Some empirical evidence for Bob Diamond

Ben Chu

bob diamond 300x300 150x150 Some empirical evidence for Bob DiamondMy favourite banker in the world, Bob Diamond, spoke to the Sunday Telegraph this weekend. In the interview he made a brief defence of the too-big-to-fail banking model that Barclays has embraced:

“There is no empirical evidence that big is bad or big is risky. The reason that Barclays is a bigger bank than it was 10 years ago is because our clients are. The City of London should have a financial centre, and the City of London should have both UK corporates and international corporates that can manage their risks, transfer capital and invest capital on a global basis.”

First that “empirical evidence” point. The Bank of England did not share Mr Diamond’s relaxed attitude to the moral hazard of too-big-to-fail banking in its most recent Financial Stability Report and provided some evidence to explain its concern:

“Policy action is needed to reduce the structural problems caused by banks that are too important to fail (TITF). Larger UK banks expanded much more rapidly than smaller institutions in the run-up to the crisis and have received disproportionate taxpayer support during this crisis. That reflected a misalignment of risks on TITF banks’ balance sheets, due to implicit guarantees on their liabilities.”

As for the (somewhat garbled) Diamond argument that big companies need big banks,  now that is a theory for which there is no empirical evidence. When a large corporation raises debt or equity, they are often, even now, serviced by a group of investment banks, rather than just one monster firm. The corporations seem perfectly happy with this arrangement. As far as I know they are not demanding bigger banks to service their needs.

As Simon Johnson of MIT and the Baseline Scenario (essentially reading for anyone interested in banking reform)  has pointed out “there is simply no evidence… that society gains from banks having a balance sheet larger than $100bn”.

  • Richard Carter

    Brilliant, Ben, but I doubt whether it will have any effect at all on Diamond: he’s far above reading trivial postings like this, after all he’s a Master of the Universe and anyway, what does he care? He “earns” a fortune and can afford to say what he likes, the greedy swine.

  • bob idle

    Make Barclays a bit smaller: close your account.

  • robinbaldock

    He must be saying that we didn’t have to bail out these banks, and that by doing so we fell in “trickle down economics” thinking which has never worked.

    Obviously he has worked out it would be better to have left the banks to fail and instead spend all those billions on supporting the poor, investing in a grass roots up economics instead, but hasn’t come out and said so because of the prejudice against the poor that is prevalent in economics.

    so well done on such radical thinking bob.

  • Tim

    Ben – there is a huge flaw in your argument. The point that Bob Diamond made was around the size of banks and the level of risk associated with a particular size. Your “empirical evidence” relates to speed of expansion – nothing to do with size at all!

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