01 December 2012

Business Insider: “Iceland’s President Explains Why The World Needs To Rethink Its Addiction To Finance”

We have, however, concentrated on our recovery, and paradoxically, what we are seeing in the last two years is that many sectors in Iceland: the energy sector, the tourism sector, the IT sector, the manufacturing sector, and the fishing sector are doing better in the last two years than they did prior to the banking crisis. And you might also find it interesting that the collapse of the banks revealed to us a very interesting aspect of modern banking, which I think has been more or less overlooked in this discussion in Europe and in America in the last two or three years: the Icelandic banks, like all modern big banks in Europe and America and all the other parts of the world, are no longer banks in the old-fashioned way. They have become high-tech companies. High-ranked engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, programmers and so on and so forth. And their success depends largely on how successful they are in hiring people with this education and capability, not necessarily those trained in business schools or finance, but in engineering, mathematics, computer science and so on.
And when the Icelandic banks collapsed, what we saw was that a great number of companies in these creative sectors, IT, high-tech, and all of those, who had the large growth potential in the previous years, but had not been able to realize it because they couldn’t get the people, due to the fact that the banks were buying up all the best engineers and mathematicians and computer scientists, suddenly had the pool of talent available to them. And within six months, all these people who came out of the banks with these qualifications had been hired. So since then you have seen a great growth period in the Icelandic IT sector, the high-tech sector, the manufacturing sector, because they could suddenly get the engineers, the mathematicians, the computer scientists. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

That’s an interesting observation; it looks obvious in retrospect, but I don’t remember it being mentioned in other analysis about the financial crisis. Since the banking system generates a lot of profits and bonuses for employees, it’s only natural that the best qualified gravitate towards it. It’s another aspect of the imbalances leading up to the crisis and that has probably slowed recovery in other parts of the world, who chose to pump money into banks without proper control of their use. The bottom line: finance should be a support system, ensuring enough cash flow goes into the other sectors of the economy, into proper innovation and growth.

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