In 2008, I had the privilege of giving SME’s keynote address. At that time the financial markets were on the verge of collapse and my presentation described the issues. Unfortunately I was correct, and global markets went into a steep nosedive, creating the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
In hindsight, there were plenty of signs that this was coming. The Supercycle had created massive new wealth. This wealth was largely invested in the United States due to the country’s political stability and credit worthiness. In 2004, the large investment banks convinced the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to allow them to triple their borrowing leverage ratios. This made the banks more vulnerable to market volatility. The banks then lent money to NINJAS - people with no income, no job and no assets. Even worse was the fact that these unqualified home owners used adjusted-rate mortgages (ARMs) which they, of course, intended to refinance prior to interest rates rising. These mortgages were then bundled up by the banks and sold to investors as “safe” investment products. The money flowed into these products because the rating agencies gave these instruments high marks. These same agencies earned their fees from the very same banks seeking high ratings. (No conflict there…). Private debt exploded and peaked out in 2008.