During this interminable crisis, few banks globally have managed to thrive. One of the few happens to be Hoare & Co in the UK. Last year, Richard Morais did a little bit of a hagiographic spread on them for Barrons.
However, he neglected to provide much detail on the bank’s most interesting trait, unlimited liability. Forget banker bonuses and returning to the gold standard, I doubt we would be in the middle of this mess if every banker, auditor, lawyer and compliance consultant had to put their house, car and cufflinks on the line when signing off a new product.
P.S. if you ever have the chance to visit Hoare & Co’s Fleet Street offices, they are remarkable. Forget the cold glass and steel of modern architecture in the City; it’s all wood paneling and guards in top hats, enjoyably reminiscent of the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter films
In the midst of trawling through research for a new book project on finance and technology I’ve started re-reading the work of Michael Sandel.
In ‘What Money Can’t Buy’, Sandel posits that the post-communism world of the eighties and nineties was an era of market triumphalism. In which market values and reasoning spread from beyond business and into almost every area of society; schools, sex, hospitals, police etc. He argues that society needs to debate about the morality and consequences of this including greater income inequality and a corruption of values.
This is significant because it corresponds with the current debate about morality within financial services. It implies that the debate should be about more than one individual sector; it should be about our judgment of a way of thinking, which he describes as “market reasoning”. A way of thinking that implies it is objective by considering everything from the perspective of “how much” and “where is the harm if someone is willing to sell and another is willing to buy”.