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jerryking : u.s._federal_reserve   29

BlackRock’s black box: the technology hub of modern finance
FEBRUARY 24 2020 | Financial Times | by Richard Henderson in New York and Owen Walker in London.

In the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, the US government turned to Larry Fink, founder of BlackRock, for help.

As the crisis deepened, Mr Fink spoke to Hank Paulson, US Treasury secretary, in brief, urgent calls. He offered the Treasury and Federal Reserve a powerful tool to gauge risk in the assets at the centre of the havoc. The arrangement would net BlackRock tens of millions of dollars in government contracts, awarded largely without a tender process, put it at the forefront of the fintech revolution and cement Mr Fink’s standing at the intersection of politics and finance.

At the heart of this exchange was Aladdin, BlackRock’s vast technology platform. The system links investors to the markets, ensures portfolios hold the right assets and measures risk in the world’s stocks, bonds and derivatives, currencies and private equity.

Aladdin’s influence has surged since the financial crisis. Today, it acts as the central nervous system for many of the largest players in the investment management industry — and, for several huge non-financial companies........Vanguard State Street Global Advisors, the top half the top 10 insurers by assets, as well as Japan’s $1.5tn government pension fund, the world’s largest. Apple, Microsoft and Google’s parent firm, Alphabet — the three biggest US public companies — all rely on Aladdin to steward hundreds of billions of dollars in their corporate treasury investment portfolios.....Yet the true reach of Aladdin is unknown outside of BlackRock......Aladdin has fuelled BlackRock’s all-conquering rise by tightening its links with customers and diversifying its revenues. But the platform’s success has opened up new challenges. Competitors are fast developing rival platforms that are taking some of its business. The system’s scale — unparalleled for technology offered by a fund manager — has also created possible conflicts of interest. Most of all, its importance as a fintech hub has raised the prospect of a regulatory backlash.

The world’s most powerful risk management system threatens to become a liability for its owner.....Platforms like Aladdin are not covered by regulations, but as markets and investing become more reliant on technology the functions of these systems could play a role in future decisions whether or not to regulate...Aladdin’s sprawling influence has prompted fears that it, or BlackRock, could act as a chokepoint if either faced a shock — a cyber attack, a rogue line of code or a sudden crisis for the company — destabilising the financial system.....Although Aladdin does not tell asset managers what to buy or sell, the worry is that if a large enough portion of global assets respond to the warnings that Aladdin gives off, trillions of dollars will react to events — such as the outbreak of a pandemic or war in the Middle East — in the same way, causing dangerous *herding behaviour*......Aladdin creates the potential for “groupthink” .......Aladdin’s critical role within high-profile companies also makes it a prime target for cyber crime. .....Aladdin’s risk tools are designed to support, rather than replace, portfolio managers.....The scale of BlackRock’s dominance in both the investment industry and in providing its plumbing has led to potential conflicts of interest. As the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock is among the top shareholders of most listed companies globally, including many Aladdin clients.........Aladdin — which stands for asset, liability, debt and derivative investment network — began as a simple ledger for bond portfolios shortly after BlackRock was founded in 1988. As it grew, BlackRock extended its use for certain clients. The first was General Electric, which in 1994 was selling Kidder Peabody, the beleaguered brokerage, but was unsure how to price the assets on its balance sheet. A series of similar one-off arrangements eventually led BlackRock to offer Aladdin as a product in 2000.....Powerful trends have buffeted Aladdin’s rise. Investing has become more electronic and reliant on big data. As the tools that process the information have become more complex, investors, fund managers and insurers have turned to larger platforms such as Aladdin to replace multiple specialised systems.
Aladdin  analytics  asset_management  BlackRock  conflicts_of_interest  crisis  cyber_security  economic_downturn  financial_system  government_contracts  hackers  Hank_Paulson  herd_behaviour  institutional_investors  Laurence_Fink  one-time_events  origin_story  packaging  platforms  portfolio_management  regulators  risk-managment  rivalries  Second_Acts  systemic_risks  tools  trends  U.S._Federal_Reserve  U.S.Treasury_Department  Wall_Street 
5 weeks ago by jerryking
Why further financial crises are inevitable
March 19, 2019 | Financial Times | Martin Wolf.

We learnt this month that the US Fed had decided not to raise the countercyclical capital buffer required of banks above its current level of zero, even though the US economy is at a cyclical peak. It also removed “qualitative” grades from its stress tests for American banks, though not for foreign ones. Finally, the Financial Stability Oversight Council, led by Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary, removed the last insurer from its list of “too big to fail” institutions.

These decisions may not endanger the stability of the financial system. But they show that financial regulation is procyclical: it is loosened when it should be tightened and tightened when it should be loosened. We do, in fact, learn from history — and then we forget.....Regulation of banks has tightened since the financial crises of 2007-12. Capital and liquidity requirements are stricter, the “stress test” regime is quite demanding, and efforts have been made to end “too big to fail” by developing the idea of orderly “resolution” of large and complex financial institutions.....Yet complacency is unjustified. Banks remain highly leveraged institutions.....history demonstrates the procyclicality of regulation. Again and again, regulation is relaxed during a boom: indeed, the deregulation often fuels that boom. Then, when the damage has been done and disillusionment sets in, it is tightened again........We can see four reasons why this tends to happen: economic, ideological, political and merely human.

* Economic
Over time the financial system evolves. There is a tendency for risk to migrate out of the best regulated parts of the system to less well regulated parts. Even if regulators have the power and will to keep up, the financial innovation that so often accompanies this makes it hard to do so. The global financial system is complex and adaptable. It is also run by highly motivated people. It is hard for regulators to catch up with the evolution of what we now call “shadow banking”.

* Ideological
the tendency to view this complex system through a simplistic lens. The more powerful the ideology of free markets, the more the authority and power of regulators will tend to erode. Naturally, public confidence in this ideology tends to be strong in booms and weak in busts.

* Political

the financial system controls vast resources and can exert huge influence. In the 2018 US electoral cycle, finance, insurance and real estate (three intertwined sectors) were the largest contributors, covering one-seventh of the total cost. This is a superb example of Mancur Olson’s Logic of Collective Action: concentrated interests override the general one. This is much less true in times of crisis, when the public is enraged and wants to punish bankers. But it is true, again, in normal times.

Borderline or even blatant corruption also emerges: politicians may even demand a share in the wealth created in booms. Since politicians ultimately control regulators, the consequences for the latter, even if they are honest and diligent, are evident.

A significant aspect of the politics is closely linked to regulatory arbitrage: international competition. One jurisdiction tries to attract financial business via “light-touch” regulation; others then follow. This is frequently because their own financiers and financial centres complain bitterly. It is hard to resist the argument that foreigners are cheating.

* Human
There is a human tendency to dismiss long-ago events as irrelevant, to believe This Time is Different and ignore what is not under one’s nose. Much of this can be summarised as “disaster myopia”. The public gives irresponsible policymakers the benefit of the doubt and enjoys the boom. Over time, regulation degrades, as the forces against it strengthen and those in its favour corrode.

The cumulative effect of these efforts is quite clear: regulations erode and that erosion will be exported. This has happened before and will do so again. This time, too, is not different.
boom-to-bust  bubbles  collective_action  complacency  corruption  disaster_myopia  entrenched_interests  economic_downturn  financiers  financial_crises  financial_innovation  financial_regulation  financial_system  historical_amnesia  Mancur_Olson  Martin_Wolf  policymakers  politicians  politics  procyclicality  regulatory_arbitrage  regulation  regulators  stress-tests  This_Time_is_Different  U.S._Federal_Reserve 
march 2019 by jerryking
Central banks worldwide need more tools to co-ordinate policy -
Dec. 24, 2016 | The Globe and Mail | JAMES DEAN Special to The Globe and Mail

Modern central bankers worry about unemployment, income inequality, growth, inflation housing and asset bubbles, household debt, and fear of financial instability. Typically, central banks have had to rely on a single tool, their ability to raise or lower short-term interest rates. But is is an an axiom of policy making that for each additional goal, an additional instrument is necessary. Central banks worldwide agonize about their frustration with trying to target a plethora of goals.... With but a single instrument, they cannot simultaneously pursue the multiplicity of goals that today’s electorate expects of them....The answer is either to give central bankers more tools, or to co-ordinate their policy choices with those of other agencies.

For example, an ability to dictate both down payments on housing mortgages and margin requirements on borrowing to buy financial assets; setting reserve and capital requirements on banks; adjusted the lending mix of commercial bank portfolios, with preferences for export industries, or infrastructure like highways, airports and ports. Or for agriculture or labour-intensive industry or high-tech industry....The room for this kind of expanded mandate for central banks is relatively wide in some countries but very limited in others, the United States in particular.
central_banks  tools  interest_rates  Bank_of_Canada  U.S._Federal_Reserve  policy  coordination  policy_tools 
december 2016 by jerryking
Many casualties in aftermath of bursting bubbles - FT.com
November 12, 2009 | FT | from Mr Edward Chancellor.

Prof Mishkin classifies the technology bubble as a mere case of irrational exuberance. He claims that its collapse posed no systemic risk. If that were the case, then why did the failure of WorldCom and Enron in 2002 drive his former colleague at the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, to worry publicly about a “deflation” threat? And if the US economy was in such a robust state, why did the Fed keep interest rates so low for so long, thereby creating a real estate bubble?
A legacy of excessive debt is only one of the problems posed by bubbles. They contribute to the misallocation of resources – too much fibre optic cable or too many McMansions – which acts as a drag on economic growth. Asset price inflation also redistributes wealth in an arbitrary way between winners and losers. Bursting bubbles damage both corporate and household balance sheets, creating many innocent victims as people lose their jobs or suffer depleted savings.
bubbles  U.S._Federal_Reserve  debt  casualties  letters_to_the_editor  technology  asset_values  Benjamin_Bernanke  arbitrariness 
october 2016 by jerryking
One Firm Getting What It Wants in Washington: BlackRock - WSJ
By RYAN TRACY and SARAH KROUSE
Updated April 20, 2016

The Problem: BlackRock believed that the U.S. Federal Reserve was leaning towards designating it as a source of financial system risk, like other big banks, and as such, be “too big to fail”.

What Was At Stake: the designation “systemically important” would draw BlackRock in for greater oversight by the Federal Reserve which would mean tougher rules and potentially higher capital requirements from U.S. regulators.

The Solution: BlackRock didn't take any chances. The company began spending heavily on lobbying and engaging policymakers. Executives at the firm began preparing for greater federal scrutiny of their business in the months following the 2008 financial crisis. BlackRock aggressively prepared a counter-narrative upon discovered a Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Research report that asset-management firms and the funds they run were “vulnerable to shocks” and may engage in “herding” behavior that could amplify a shock to the financial system. The response took the form of a 40-plus-page paper rebutting the report. The firm suggested that instead of focusing on the size of a manager or fund, regulators should look at what specific practices, such as the use of leverage, might be the source of risks. While other money managers such as Fidelity and Vanguard sought to evade being labeled systemically important, BlackRock’s strategy stood out.
BlackRock  crony_capitalism  Washington_D.C.  risks  lobbying  too_big_to_fail  asset_management  advocacy  government_relations  influence  political_advocacy  policy  U.S._Federal_Reserve  systemic_risks  Communicating_&_Connecting  U.S.Treasury_Department  counternarratives  oversight  financial_system  leverage  debt  creating_valuable_content  think_differently  policymakers  policymaking 
april 2016 by jerryking
The Biology of Risk - NYTimes.com
By JOHN COATES JUNE 7, 2014

What is it about risk taking that so eludes our understanding, and our control?

Part of the problem is that we tend to view financial risk taking as a purely intellectual activity. But this view is incomplete. Risk is more than an intellectual puzzle — it is a profoundly physical experience, and it involves your body...Risk by its very nature threatens to hurt you, so when confronted by it your body and brain, under the influence of the stress response, unite as a single functioning unit....The state of your body predicts your appetite for financial risk just as it predicts an athlete’s performance.

If we understand how a person’s body influences risk taking, we can learn how to better manage risk takers. We can also recognize that mistakes governments have made have contributed to excessive risk taking.

Consider the most important risk manager of them all — the Federal Reserve. ...Uncertainty over the timing of something unpleasant often causes a greater challenge response than the unpleasant thing itself. Sometimes it is more stressful not knowing when or if you are going to be fired than actually being fired. Why? Because the challenge response, like any good defense mechanism, anticipates; it is a metabolic preparation for the unknown....Most models in economics and finance assume that risk preferences are a stable trait, much like your height. But this assumption, as our studies suggest, is misleading. Humans are designed with shifting risk preferences. They are an integral part of our response to stress, or challenge.......[JCK from David Brooks -The Wisdom Your Body Knows scientists are now focusing on the thinking that happens not in your brain but in your gut. You have neurons spread through your innards, and there’s increasing attention on the vagus nerve, which emerges from the brain stem and wanders across the heart, lungs, kidney and gut. The vagus nerve is one of the pathways through which the body and brain talk to each other in an unconscious conversation. ].......One such opportunity is a brief spike in market volatility, for this presents a chance to make money. But if volatility rises for a long period, the prolonged uncertainty leads us to subconsciously conclude that we no longer understand what is happening and then cortisol scales back our risk taking. In this way our risk taking calibrates to the amount of uncertainty and threat in the environment.

Continue reading the main story
Under conditions of extreme volatility, such as a crisis, traders, investors and indeed whole companies can freeze up in risk aversion, and this helps push a bear market into a crash. Unfortunately, this risk aversion occurs at just the wrong time, for these crises are precisely when markets offer the most attractive opportunities, and when the economy most needs people to take risks. The real challenge for Wall Street, I now believe, is not so much fear and greed as it is these silent and large shifts in risk appetite....As uncertainty in fed funds declined, one of the most powerful brakes on excessive risk taking in stocks was released....There are times when the Fed does need to calm the markets. After the credit crisis, it did just that. But when the economy and market are strong, as they were during the dot-com and housing bubbles, what, pray tell, is the point of calming the markets? Of raising rates in a predictable fashion? If you think the markets are complacent, then unnerve them. Over the past 20 years the Fed may have perfected the art of reassuring the markets, but it has lost the power to scare. And that means stock markets more easily overshoot, and then collapse.

CONTINUE READING THE MAIN STORY
120
COMMENTS
The Fed could dampen this cycle. It has, in interest rate policy, not one tool but two: the level of rates and the uncertainty of rates. Given the sensitivity of risk preferences to uncertainty, the Fed could use policy uncertainty and a higher volatility of funds to selectively target risk taking in the financial community....IT may seem counterintuitive to use uncertainty to quell volatility. But a small amount of uncertainty surrounding short-term interest rates may act much like a vaccine immunizing the stock market against bubbles. More generally, if we view humans as embodied brains instead of disembodied minds, we can see that the risk-taking pathologies found in traders also lead chief executives, trial lawyers, oil executives and others to swing from excessive and ill-conceived risks to petrified risk aversion. It will also teach us to manage these risk takers, much as sport physiologists manage athletes, to stabilize their risk taking and to lower stress.
Wall_Street  risks  risk-management  risk-taking  uncertainty  U.S._Federal_Reserve  bubbles  volatility  behavioural_economics  risk-preferences  risk-aversion  biology  psychology  interest_rates  emotions  human_experience  financial_risk  signaling  stress_response  market_crash  immobilize  paralyze  bear_markets  policy_tools  physiological_response  risk-appetite  unpredictability  physical_experiences  calibration  human_behavior  human_frailties  human_psyche  metabolic 
june 2014 by jerryking
Search on IDEAS
IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

"fresh produce" and data
search  research  U.S._Federal_Reserve 
march 2013 by jerryking
The Dismal Science? Hardly! - WSJ.com
June 4, 2003 | WSJ | By ROBERT D. MCTEER, JR. on the merits of an undergraduate education in economics.
economics  U.S._Federal_Reserve  Colleges_&_Universities  commencement 
april 2012 by jerryking
Senior Advisers: Two Old Friends Talk Fishing, Finance - WSJ.com
NOVEMBER 21, 2011 | WSJ | By MICHAEL CORKERY

Senior Advisers: Two Old Friends Talk Fishing and Finance
Former Fed Chief and New York Fix-It Man Share Office, Task Force; 'Rent Was Cheap'

By MICHAEL CORKERY
Paul_Volcker  éminence_grise  U.S._Federal_Reserve  George_Soros 
november 2011 by jerryking
The Colossus of Wall Street -
December 9, 2010 | BusinessWeeK | By Sheelah Kolhatkar and
Sree Vidya Bhaktavatsalam.

Bestride the bond and equity markets, counseling the Treasury and the Fed, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink is the most influential man you've never heard of.
BlackRock  CEOs  government_contracts  Laurence_Fink  Sheelah_Kolhatkar  U.S._Federal_Reserve  U.S.Treasury_Department 
december 2010 by jerryking
Volcker Spares No One in Broad Critique - Real Time Economics - WSJ
September 23, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | By Damian Paletta.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker scrapped a prepared speech
he had planned to deliver at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on
Thursday, and instead delivered a blistering, off-the-cuff critique
leveled at nearly every corner of the financial system.
cri_de_coeur  financial_system  Paul_Volcker  U.S._Federal_Reserve 
september 2010 by jerryking
Lunch with the FT: Alan Greenspan
Jul 31, 2010 | Financial Times pg. 3 |Alan Beattie. .. Alan
Greenspan was a 'good sideman' as a young jazz musician. So, he tells
Alan Beattie, he doesn't miss the spotlight he lived with during two
decades as head of the Federal Reserve. As for his legacy, he's far too
busy to worry about that
ProQuest  Alan_Greenspan  U.S._Federal_Reserve 
august 2010 by jerryking
Messy Times for Ben Bernanke and the Fed - NYTimes.com
May 14, 2010 | New York Times | By SEWELL CHAN. "we had neither
the mandate nor the tools to be the financial system’s supercop. "
Notes: (1) read “The Great Contraction, 1929-1933,” in which Milton
Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz blamed the Fed’s failure to expand
the money supply for the Depression’s severity and duration. (2)
“Because I appreciate the role of chance and contingency in human
events, I try to be appropriately realistic about my own capabilities. I
know there is much that I don’t know.”

— Ben S. Bernanke, May 22, 2009
(3) “Keep a ‘gratitude journal,’ in which you routinely list
experiences and circumstances for which you are grateful.”

— Ben S. Bernanke, May 8, 2010
economists  Benjamin_Bernanke  U.S._Federal_Reserve  gratitude  messiness  pretense_of_knowledge  Great_Depression  Milton_Friedman  humility  unknowns  chance  luck  contingency  books  economics  economic_history  financial_system  frequency_and_severity 
may 2010 by jerryking
Lessons of the '30s: Long Study of Great Depression Has Shaped Bernanke's Views; Fed Nominee Learned Perils Of Deflation, Gold Standard And Pricking of Bubbles; A Grandmother's Explanation
Dec 7, 2005 | Wall Street Journal pg. A.1 | Greg Ip. "In
1983, Mark Gertler asked his friend and fellow economist Ben Bernanke
why he was starting his career by studying the Great Depression. "If you
want to understand geology, study earthquakes," Mr. Bernanke replied,
according to Mr. Gertler. "If you want to understand economics, study
the biggest calamity to hit the U.S. and world economies." "Lafley was
in charge of the company's Asian operations during a major Japanese
earthquake and the Asian economic collapse. That's when he discovered,
he says, that "you learn ten times more in a crisis than during normal
times.""
10x  Benjamin_Bernanke  economists  U.S._Federal_Reserve  bubbles  financial_history  Greg_Ip  Great_Depression  disequilibriums  geology  earthquakes  '30s  anomalies  crisis  deflation  lessons_learned 
november 2009 by jerryking
Easy Credit and the Depression - WSJ.com
MAY 5, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | by L. GORDON CROVITZ.
Judge Richard Posner's "A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of '08 and
the Descent into Depression". Explains behavior that looks irrational in
retrospect shows that it was logical, based on incentives at the time.
Prevention requires regulators with access to public and private
information to track systemic risk and clear, predictable rules for how
the Federal Reserve and other regulators would respond to various risk
situations.
L._Gordon_Crovtiz  economic_downturn  Richard_A._Posner  risks  book_reviews  credit  predictability  failure  U.S._Federal_Reserve  regulators  incentives  information  information_flows  irrationality  systemic_risks  causality  public_information  private_information  hindsight  rules-based 
may 2009 by jerryking
Annals of Innovation: How David Beats Goliath: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker
May 11, 2009 |The New Yorker | by Malcolm Gladwell. How
underdogs create opportunities by first understanding their strengths,
weaknesses, and the rules of the game, and then changing the rules....To Gladwell, the story illustrated how traditions become blind spots. “Playing insurgent basketball did not guarantee victory. It was simply the best chance an underdog had of beating Goliath,” he wrote. “And yet somehow that lesson has escaped the basketball establishment.” The anecdote became the opening passage of the book David and Goliath, another fixture on bestseller lists....A few years ago, Ranadivé wrote a paper arguing that even the Federal Reserve ought to make its decisions in real time—not once every month or two. “Everything in the world is now real time,” he said. “So when a certain type of shoe isn’t selling at your corner shop, it’s not six months before the guy in China finds out. It’s almost instantaneous, thanks to my software. The world runs in real time, but government runs in batch. Every few months, it adjusts. Its mission is to keep the temperature comfortable in the economy, and, if you were to do things the government’s way in your house, then every few months you’d turn the heater either on or off, overheating or underheating your house.” Ranadivé argued that we ought to put the economic data that the Fed uses into a big stream, and write a computer program that sifts through those data, the moment they are collected, and make immediate, incremental adjustments to interest rates and the money supply. “It can all be automated,” he said. “Look, we’ve had only one soft landing since the Second World War. Basically, we’ve got it wrong every single time.”
anecdotal  basketball  batch_processing  blind_spots  books  coaching  creating_opportunities  decision_making  economic_data  innovation  interest_rates  Malcolm_Gladwell  massive_data_sets  money_supply  overlooked_opportunities  rainmaking  real-time  rules_of_the_game  strategy  strengths  Tibco  underdogs  U.S._Federal_Reserve  Vivek_Ranadivé  weaknesses 
may 2009 by jerryking
Central Banks Are Creatures of Financial Crises
JANUARY 27, 2009 WSJ op-ed by JUSTIN LAHART provides an
overview of three centuries of central-banking history. Central banks
have been built on financial crises, with each major tremor expanding
their role. And today's economic convulsions foreshadow more changes to
come at the Fed.
backward_looking  central_banks  crisis  economics  economists  financial  financial_history  foreshadowing  institutions  U.S._Federal_Reserve  Walter_Bagehot  financial_crises 
january 2009 by jerryking

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