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The End of Banking? with Jonathan McMillan

(This event is completely full and is now closed to new Yes RSVPs, sorry.) 

Will fintech overthrow the forces that crashed our financial system?

Fintech is the segment of the technology startup scene that stands poised to disrupt the operation of money transfers, loans, mobile payments, asset management, and fundraising. Fintech has sparked the hope that finance will become more transparent and democratic. In the current setting, however, fintech may end up destabilizing our financial system just as financial innovation did a decade before. We cannot just sit back and hope positive change will happen.

In the view of Jonathan McMillan, the author of the recent book The End of Banking, we urgently need to properly adapt the rules of banking to the digital age. Only then will the digital revolution unfold its creative power and transform our financial system for good.

Jonathan has strong views on how to end the dysfunctional banking system and replace it with a transparent, decentralized, and modern financial system. In this London Futurists event, Jonathan will lead the audience along a fascinating journey covering the history of banking, money, financial crises, and how things started to change radically with the onset of the digital revolution unfolding in the 1970s.

His presentation is likely to leave the audience seeing banking and the ongoing financial crisis in a new light. We'll be able to assess a possible "End of Banking".

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About the speaker:

Jonathan McMillan is a pseudonym for two authors with expertise in economics and finance. One works in the investment banking division of a global bank. He has first-hand insight into the workings of the financial centers of London and New York. The other chose an academic path; he holds an M.Phil. in economics from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. in economics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich. He is currently an economics editor at Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

This talk will be presented by the investment banker.

About the book "The End of Banking":

From the book's website:

The End of Banking explains why a financial system without banking is both desirable and possible in the digital age.

• The first part of the book presents the functions and the  mechanics of traditional banking. It discusses how a delicate balance of government guarantees and banking regulation kept the flaws of banking under control in the industrial age.

• The second part explains how the digital revolution unsettled this balance. The rise of shadow banking is explained, and it is shown how an unsustainable boom in the shadow banking sector led to a banking panic: the financial crisis of 2007-08.

• The third part shows that the digital revolution has played a dual role. Information technology not only undermined the effectiveness of current banking regulation, but it also rendered banking redundant. An innovative blueprint for a modern financial system is presented and the implications of the end of banking are discussed.

Sample feedback:

• “Thought provoking, bold, and visionary…” (Foreword Reviews, Barry Silverstein)

• “An important book about finance” (Reuters Breakingviews, Dominic Elliott)

• “An absolutely new perspective” (Financial Times Alphaville, Izabella Kaminska)

• “Well researched, stimulating, thought-provoking” (CFA Institute Blog, Manuel Stagars)

• “I recommend The End of Banking for three reasons. First, the authors understand how the digital revolution is changing money, credit and banking. Second, the authors attempt to tackle monetary problems at the fundamental level of accounting. Third, the authors use simple and clear language.” (Martijn Jeroen van der Linden, Board member of the Dutch campaign group for monetary reform ‘Ons Geld’)

• “Since policymakers are unwilling or unable to control our reckless financial system, rethinking the legal and economic foundations of banking is worthwhile. Thisthought-provoking book makes radical proposals that strike at the source of fragility in banking and which should be considered seriously.” (Anat R. Admati, Professor of Finance and Economics, Graduate School of Business, Stanford, and coauthor of The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It)

• “This brilliant book explains, in simple and eloquent terms, how traditional banking really works, and what’s fundamentally wrong. A must-read for anyone interested in the future of finance.” (Emmanuel Marot, CEO LendingRobot)

Meeting logistics:

2pm-4pm, Saturday 10th September 2016.

Venue: Room B20, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London.

Room B20 is on the basement level in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

Coffee and other light refreshments can be purchased from the Costa Coffee shop in the reception area of the building, either ahead of or after the meeting.

The event will be followed by a chance to continue the discussion in a nearby pub - The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ.

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This will be refunded if the meeting is cancelled or rearranged, or if the attendee cancels at least 2 days before the meetup.

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Alternatively, if there are still seats available, payment of £10 in that case can be made in cash at the door on the day. (Requesting payment in advance assists with accurate planning of the event.)

Journalists are welcome to attend the meeting free-of-charge - please contact the organiser, notifying us in advance of your plans to attend.

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  • Dil G.

    This article, from yesterday's Standard, makes the point that Pensions funds are being held to a version of the rule proposed - and that it is making sensible investment all but impossible in that sector - because the funds are made to value future earnings on the basis only of what is certain (ie gilts), the prognosis looks insanely bleak, requiring drastic and counter-productive short-term 'fixes'.
    I raise this, not with any intent of knocking the proposal, but to further point out how revolutionary it is - albeit dressed in the clothes of a technical fix.

    1 · 15. September

    • Tony C.

      Spot on, Dill. It is a genuine collusion of a kind between the actuaries, the Pension Fund Industry and most of the Trustees that barely know the area good enough to challenge the decisions they are to mandate.

      15. September

  • Dil G.

    I was fairly convinced by the proposal as a mechanism - to the extent that this means anything - ianae [I Am Not An Economist!].
    I prefer it to Tony's alternative of a ratcheted 'Tobin tax' [see below] to the extent that it is a structural reform, rather than a policy adoption. Policies have details to be argued over, are subject to continuous revision, are generally complex to the point that they can be worked around, while structural changes, though not immune to such problems (they are after all just deeper policies), tend to be simpler, more durable, more obvious in their application and thus have the potential to last long enough to become reified - to appear as inevitable facts of existence, not worth questioning.
    However, it is hard to know whether it is anything more than an intellectual exercise - the chance of such a reform being adopted anywhere seems negligible [as a thought experiment, imagine if Jeremy Corbyn adopted this as policy...].

    1 · 12. September

  • Dil G.

    [continued - yes I did sneakily post this first!]
    ... The impact of the proposal on the wider money supply,on liquidity and inflation would surely bring enormous sea-changes (plus the unintended consequences that must occur after any intervention into a truly complex system), and has one inevitable-seeming implication; slower growth (as it happens, a Good Thing, according to me).
    This would mean it would be strongly resisted by those holding economic and political power - and also offer easy ammunition with which the media could frighten even a radical electorate.
    I was intrigued though by a throwaway remark that suggested that the idea could be viably implemented in a single country - that the advantages of stability would be sufficient to keep that economy afloat even in a sea of hostility.
    This raised the question as to whether a single sector could voluntarily adopt this policy and prove its viability? In other words, could it be voluntarily introduced - and act like a virus?

    12. September

  • David W.

    The video of this event is now available here:

    It deserves a lot of viewing!

    Thanks are due to Kiran Manam for operating the camera. And many thanks go to the speaker for sharing so much of his insight and vision.

    1 · 12. September

  • Tony C.

    Generally, however, the solution proposed by the authors or the “enhanced Tobin’s tax” or similar large scale reforms of the investment process would face the same problem - the enormous, and so far successful, opposition of the banking sector to any reform. Additionally, it is highly unlikely that such a proposal could be implemented within a single country; because of at least a temporal reduction of the competitiveness of that country’s economy. It would have to be implemented worldwide, which makes it even more difficult.

    Tony Czarnecki

    11. September

  • Tony C.

    Part 3 of my comment:

    Overall, if the proposed solution were to be implemented successfully, it would have a positive impact on the banking sector, and the economy as a whole, by reducing the casino style investment and making more investment decisions on economic factors. It would also reduce the scale of short-termism, making more investments long-term.
    On the other hand, if the overall objective of the proposed solution is to base the investment process on real economy, then there are probably more effective and simpler solutions then this one. One such solution could be what I would call, “enhanced Tobin’s tax”, by introducing a ratchet-based tax on banking transactions, which would depend on the length of time the investment is held.

    Cuntinued ....

    11. September

  • Tony C.

    Part 2 of my comment:

    Regarding the core proposal, I would see at least two problems there. The first one concerns the company's valuation. If it is a listed company and its value is based on the value of its shares, then such value would fluctuate, sometimes quite significantly. Therefore, much better option would be the book value because it could be calculated for any company, including the vast majority of unlisted securities. However, this is where the second problem arises. The company’s book value consists of tangibles (real assets) and intangibles. If we limit it to tangible assets only, then many companies would have severely restricted their investment needs because since about 2000, for the majority of the companies’ the value intangibles is higher than the value of tangibles. For some companies, like Google, the value of intangible assets is about 85%; for Coca Cola it is as much as 95% (mainly the brand value). Continued...

    1 · 11. September

  • Tony C.

    Yesterday’s presentation of “The End of Banking” was an interesting proposal on how to improve the investment process and make it less risky. Broadly speaking, the idea is to limit drastically the scale of the debt-based investment in equities (mainly companies) by restricting such investment amount to the value of real assets. Such value should be greater than the value of all liabilities.
    Let me start first of all with the title of the presentation, which is misleading. The solution offered was much narrower, it could be applied to investment banking only, so it was some exaggeration. But it also reflects the overall belief of the presenter in a silver bullet solution. Even if it were to be implemented successfully, it would not have solved all problems with investment banking.

    Continued further down ...

    1 · 11. September

  • Eva

    Fascinating. Really interesting and full of great ideas

    10. September

  • Raf S.

    is this talk being streamed?

    10. September

    • David W.

      We don't live stream these talks, in general, but we do video them, and aim to make the recordings available shortly afterwards.

      10. September

  • Max Kalis, Influx Consulting C.

    The basement is locked. Any other way in?

    10. September

    • David W.

      Sorry that you fell victim to the mis-signposting that afflicts part of Birkbeck. I presume you managed to retrace your steps upstairs to find one of the other routes instead.

      10. September

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