Blogging is so passé, having been superseded by twitter, pinterest, et al. So why am I reviving this blog? The honest answer is – I don’t know, I just felt like it. If I had to find an explanation, it’ll go like this. “We all have this desire to have our voices heard, to share and be appreciated. The only difference may then be of the degree. I am no different.” Why then did I stop? – Now that is something I can explain – Partly loss of momentum and lethargy, partly I wasn’t sure if what I had to say was useful or relevant and mainly because I was a bit embarrassed reading my old posts.
It’s been nearly 5 years since, (yes 5 years!) and I have a thicker skin. Now when I go back and read my old posts, I am able to accept them as what they are, signposts along the journey of my life. Somehow,I feel enriched reading them and yes mildly embarrassed but in the same way you’d feel looking at faded childhood photographs where we all look like dorks. I could very well write a private diary. Private diary, however, more often than not are associated with secrets and with thoughts that are not meant to be shared – which makes the entire thing a bit perverse. Besides, in the context of life, universe and everything else my life is meaningful only to me and “in the end it doesn’t even matter”. So here we go…
PS: If there are still people out there still subscribed to this blog, please leave a comment so I don’t feel like I am speaking to an empty room!
I’ll sign off for the year with three books I have read over the last couple of months. It’s been a while since I read so much, cancelling the Economist subscription wasn’t a bad idea at all.
To start with the books, the first one was called Bad Company. It traces the concept of a CEO specifically in context of oversized compensation. The central idea is that while a CEO is important to an organisation, his or her contribution is nowhere as important to justify exhorbitant salaries.
The God Delusion, if you are religious, is best left apart. Since, I am not I enjoyed the book despite its zealous tone. The arguments in the book are not made as convincingly as they could. The book strengthened my view that religion and nationhood (or ethnicity) induce strong emotions because they are based on exclusivity and excluding “others”. Religion and nation belong up there with race and to a lesser extent sport.
Another book that I finished just yesterday is When Genius Failed, based on the LTCM bailout of 1998. There are uncanny parallels between then and the current credit crunch. Fuelled by easy credit, frothy markets, followed by a bursting bubble, disappearing liquidity, ever widening credit spreads, risk aversion and irrational prices.
That’s it for the year folks. Have a Happy New Year!
The past few weeks have been really stressful. So, I decided to take a long weekend off around end of October – to get out of town and get some peace and quiet. I have been in England for almost three years now, but I have rarely ventured outside London – Cambridge, Margate, Salisbury that’s about it I guess. So, I decided to hit the countryside and drove down to a village called Biddenden in Kent. Had a nice quiet lunch at the Three Chimneys pub.
And then a quick visit to the Biddenden Vineyard. I am not much of a travel writer.. so
Wrapped up the day with a visit to the Sissinghurst castle, which is oddly expensive for the fact that there is hardly any castle and the grounds are rather smallish too.
English countryside is as pretty as it is famed to be.
Or at least the Economist thinks it is not what it used to be. When I started blogging nearly six years ago, I was just graduating from building static HTML homepages. It was about discovering a new technology and self-expression. So was the case with a lot of other people at that time.
Things change and are doing so faster than ever. Blogging today is a networking / corporate communication tool more than anything else. Internet in the first place is not a great place for self-expression – you can not really control where it all goes. I have had my co-workers discover my horrendous nicknames, while Virgin and BA recently fired their staff for comments on Facebook.
Technology has also evolved as my blogger friends have moved on Twitter and the like. Why am I still around here then? I suppose I write in the hope of starting a conversation, or maybe I am just becoming old-fashioned.
The panic in markets is unbelievable, there was hardly any reaction to coordinated rate cuts, money markets are still jammed and stocks are getting hammered. The crisis has already started weighing on the economy. Is the looming recession going to turn into a decade long depression? Can the emerging world hold out? How much damage to the financial sector before it’s all over?
For the first time since the crisis started, I am scared, very scared.
My life has been consumed by the market turmoil of past couple of weeks. The collapse of Lehman Brothers followed by the nationalisation of AIG brought the financial system to the brink of collapse. On the positive side, there are rich pickings for the brave and those with deep pockets (a la Warren Buffet who bought $5bn worth of Goldman shares for cash, got another $5bn work of in the money options for free, and is rumoured to have been paid $3bn in equity origination fees!). Everyone has theories about what went wrong and how to fix it. In reality, nobody has a clue. At least not Mr. Paulson.
Right or wrong, I have a theory, indeed I need to have an opinion if I am to be taken seriously in my profession. To me this is all about perverse incentives. Price works as a signal only as long as both the parties are working to maximise their utilities arising out of the particular transaction. However, the complicated world of finance has its own ways. It is entirely possible for the people on either side of a transaction to claim that they made a profit. In a world where the traders also have the upper hand in organisational politics, risk management is the first casualty. I am not qualified enough to offer solutions of my own, however, whatever it is – compensation has to be a part of it. Not necessarily a regulatory cap on executive cap, but maybe a system where transfer of stock compensation with change of employment is not allowed. There are a lot of other creative ideas floating around. At least ingenuity and creativity is not in crisis.
23 Aug, 7:50 am BST, aboard Eurostar 9002 to Paris: Paris has been one of my favourite cities since I was there seven years ago. The romantic allusions picked up from literature and film add to the charm. It remains to be seen if the reality check can live up to the romanticism of first visit. The countryside is definitely as fresh as I remembered (and less spoilt than the English countryside).
24 Aug, 07:25pm Local time, Av de Champs Elysees, Paris: Paris is as beautiful as I had remembered. I am not very well travelled, but I am sure even if I were to travel the world Paris would always remain my favourite city. It is definitely a city fraying at the edges, with ghettoised suburban areas. That’s much like any other big western city. London has its east end and New York has Brooklyn. The pace of life is so much more leisurely though, something I realize only I get away from London.
28 Aug, 07:20am, on the way to work Essex Road, London: Don’t think I have the time or the patience to finish this post as a travelogue. So here you go!
Late last evening, I casually asked a friend – so where do you think will the Indian stock markets open tomorrow. The question has occupied my mind as I have been looking for a good low entry point. His answer was revealing – where is the S&P trading now? There was a time when you invested in emerging markets to diversify, then it became a growth story and today EM is part of any decent investment strategy. As a side effect the diversification argument got lost, markets across the globe are much more correlated these days. The globalization of financial markets means that they all take their hints from the biggest market and investor base – the US. Is finance then a victim of its own success (and excess, more on that later)? Diversification is one of those things that work well at individual level but become self-defeating at a macro level. No wonder then that chartists and trend spotters have a place in modern finance.