Do the almost simultaneous announcements this month of a new regime at Deutsche Bank, and an extensive restructuring at HSBC, symbolise a fundamental change in the structure of financial companies?
The last two decades of the 20th century saw the rise of integrated financial conglomerates. In Britain, the trigger was the Big Bang in 1986. In the US, the separation of investment and commercial banking imposed in the 1930s by the Glass-Steagall Act was steadily eroded. The universal banks of continental Europe, seeing these trends, reinvented themselves along Anglo-Saxon lines.
20世纪最后20年见证了综合性金融集团的崛起。在英国，导火索是1986年发生的“金融大爆炸”(Big Bang)。在美国，《格拉斯-斯蒂格尔法案》(Glass-Steagall Act)上世纪30年代规定的投资银行与商业银行业务分业经营被逐步破坏。看到这些趋势的欧洲大陆的全能型银行，也沿着盎格鲁-撒克逊道路对自身进行了彻底改造。
In Britain, the very large financial resources of retail banks meant that they were initially dominant operators, absorbing the partnerships that had dominated stockbroking, market making and investment banking. Few of these acquisitions worked out well. Stockbrokers, jobbers and corporate dealmakers did not much enjoy the culture of the retail bank. Many former partners in these firms, made very wealthy through the sale of their businesses, preferred to spend more time with their families. The revenue earners below, deprived of the opportunity to enjoy the icing on the cake, were unhappily nicknamed the “marzipan layer”.
Despite these initial failures, dealmaking continued apace. In 1998–9 Sandy Weill created Citigroup, largest of all financial conglomerates. Mr Weill led the charge to secure the final repeal of Glass-Steagall, and ejected his co-chief executive John Reed, a career retail banker in traditional mould.
虽然最初遭遇失败，但并购交易持续加速。1998至1999年期间，桑迪•威尔(Sandy Weill)创建了所有金融集团中规模最大的花旗集团(Citigroup)。在威尔带头的攻势下，《格拉斯-斯蒂格尔法案》最终被废除，他还赶走了花旗联合首席执行官约翰•里德(John Reed)，后者是一位坚持传统的职业零售银行家。
The balance of power within financial conglomerates had changed. Dealmakers, greedier and smarter, took control. In investment banks the traders, rather than the corporate suits, were in charge. Trading was believed to be the major source of profits, and power followed. The fears of the marzipan layer were dispelled by the large bonuses they received as part of these big corporate organisations. But Mr Weill’s triumph was the crest of the wave. Reputational issues began to dog his creation.
The culture of retail banking — intrinsically bureaucratic, perhaps boring, driven by the routinisation needed to allow the accurate completion of millions of transactions every day — was incompatible with the entrepreneurial, buccaneering environment of the investment bank. The association provided opportunities for cross-selling. Informational advantages were derived from engaging in multiple roles. But the main logic was financial: the cross subsidy made possible by a passive deposit base guaranteed by the taxpayer.
While these apparent synergies might yield private advantage for banks, this was offset — generally more than offset — by the costs to customers and taxpayers. This downside would become all too apparent as mis-selling and conflicts of interest were exposed, and taxpayer support was demanded. Within a decade Citigroup had to be bailed out.
But there was little immediate change. When the music stopped for Chuck Prince at Citigroup, investment banker Vikram Pandit took his place. The elevation of Bob Diamond to the chief executive slot at Barclays and of Anshu Jain to the same position at Deutsche Bank was yet to come.
但变化没有立即发生。当音乐不再为花旗前首席执行官查克•普林斯(Chuck Prince)奏响，投资银行家潘伟迪(Vikram Pandit)接替了他的位置。再后来，鲍勃•戴蒙德(Bob Diamond)与安舒•贾恩(Anshu Jain)分别被提升为巴克莱(Barclays)与德银的首席执行官。
And yet, seven years later, it seems that change may be beginning. The respected central banker, Axel Weber, went to UBS to slim down its investment banking activities. When Mr Diamond was fired from Barclays, and Mr Pandit from Citigroup, they were replaced by institutional lifers with experience of traditional banking. Now Mr Jain has lost his post at Deutsche Bank. HSBC has told shareholders that, ahead of government-imposed ring fencing of its UK retail banking operations, it will rebrand these activities; it may not be long before they are hived off.
Perhaps, not before time, boring banking is starting to make a comeback.