Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is it all about trust or about honor?

The financial crisis is causing people to reflect on trust, but I think the core issue is honor. Honor has to be in place before trust can be established, otherwise the trust is simply empty and truly meaningless. For quite some time I have thought of Wall Street (and even most banks) as "Thieves Without Honor." Without a core of intense honor, any firm is just one giant Ponzi scheme, one ethical error away from disaster. Wall Street wants to take a CDO approach to "managing" trust -- with bad assumptions about the maximum default rate on their synthesized approach to "honor". We need a return to hard-core, true honor not the synthetic, artificial contrived appearances that Wall Street and banks in general have made their stock in trade.

In the old days, lots of marble, polished brass, fine-tailored suits, and an impressive-looking vault were all we needed to "trust" a bank. No more. Sadly, Wall Street and most banks still believe in a lot of that crap, albeit with a "fresh modern" veneer of a lot of slimy marketing as icing on their cake, but all of that needs to go.

The really tough thing is that trust is based on appearances for so many people. How do we go about emphasizing, measuring, auditing, and rewarding honor as "Job #1"?

-- Jack Krupansky


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