philosophy’ read serious thinking in the commonsense tradition.)

    • London Banker   September 28, 2008 at 5:33 am

      I’d be honoured. For further arrangements, please e-mail me at londonbanker (at) btinternet.com.

  13. Guest   September 28, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Interesting this “Weltanschauung” in which the “financial firm” metamorphoses into the “financial sector” becomes the “financial system”, seen as somehow “apart” from yet integral to “society” and its own regulation and regulators.This is mirrored in that the tale of the banker’s personal journey, one of back to basics, appears absent from reflections on the bankings place in the world.