Serving stakeholders

Banks occupy a central position in society and the economy. People have passionate opinions about them – some arguably misguided, some appropriately challenging. I hope to do three things here that might enhance public debate. Serving Stakeholders from Harrison Young First, I want to offer a conceptual model and some vocabulary – tools I find useful[…]

The Daughters of Henry Wong

Money, power, passion and betrayal.  Fresh from Harvard, Jonathan “Wendy” Lee had the good fortune of meeting and marrying Amanda Wong, daughter of the rich and powerful Henry Wong, the most influential banker in Hong Kong. Known as an eccentric figure within the affluent clubs of Hong Kong’s high society, Wendy spends idle days impeccably[…]

How banks work

My great grandfather was a banker in Brookings, South Dakota – a town built around a rail junction deep in farm country. His name was “John David Wilson.” Everyone called him “J.D.” He was a resourceful, hard-working teetotaler, married to a woman just as smart as he was. They bought a house with extra bedrooms and took in railway[…]

Wall Street? Or a public interest summer job?

I went to my fiftieth reunion at Harvard last week — the undergrad “college,” not the business school.   There were 1200 men in the Class of 1966, and 400 women at Radcliffe, the single-sex college a few blocks away.  The institutions are now fully merged. About 450 alumni/ae and 250 partners came the reunion,[…]

What is a healthy bank culture?

When people express concern about bank culture, there are three things they could be referring to.  The first is risk culture, which has to do with professional skill and discipline.  How does a bank stay safe and sound?  The second has to do with the need to be trusted, and the moral obligations banks take[…]

On Risk Culture: Making Friends with 220 dot 13b

This piece also appeared in the Australian Financial Review. I was in a crowded restaurant the other day, discussing CPS 220 with a friend.  The woman at the next table decided to join our conversation.  “I don’t know about you,” she said, “but I love the new robot.  He’s small and determined, but more expressive[…]

Old fashioned virtue (& other people’s money)

John Kay has been in Australia for the last few days, promoting his new book, Other People’s Money – Masters of the Universe or Servants of the People?  Thanks to the Grattan Institute, he and I were interviewed in front of a couple of hundred people on Monday and had dinner afterwards. John is an[…]

Nantucket – Downtown Abbey meets Wall Street?

The wonderful Maxine McKew launched my latest novel Nantucket at Melbourne’s Hill of Content bookshop. As witty and incisive as ever, I’ve decided the book is “whatever she says” it is. She’s graciously agreed that I can republish her speech here. Downtown Abbey meets Wolf of Wall Street Good evening everyone and welcome to the world of[…]

Nantucket

My new novel Nantucket has just been launched. Described as ‘the Big Chill meets Wall Street’ it’s about a tightly wrapped investment banker who invites two billionaires — one an American engineer, the other an Indian prince — and their glamorous wives to his beach house for the weekend. His career depends on a deal that[…]

The emerging art of board composition

When a board turns its attention to the judgments that cannot be delegated, the meeting can resemble a good dinner party – with a group of men and women who respect each other but have different thinking styles and backgrounds engaged in spirited conversation.    Board composition used to be secret chairman’s business.  It was[…]

Why it’s critical to care about board culture

A lot of what we believe about management comes from the military. Organization charts display hierarchy. Boards have authority and ultimate responsibility but they cannot accomplish their mission by issuing orders. In creating boards, and judging boards, we are interested in soft issues as well as hard. We care about culture. I want to share[…]

Conversation as risk management

To plunge right in, do you know that curve with a long tail on one side that plots size of loss on the x-axis and frequency on the y- axis? I want to divide it into three parts. There’s the big pile of business-as-usual outcomes on the left of the graph. There’s the long skinny[…]

Sex: a serious subject that calls for a light touch

Talking about sex makes many people nervous. There must be some evolutionary reason for this. Writing about sex means walking in a mine-field of self-disclosure. Achieving the right tone is important. It’s a serious subject that calls for a light touch. These are my views from the Melbourne Writer’s Festival 2015. I spent twenty years[…]

Your job, my job, our job – the balance between Boards and management in governance

One of the principles of traditional governance is that a board oversees rather than manages. Both activities involve inspecting. While it is normally the boss who inspects, it is worth noting that both parties have the same objective: getting it right. Inspector and inspected are on the same team. As such boards participate in decision-making because as[…]

Governance – taming the beast

If you take an interest in the conduct and regulation of banks, you encounter the word, “governance,” almost immediately. The Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (“APRA”) has a standard with that title.1 The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (“BCBS”) has issued a series of documents on “corporate governance for banks.” The newest version (the “2014 Guidelines”)2[…]

Why bankers should read poetry

In December of 2011, Monash University unaccountably gave me an honorary degree.  Having failed to get into law school in my twenties, in my sixties I became a doctor of laws.  In exchange, I was asked to give a graduation address — in this case to approximately 350 Asian recipients of finance and economics degrees.[…]

Lessons from a career in banking

When I got an appointment as an executive-in-residence and fellow at the University of Melbourne, I consulted an old friend who’s had an academic career. I wanted to know what to expect? “They’ll probably ask you to give a little talk about your work,” he told me. He meant my research focus. I interpreted “my[…]

On Being Surprised

I recently talked about my process for creating characters and getting words down on the page in the right style and order at the Sydney Writers Festival. While it’s important for any form of fiction, if you want to write erotic fiction, and I recommend it if you wake in the night worrying about stuff, the trick is[…]

Thinking about banking

Some years ago, I was introduced to a well-known writer at a party in Melbourne. “Harrison’s a banker,” my host said helpfully. “Gee,” responded the writer without missing a beat, “I’ve never met anyone in organized crime before.” I spent half a second searching for a clever response. But the Global Financial Crisis was raging,[…]

Why bankers should write novels

Writing novels will teach you that there has to be a story. We humans are programmed to want one. It is how we organise reality. If you make your living lending money or trading bonds or writing insurance you care about remote but plausible contingencies. To a novelist, remote but plausible contingencies are plots. This[…]

Partners: love is a law unto itself

“The firm had a gym, and one day Alice, who they’d made a partner because there was no way not to, came in and took her clothes off.” And that wasn’t all. Ten highly intelligent, erotically charged linked short stories set in a top New York law firm, Partners explores the intrigue, sexual politics, romance[…]