Late in 2017 I decided to take some time out from work (the paid kind to be precise). My banking career has spanned a variety of roles working in a large Australian bank but the unifying theme for much of that time was a focus on bank capital management. This is a surprisingly rich topic (yes honestly) and one that I am not done with yet. Accordingly, I want to devote some of my time out to an attempt to make sense of what I have learned and apply that knowledge to topical banking issues. It was suggested that I write a book but I have opted for a blog format in part because it will hopefully allow for a two way dialogue with like minded bank capital tragics.
An alternative title for this blog was “The education of a banker; a work in progress” which sought to convey the idea that I believe I have learned quite a lot about banking over the past four decades but the plan is to keep learning. Some of the perspectives I offer are to, the best of my knowledge, based on very firm foundations while others are ones which reasonable people can disagree upon or outright speculative. To the best of my ability, all of the views expressed will be “lightly held” in the sense that I am just as interested in identifying reasons why they might be wrong as I am in affirmation.
I settled on “From the Outside” based on an informal survey of a group of like minded people with who I have already devoted many emails and coffee catchups debating the issues I intend to explore. The title highlights that I bring a perspective forged working inside a bank over many years but now looking at the questions from the outside. Each reader will need decide for themselves whether I achieve a balanced view or have become irredeemably institutionalised. I will seek to correct what I believe to be unfounded criticisms of banks (for the record, I don’t think the current ROE major Australian banks are targeting is excessive) while at the same time there are other areas where I believe Australian banks need to do better (engaging with long time customers in a way that recognises their loyalty would be a great place to start).
The focus of the blog will no doubt evolve over time (and hopefully in response to feedback) but the initial plan is to explore a sequence of big picture themes in parallel with topical issues that arise from time to time. I also plan to share my thoughts on books and papers I have read that I think readers might find worth following up.
The big picture themes will likely encompass questions like the ways in which banks are different from other companies and the implications this has for thinking about questions like their cost of equity, optimal capital structure, risk appetite, risk culture, prudential regulation etc. Topical issues would encompass discussion papers, academic research, opinion pieces, prudential regulation and anything else that intersected with banking, finance and economics.
I am currently working my way through APRA’s Feb 2018 discussion paper on Revisions to the capital framework for ADI’s. I think there is a lot to like in the proposals APRA has set out but also some gaps and possible unintended consequences that are worth exploring.
… and so it begins