"To Do List" for the Politicians.



As we are facing more and more issues, and the apparent meltdown of the financial markets, and potential fly over of Mr Sarkozy to Berlin (if his baby is not born today, though we do not understand why he just can't call Ms Merkel?*), there is an opportunity to outline in a brief paper what needs to be done in the world today.  This is of course a very ambitious task, but someone has to do it, and we recommend reading this paper to all the Governments and people with responsibility, as in many ways you can makes these changes.


In addition we encourage a debate on this topic, as we recognize that we are all entering a new territory here, so every view is welcome.  Indeed number of proposals below are based on our extensive discussions with some of the leading economic thinkers of today, 

though we will welcome all your constructive criticism and other ideas.**


STEP 1 (to be done immediately once coordination is agreed):


The world is very much overleveraged and there needs to be a significant period of deleveraging. There are mathematically three ways to do this:


a)     Inflation

b)     Writing off of debts

c)     Very high growth rates


Option C is clearly impossible (unless this is North Korea or other totally undeveloped country with 80% unemployment that could in essence in a very quick period of time generate a great growth rate based on the “catch up “ model).


Option B is more possible, as you just have to pass the law where you will basically “forgive” someone their debt or alternatively let a lot of people and companies and sovereigns just default, similarly to the plan for Greece now.  It is however technically very difficult option to do, as this will lead to series of crashes, bankruptcies, austerity measures on impossible scale such as Greeks would need to accept not 20% reduction in income, but more like 60% reduction over the 5 – 10 year period (and seeing how many days of the year Greeks are on strike now, we do not see the 60% option happening).  There would need to be adjustment of FX rates, and overall the problem with this solution is that it will put any country at the standstill (maybe except a country like again… North Korea where they will at the gunpoint control everyone).  What is more important is that option B and option A  have the same result, ie they deleverage the economy so there is little reason to go for Option B (write offs) vs Option A (inflation).


In essence there needs to be inflation, ideally controlled at 10 – 15% anually over the  5 – 10 year period.  Like most people we generally do not like inflation, and we think that the optimal rate of inflation is;  idealistically 0%, and realistically 2% to take into account for creeping natural wage inflation.  We believe however that in this case inflation is the same as temperature for the patients, which of course is not good to have, but in some cases is simply needed, or in the way the medical doctors believe in antibiotics, which are also taken in needed circumstances only.   In the current world in order, to enable the system to return to normality, both on economic and even social levels (it is crazy that 50% of people aged 20 – 30 are unemployed as they should be the engine of any economy), it important to restart the economy by almost erasing the debt from the system (sovereign, corporate and individual). 


How to create inflation?  This is very easy, you just need to print cash, or in the modern world just add yourself zeros to the Central Bank account number 000000001 (that of Ministry of Finance).  One can call it quantitative easing, one can call it money supply, but ultimately its inflation and the recent UK statistics are clear evidence of this.  From practical point of view, as all countries face the same set of problems, it would be logical if this “printing” would be coordinated amongst all the countries, certainly the indebted ones, but even if the creditors like Chinese and SE countries will also decide to print in an attempt to maintain their FX rates,  this in the immediate terms will make little difference as the economy will still deleverage.


STEP 2 (to be done during step 1, with target for both be completed at the same time):


It is important to note that this inflation will only repair the problem in the short run, as the illness will remain.  Furthermore it would be tragic to not repair the long term problems while this inflation happens, as otherwise no government will have any ability to return to flat inflation as it will lack credibility to do this.



Sovereign Debt:


In essence a very tough measure should be put in place, ideally almost outlawing sovereigns from running deficits.  This should carry criminal responsibility for people who break these laws, almost to ensure that they cannot be easily replaced at the later date in order to win the new elections.


Lack of deficit will also mean lack of trade deficit, as the basic Econ 100 student will remember the twin deficit issue.



Terms of Trade:


Recognizing that we are living in the increasingly global society it is essential to understand that to live in the global society there must be either:


A.     Free Exchange Rate mechanism

B.     Protectionism


In many ways the policies of countries that are deliberately weakening their currencies are not in the line with the responsible global policy, as they lead to destabilizations of not only the countries with the overvalued currencies, but ultimately also in the countries with the undervalued currencies – see China now, which in essence being a manufacturing hub of the world is capable of simply collapsing as its structure of the economy is so much export and manufacturing orientated.


Likewise from the point of view of the developed countries it is essential to accept and even manage people’s expectations that the current situation where the income difference between United States and China is that of 10 fold is simply not realistic and it will need to be corrected, as people in China just like people in US have ten fingers each, hence why should they receive less pay for the same work that is being done?  If people in US do not accept this than they will have to implement Protectionist measures, though even these measures will not work in the long run – and are also likely to backfire down the line as few would argue that in the long run protectionism promotes growth (though it can in the short run).



Financial Sector:


In our view there is a structural problem with the setup of the financial industry, though we are very much open to debate on this topic, and we are learning a lot from many of our scientists and colleagues here.  Our view can change as like others we are learning, but our current approach is:


1.     All the mortgages must be linked to the expected income rental of the property, rather than the price of the property which is based on the price of other properties on the street.  This created the US and UK bubbles, while interestingly in Germany where mortgages would only be given in relation to the income stream, there was no real estate bubble


2.     Definite end to any form of accrual accounting. If there are assets that do not have market valuations due to their illiquidity, than there has to be an independent method of establishing these prices (and while this is easier said than done,  I do not believe that society is not able to set this up).  Current situation where the Greek debt is valued at 100% on the books of the French and German banks, when it is trading at 50% in the bond market is a gross manipulation of any logic, and while today regretfully it must happen to protect the current status quo, in the “new post inflation setup”  this should be never allowed to happen again.


3.     Change of accounting from emphasis on large corporate auditors like Arthur Andersen, to responsibility being taken by both the company and the individual.  It should not be Mr. Arthur Andersen who sings the audits but specific group of people who take specific legal and even criminal responsibility for what they are doing.  In many ways the modern audit companies have became the tools to legitimize the illegalities, and this has to change if we are to remain to tolerate corporate, stock markets, bonds and other forms of “collective” financing products.  If this cannot happen, than we might as well return to the financial markets from the 16th and 17th centuries, where everything was in essence private, but not collectively private – i.e. max 50 shareholders in a one company, max 50 bondholders, etc.  Simple method actually.

4.     Financial sector:  this is the most controversial one, and very difficult to change, meaning that nationalization of all the banks is very much on the cards if we are to start the system from the right model


a.     Stop of all Deposit Guarantee Schemes.  These are by definition stupid, create moral hazard where depositors do not really care about what banks they put the money to, and just care about the politicians and bureaucrats who award them a banking license

b.     The level of all deposits should be REGULATED and set at the level of inflation.  This means, that every financing institution will be paying the same amount of money for its deposits, i.e. they will not engage in what we are observing now which is a Deposit War, which will just as bad as the Asset Interest war that we have observed in the 2000 – 2007 leading to effectively borrowing rates being at 0.50% credit spread (like my house for instance)

c.      Requirements for banks to be very transparent about their investment policies, and maximum return on equity capped at say 20%, with the rest in essence being very highly taxed – what will stop any economic desire by the banks to obtain unnaturally high levels of return at the potential risk of the depositors

d.     Capital adequacy ratio at the level of say 30%, and certainly exceeding the rate set in point c).  Here we do forecast that this could be linked to the nature of the investment portfolio.

e.     VERY IMPORTANTLY:  REGULATED add-on spreads to various loans, standardized across the asset types… i.e.…  2% running tax on every mortgage, 5% on corporate loan, 10% on personal loan (these are examples only… but these will aim to stimulate and discourage specific sections of the asset classes)

f.      Emergence of powerful investment funds, which in essence will replace banks and will be free to do what they want, though any returns on these should be highly taxed to generally disincentives people from any speculation activities.  Let’s accept that taxing in the society happens anyway, so why not tax activities such as speculation, and tax less people’s employment tax?  Surely it will be more economically and socially correct to incentivise people to work than to use capital to speculate, or even accumulate it without directly investing it into the economy (look at Sweden for example of taxation on not used capital).

5.     On the Government Sector:


a.     Proper supervision.  It is tragic today that vast majority of Ministers of Finance or Central Bankers have no idea about practical finance, and are almost exclusively a group of academics.  To give you a practical comparison:  an academics in these roles are like scientists who perform medical operation.   Number of politicians are aware that there needs to be a much greater emphasis on the “committees of experts” , and these experts must be proper financiers and not the representatives of academia who cannot differentiate between LIBOR set in advance and LIBOR set in arrears (I am sure that derivatives bankers and traders understood this, but if you the reader have not – you do not know finance).   Naturally these people will need to be properly paid, but I always found it very strange that a person with the power of the Chairman of the FED should not be paid more than the guy running Goldman Sachs.  You simply cannot save on the top “managers” like this, or on the salary of the President of your country / City, as otherwise you will get the people that are worth their money.

b.     Reward whistle-blowing.   Recently following the announcement of USD2bn losses by one trader at UBS , we suggested that bank CEOs should reward traders who come forward with the identified loopholes.  This creates the auto-corrective mechanisms and helps to avoid huge one off loses.  In similar ways in the macro world it will be difficult to establish the financial world that is perfect, as things change.  Reward identification of loopholes  (such as Hybrid Capital which started to exist in 2000s or emergence of highly complex investment products such as synthetic CDO squared, which frankly are great, but are totally not needed for common use and someone should have put a stop on this).



Other Elements:


There are also many other policies that could be done such as increasing of pension age, changing of the way healthcare works, and even very extreme measures such as opening of stock markets for only on one day a week (can someone tell me the economic reason why stock markets have to be open daily?).  There are also supply side policies such as promoting the knowledge economy (today it was announced that South Korea by 2015 will teach its students on the online curriculum, impressive bearing in mind that South Korean students are already the world leaders in IT literacy).  All of these policies are theoretically at least very positive and good, but from our point of view they are not essential to make the system work, where as this paper focuses solely on the measures that need to be corrected as they alone have the potential to destabilize the system.



If any politicians would like to appoint Vision Finance for any of the following roles:



Capital Raising

Debt Restructuring

Advisory on Financial Regulations

Advisory on Sovereign Wealth Funds


Please do not hesitate to contact one of our Country Representatives.


You can also visit our range of products on this website by clicking here.

Each product is described in detail in one of included presentations on the respective websites).

*   Judging by the number of meetings all the politicians hold across so many different cities around the world, we cannot help to think that the politicians believe that the more they fly the harder they work.  They could not be more wrong, and this reminds us of twenty year old investment bankers in Corporate Finance who used to leave their jackets on the back of the chair in order to appear to their bosses that they are still in at work.

**  Small Note on Conflict of Interest

We write this paper, even though we have openly said it before, that in many ways the worst things get, the better they are for Vision Finance, as our corporate model is already based on the new world order, on brokerage business,  on lack of dependence of trading, low fixed costs, high emphasis on entrepreneurship, on search for investors that invest till maturity, on creating relationships and not arbitrage and speculation.  For these reasons, no matter what happens Vision Finance model will survive the coming recession, and it will do very well in it, while the “old style” financial institutions due its inheritably wrong structural setup will most probably need to significantly restructure if not disappear altogether.


Despite the above however, we will not engage in sabotage, and in our ethics withholding specific information on how to solve some of the problems is simply sabotage.   Here is hence our message to the world leaders, Ministers of Finance, Central Bankers, message full of concrete steps that need to be done rather than mish-mash that they are used to hearing.