Tuesday, September 04, 2007

eWeek: Financial Fact and Friction

Financial Fact and Friction -- In line with the recent furor over slipshod mortgage-lending practices and the careless administration of what is for most people their largest single financial asset, their personal residence, here is a reminder from Eric Lundquist over at eWeek that nobody is held to a fiduciary standard in the confiscatory lending business, and nobody really knows where the money goes. If you weren't aware already, this will be an eye-opener, and from a technical as opposed to a financial perspective. Here's a sampling from Opinion: Skip the frictionless-economy ideas and stick with the customer:

Financial organizations have always been big computer purchasers. They are usually among the first to install the latest supercomputers and big storage servers to process and track the millions and millions of shares traded each day. In the last couple of years, computing attention has turned to "quants": quantitative analysts who contend they can model the entire financial market and would love to talk to you for hours about stochastic calculus.

Yet, despite all those quants and all that computing horsepower on Wall Street and elsewhere in the financial world, it is increasingly evident that no one really knows where the money goes, how it moves and how much the leveraged buyout firms really have in their wallets at the end of the day. Why is that? Wasn't all this computing purchasing supposed to result in a frictionless economy where the movement of money and other financial instruments slides seamlessly through the world's economy and everyone can sleep well at night knowing how much money is in the bank?

When I add up all those CNN tidbits and wild swings on Wall Street as quant-driven computer trading tries to track the untrackable, I have to conclude that all the computing horsepower has been aimed at making money move faster with little regard for trying to settle accounts at day's end.

A computer is an obedient device that will do exactly what you program. If your goal is to track the flow of money after it gets splintered into the world's financial markets, then that is what the computer will do. If your goal is to accelerate that money movement and not really be concerned about where the funds go after they leave your company, then you will get what we have: a lot of panicked investors and corporate managers unable to say where the money has gone.

Forget about the frictionless economy and let's count on building some friction based on accountability and concern for customers who want to know where the money went.

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