Chief Investment Officer
stop the feeding frenzy: readers' reactions
Quote of the
week from my son, Gil Bird: "If you find beauty in darkness,
you'll find beauty in all". He's a very wise 18 year old, that
The response to
my last article has been overwhelming. So much so that I have put a
dozen or so responses together as the next BirdsEye
View. Thanks to the hundreds of you who wrote expressing support and
sharing additional insights. The common denominator to all responses
was: IT'S TIME TO FIGHT BACK!
Gil, Dick and I spent a
few days fishing in Montana. What a beautiful place! Pictures are on
the website, www.anatbird.com.
Also posted is Liat's hilarious recount of how a mangy dog bit her on
the butt in Bhutan (under Bird Droppings).
great Labor Day weekend,
STOP THE FEEDING FRENZY: READERS'
Quote of the week: Finding good
solid journalism in the newspapers today is like looking for gold or
diamonds in a septic tank. If you find any, it got there by
Other reactions include:
Ed Garding, Chief Risk Officer and EVP of First Interstate of
Montana: "Good comments Anat. My two
thoughts are: 1. It is not news unless it is outrageous. 2. People
hate "banks", but like their banker, and we need to
capitalize on that somehow."
Anat!! I believe that you have captured the anger and frustration of
those of us in the banking industry and,unlike the uninformed (and
even worse, idealistic)critics within the media and government,you
have offered sound, sane advice for all constituencies; bankers,
media, government, and our citizen customers. Thank you for
summarizing this sad situation so well. My only advice for a slightly
less stressful life - Don't read the New York Pravda, (I mean Times).
And: "It is time for the silent majority
to speak out. And I do believe we are seeing evidence of that
everywhere. Let's not throw out the baby with
the bath water !"
"Nice article. You were way too kind in the describing the level
of stupidity the media is displaying and the lack of journalistic
excellence that would otherwise have recognized and reported the
recession and some of the more alarmist news in a far more credible
fact based way.
I will credit
the media with merely being stupid and trying to create news that
sells by making it as alarmist as possible. however many of our
politicians are far more deceptive & avaricious in their own
particular motivations. they are using certain incidents to paint a
picture that serves their agendas well (Barney Frank, Pelosi &
Some of the
financial institutions stupidly have given these two groups (media &
politicians) matches while busily pouring the gas on themselves and
the industry (AIG, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch to name 3 of recent
note) by not using any common sense or restraint whatsoever in their
behavior. Perhaps this is borne of arrogance, clearly it was
indicative of an absolute miss in understanding the mood of the
public. And under the circumstances I am totally baffled and cannot
understand "how" they could have missed it. Go figure."
And: "I have spent time in Russia,
and other former Eastern Bloc countries, and it is clear what 70
years of Socialism did to those countries."
"In reading your comment, our system is far from optimal, I am
reminded of Sir Winston Churchill's comments about capitalism and the
free enterprise system. He said something like "Capitalism is a
very, very flawed economic system, except when compared to every
other economic system on the planet!"
the comments on your news letter>>hooray for the author. I
think it is too easy to "blame" the banks as a generic
criticism. Due to our banking system, the world still consistently
prefers to invest in the USA, which says something. The banking
industry is only indicative of the economy it serves and operates
within, i.e. it is the economy, since we generally do not produce a
tangible product. The industry's issues were the result of many
things, too much liquidity in the overheated economy, greedy mortgage
bankers, lack of adequate oversight and control by the regulators,
and yes even some over zealous consumer groups that pushed the
politics of making consumer credit easier to obtain. The brief point
is, there were many factors that caused the issues, it's just easy to
say "the banks".
And:Bill Aichele, CEO
of Univest, said: "I support your pushing
back! Not all banks are created equal! We have always conducted our
business by focusing on What is right for our four publics-
Shareholders, Customers, employees, and Communities. We are 133 years
old and we believe we have been an important part of our communitys
"It's high time we took an offense position rather than defense.
We (community banks and bankers) have been miscast so much I nearly
get nauseous...and spend far too much of my time helping our various
constituencies understand there is a world of difference between
investment banks and commercial banks and further, between money
center commercial banks and community banks. Your message is to the
point and timely. Thank you."
"Nice rant!! I echo your sentiment. We are all being vilified as
"evil bankers." I wouldn't mind it if I was received
Goldman-sized bonuses each year, but when many of the housing related
crises were promulgated by and further nurtured by elected officials
and regulators, it makes you want to scream."
"I just read Stop the Feeding Frenzy. Its GREAT!
Coincidentally, this morning, I was speaking to a group of young
women and men who are thinking of running for public office here in
Delaware. Subject---the state of banking, generally, and, the
financial meltdown. As I read your article below, it sounded
like the speech I gave this morning! Almost point-for-point! One of
the points I made to them: How did we as Main Street bankers
allow the media to co-opt the word banker and apply it to what
we formerly called Wall Street investment firms? Suddenly, they
became bankers. And, as you point out, we are all painted with
the same brush. We need to be playing offense, so, thanks for writing
this! (It also points out why I never read the New York
sister. A source within FDIC who asked to never be named told me, eye
to eye, that the proposed single regulator was universally considered
by FDIC examiners and staff to be the worst legislative idea in
decades. The individuals who work in regulatory compliance within
every regulatory body are moved to and fro between internal
disciplines to cover emerging critical issues. For example, when BSA
became a hot item a few years ago, the increased exam coverage and
remedial work was staffed by people from other arms of FDIC. There
wasnt a bloated staff of BSA people sitting on their hands waiting
for a BSA inferno. If a new regulatory body is created it will be
staffed with NEW positions not transfers out of existing
regulatory bodies because all those folks wear more than one hat.
Regulators chortle at claims from proponents that the increased cost
compliance issues we face are a result of lousy risk management,
inactive boards, idiotic governmental practices and most of all, bank
executives in a FEW institutions who ignored lessons from the past.
It happens in every industry, every government. The single regulator
is a monumental over-reaction. The people who caused the problem are
already fired&.the proverbial horse has already left the barn.
Americas economy always corrects itself, if the government can get
out from behind a microphone long enough to let normalcy run its
passionate reaction to the news made me want to involve others in
this dialog. I'm sharing comments that I got from one of my brothers
with you. He's always good for an opinion! I'm not usually one to
broadcast my feelings about politics but it is frustrating to be
vilified by the regulators, government, press, and others when most
of us are working a system that has protected the wealth and well
being of this country. I am generally very liberally inclined (much
to my brother's chagrin!), and I object strongly to over-reactions to
most things. The most offensive over-reactions today strike me as
defensive posturing (control), deflection or, worse, sensationalism
to sell papers.
And here's what
the brother said:"Careful. You're venturing into redneck
territory by invoking the idea of commercial freedom.
I agree. There
were some really ugly goings-on in the behemoth financials -- which,
one would think, would have been controlled by reasonably alert
regulators doing nothing more socialistic than pursuing and
prosecuting fraud. Thank you Bush -- but also thank you Barney Frank
and his ilk, who quietly wrote protective legislation behind the
scenes, in exchange for... what? Let's find out.
But the small
guys are now in the cross-hairs, largely undeservedly. Sure, they
make mistakes and occasionally pay for them by going belly-up.
Everybody makes mistakes. A mistake isn't necessarily fraud. We need
more community businesses, run efficiently on a free market model by
entrepreneurs with a personal stake, not fewer.
I think there's
more at work here than a prima facie effort to "clean up the
financial sector." Control comes to mind.
While we're at
it, let's be wary of the same broad-brush approach to health care.
The insurance companies certainly focus on their bottom lines. Why
shouldn't they? But the admitted problems with the cost of health
care have just as much to do with federal and state meddling in
business decisions as they do with runaway torts, demand for high-end
life-extenders,and greedy doctors. When Obamacare is the law of the
land, and the "public option" has eliminated private
insurance, do we really believe that a mandate to cover Viagra, hair
replacement, birth control pills, any ol' organ replacement and
pregnancy, as well as the restriction of competition to a single area
of a single state and the evaluation of risk (personal habits and
history), will be part of a federal health insurance mandate? Of
course not. Try eliminating those actuarial-nightmare restrictions
from private health insurance and see what happens to the cost. Ask
folks to share the cost of their insurance, rather then the employer
picking it all up, and see how fast some of the bad habits improve
without laws restricting how many hamburgers you can eat. People
didn't used to be tub-o-lards, because it cost them in the end.
Sorry to go off
-- but to me, they're all part of the same philosophical problem. We
need to stop looking for the freebie solutions. They ain't freebies.
And we need to stop blaming the other guy when he's only trying to
provide what we demand."
Here is what I
gleaned from all these comments: It's a call to action. It's time for
all of us community bankers to remind our legislators about the
difference between Wall Street and Main Street. They need to
understand the crucial role community banks play in our country's
economic success, part and future. Grass roots lobbying is the most
powerful tool we have. Use it to put the message across, and let me
know if I can help in any way. Like I said, IT'S TIME TO FIGHT