The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Deutsche Bank inserted two bold new financial targets into its annual report in 2000. Thanks to “the enhancement of our organisational structure”, the German bank committed itself to “planned annual growth in earnings per share of at least 15 percent” for the subsequent three years, and an average annual return on equity of “more than 15 percent”.
The little question for asset managers is why they earn so much. Buyside pay could soon overtake that of the investment bankers, the traditional “masters of the universe.” But the bigger question is what the industry should do with the $150 trillion it manages.
Negative interest rates show finance has gone postmodern. The system has become self-referential and value-free, in a way that might please cultural theorists. That’s supposed to help the real economy run more smoothly. But it’s risky, high-handed and not fair to savers.
If Greece had its own currency, the country’s crisis would attract little attention. On the contrary, the economic news from Athens would be all too familiar to followers of countries which have trouble increasing their citizens’ average annual income to much above $25,000. Such middle-income countries have a habit of running into fiscal or financial trouble.
Outsider parties are disrupting the political system in many developed economies. Greece is leading the way, with Syriza’s victory in the Jan. 25 election on a platform of radical economic change. Spain, where the new Podemos party leads the polls, could follow later this year. Fringe movements are also gaining traction in France, Italy and the UK. Something similar is happening even in the United States, where the Tea Party movement is shaking things up from within one of the established parties.