The world is starting to resemble a spinning top: one week the markets soar, the next they sink. Even mighty masters of the universe are confused: hedge funds and banks had a dire month in March. And could there be a mightier master than Hank Paulson, the present US Treasury secretary and former Goldman Sachs chief executive?
Cast your mind back to the balmy days of the summer of 2006 when his appointment was announced and he strode off the small but highly lucrative Goldman Sachs stage to play in the global theatre of international finance.
At the time, I cautioned that tree-hugging Hank might find his new job challenging. How little I knew. In fact, I can envisage only one job worse than being US Treasury secretary in this period – and that is being chief executive of an investment bank.
"At the time, I cautioned that tree-hugging Hank might find his new job challenging. How little I knew"
As a banking chief, you now have to fire lots of people who will hate you for life; shareholders hate you because you keep on announcing write-downs on instruments they don’t understand (and certainly don’t understand why you owned them in the first place); and, in the end, you probably have to resign and your family will hate you because you skulk around the house all day moaning about your misfortune to have been a chief executive during the worst banking crisis since the Great Depression.