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Question: Why have we seen a dearth of leadership in the past decade?

Joe Bower: I don’t know.  It really bothers me.  Basically what’s happened is that the size of capital markets has become huge, and then trillions of dollars move around the world every day in the banking system.  The result is that you can really make huge sums of money in activities that are fundamentally trading or arbitraging and lots of capital in the financial system has gone into those businesses.  So, in financial service firms, we see proprietary trading, proprietary venture capital and so on, and then you do those activities and you can leverage it because the banks are willing to put in large sums of money.  The earning on those activities are much more attractive than conventional finance.  This is why we see the financial system, in effect, drifting away from the industrial and commercial system.  The industrial and commercial system is much more boring, it doesn’t seem to offer the kind or profits, it’s more complicated, than financial.  So, I guess I’m saying that the leaders of great financial institutions have found that they can make a lot of money by building organizations that in effect have traders.  And we can be critical of that, but that’s the way the markets have developed.

Recorded on April 1, 2010

More from the Big Idea for Thursday, April 22 2010


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