HSBC Group Chair Stephen Green recently sat down with German magazine Der Spiegel and talked about the future of the world’s economy, the moral responsibility of bankers, and his Christain faith (he’s an Anglican minister).
It’s one of the more honest accounts we’ve read of the crisis from the perspective of a banking chief.
Among other things, he calls the period leading up to the crash — characterised by huge profits through the sale of overly complex instruments — ‘disgraceful’.
SPIEGEL: Is the crisis already over?
Green: In the financial sector the worst is behind us. But the real economy will feel the effects for a long time to come.
SPIEGEL: In other words, people and governments are now paying the price for the damage the bankers have done.
Green: And they will be paying off these mountains of debt for a few years to come. Unemployment will continue to rise in many countries.
SPIEGEL: Many countries are deeply in debt. Even Dubai can hardly pay its bills anymore. How bad is this situation for the HSBC and other banks?
Green: We have been in Dubai since 1946. In fact, we were the first bank to do business there. The country will retain its status as a regional financial centre. Dubai is not Lehman (Brothers, the financial services firm that filed for the largest bankruptcy in US history in September 2008, sparking a financial crisis). The country has far too many assets in the form of natural resources. It has accumulated a lot of debt but it is manageable.
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