The changing shape of the asset management industry

The asset management industry is huge, growing in size, especially in Asia, and increasingly dominated by a small number of giant companies. Asset management includes traditional “institutional” investors such as pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds and money management companies, plus hedge funds. There are economies of scale in asset management: you can manage $1Continue Reading

Why is it so hard to finance new infrastructure?

There is a great need for infrastructure investment in both developed and developing countries. The former need both refurbishment of old assets and additional capacity. The latter need lots of new capacity, mainly arising from rapid urbanisation. There is also a large pool of savings in pension funds, companies and sovereign wealth funds that isContinue Reading

Why MFin students are a good fit with central banks

Central banks, which are the most important financial institutions in most countries, have typically employed lots of economcs graduates in the past. They might benefit from adding a few finance graduates in future. Central banks have responsibility for controlling inflation and influencing the wider economy. In some nations they also have responsibility for regulating the financialContinue Reading

Money, money, money – three different meanings

Money can mean physical cash, or the funds in a bank account or the flows of short term funding used by government and companies. No wonder finance can be confusing. * Finance is a subject bedevilled by jargon – words, phrases and acronyms that are barriers to understanding the relatively simple things that actually go onContinue Reading

Natural gas is not (yet) a global commodity

A global commodity, in economic or investment terms, is a standardised, homogeneous good that sells for the same price everywhere, subject to transport costs and tax. Oil is the classic global commodity. A chart from the IMF World Economic Outlook, just published in October 2014, shows that natural gas isn’t. But it probably will become moreContinue Reading

US inflation: still showing no signs of being a problem, let alone hyperinflation

Every year when the new MFin class starts, there is usually at least one person who asks the question: when will QE cause a big rise in inflation? The person is often from a hedge fund or trading background because that seems to be where this point of view is most commonly found. The assumption isContinue Reading

Financial innovation: peer to peer lending

Peer to peer lending (P2PL) is an old idea given a new twist by the Internet: lending from households to businesses without a bank in between. P2P has flourished in the UK in recent years and is now growing fast in China. Small businesses normally rely on banks for funding because they are too smallContinue Reading

The onward march of the private sector in China

Ahead of a trip next week to Beijing to learn more about the lending business of China Minsheng Bank, I’m encouraged to see that the private sector is already flourishing in China. In December 2013, President Xi Jinping made clear the scope of his refom ambition at the third plenum of the Chinese Communist Party’s 18thContinue Reading

Could we do without physical money?

Physical money is becoming increasingly unnecessary in everyday life. Could it be heading for extinction and does it matter? I’ve just spent three days on holiday in the wonderful city of Copenhagen, using physical cash only once (when the ice cream seller’s card machine was broken, and the ice cream is really good so I couldn’tContinue Reading

The fortunes of nations: how long term growth rates change countries

Countries that had similar levels of economic prosperity two or three generations ago have diverged spectacularly. Getting economic growth right makes a huge difference to the lives of people. Here are two examples: The US and Argentina, and South Korea and Ghana. I recently came across the Maddison Project website, which has estimates of longContinue Reading

Africa’s economic potential: people

Africa’s economic potential is usually thought to lie in its natural resources. But the continent’s people may be its greatest strength. One of the few areas where long term forecasts have some value is demography, the study of population size and structure. The dynamics of population growth depend on a few variables – the current population, theContinue Reading

What is shadow banking?

Shadow banking is a term that was invented by Paul McCulley, the former chief economist of the giant fund manager PIMCO, in 2007. He was one of the first to identify and analyse the growth of chains of financial transactions in the US that had the economic substance of commercial banking but weren’t regulated, andContinue Reading

The hunt for a monopoly position in business

Economics students learn early in their microeconomics course that there is a desirable market condition called perfect competition, which consists of large numbers of more or less identical firms competing aggressively to meet the customer’s wants. The competition is so fierce that no firm has any ability to charge a price above the absolute minimumContinue Reading

The decline in volatility: measuring risk aversion from option prices

Although the world appears a very turbulent place, financial volatility is currently rather low. How do we know this? One method widely used by commentators and market analysts is to refer to a measure of global risk aversion called the VIX. This post explains how can we infer something about market participants’ attitudes to risk, based on option pricing theoryContinue Reading

Historic street names in the City of London

The City of London is the oldest part of greater London, yet has many of the newest buildings. Tiny, winding medieval streets are preserved next to the latest office blocks, built rapidly on the ruins of older, less efficient blocks that are ruthlessly torn down when the economic case dictates. The streets have curious names:Continue Reading