Why are banks going down under so quickly? Greed, in the form of high salaries and high bonuses. Paying the top management a ransom is easy, but finding the money to pay is not. The money must come from somewhere. What business in banking can generate that kind of income to sustain the big pay checks and the big bonuses? Gambling and high risk pursuits, trading and selling dangerous products, encouraging clients to gamble and take risk.
The banks have no choice. Every monkey wants to be paid in golden peanuts. The good old days of slow and steady growth, with decent pay cheques are seen as backward and unprogressive, unproductive. The banks are only doing well if they can perform better than the market. That means if one bank or more banks are doing better or betterer, the market indicators will go up. And banks that failed to keep up are seen as failures. Even insurance and pension funds are in high risk financial instruments.
So, if the shareholders want good results, they need to pay golden monkeys to produce the gold. Really? In most cases the shareholders, mostly minorities, did not have any say. It is left to the top management and their self serving logic, circular logic, which all ended up in paying themselves crazy, at the expense of the small shareholders.
In a way, our little island is also caught in the same mousetrap. The high salaries are unsustainable. The money must come from somewhere, not just a few plates of char kway teow. It is more serious than that. The whole machinery needs to be lubricated with expensive oils. That is why high economic growth numbers are indispensable. That is why high population growth is indispensable. Who really benefitted from this high growth formula?
The little guys are constantly trying to make ends meet, told to tighten belts, while the big guys are crying salary not enough. The $200 pay increase will quickly evaporate by the rising cost of everything. The big guys know, and that is why they are asking for more millions. There is no real absolute gain or improvement for the lower income group. Only the small elite group and the super rich are seeing real growth in income and quality of life with million dollar bonuses and tens of thousands in increments. The cost of living cannot touch them. Their real income accelerates at rocket speed against inflation. Inflation only eats up the income of the average and lower wage earners.
High salaries are not sustainable and will add to a lot of costs to the system, including social and the intangibles. I know that some will disagree and will vouch that high salaries should be the way to go, like we have plenty of land to build more houses and facilities for an unending influx of foreigners, 10m, 20m, no problem at all. The secrets to our success are high salaries and high population growth.
No one will look further down the road to see the disasters that can be wrecked by these two gambits.