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The High Priests of Finance

Courtesy of The Economist:

Finance even has its own high priests in the form of the analysts and fund managers who promise their clients heavenly rewards if only they listen to their advice. They preach regular sermons in the form of brokers’ notes and quarterly reports, and they house themselves in vast cathedral-like buildings that dominate the skyline. Each day also has its canonical hours as traders pray for profitable opportunities at the European, American and Asian market openings. Finance has its annual calendar, too, marked with festivals known as results seasons in which the lucky participants receive their temporal (rather than spiritual) dividends.

And like any self-respecting religion, finance has its doctrinal schisms as well. Active fund managers are a bit like the medieval Catholic church, offering eternal salvation to those willing to pay the appropriate sum, which are known in modern parlance as performance fees rather than indulgences. The active-investment sect has its elaborate rituals and language, with a liturgy (“information ratios” and “alpha generation”) as baffling to the layman as the Latin mass was to the medieval peasant. Clients are supposed to listen to their presentations in a reverential hush, trusting that all the mumbo-jumbo will deliver superior results. The passive fund managers, or index-trackers, are akin to early Lutherans. Investors have no need for priestly intermediaries between them and the market, say the index-trackers. All they require is the full text of those companies that are included in the benchmark.

Finance also has its equivalent of holy men, the gurus who pronounce on the market outlook. Not for nothing is Warren Buffett known as the “sage of Omaha”. The faithful conduct an annual pilgrimage to Nebraska every year to attend the annual meeting of his company, Berkshire Hathaway. His folksy demeanour would surely make him the ideal neighbourhood priest, bringing comfort through life’s ups and downs.

Nice.

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Posted in Holy Grails
2 comments on “The High Priests of Finance
  1. Rob Blay says:

    “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds” it appears there are many chapters yet to be written!

    Fractional Reserve Banking – the confidence trick of the 20th century, could be one chapter.

  2. DGDye says:

    “Forgive them, for they know not what they do…”

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