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TREASURY

SME banking: Lessons from history

Have banks finally learned not to hold their customers in contempt?

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Although it is still just 10 years ago, the financial crisis often feels like another time. Never more so than when we are afforded a glimpse, Oz-like, behind the velvet curtain of the financial institutions at the centre of the maelstrom.

As financial journalists, we fell upon excruciating email exchanges thrown up by the SEC’s investigations into the CDO market in 2010. A Goldman Sachs employee’s: “Boy, that Timberwolf was one shitty deal!” seemed to strip away all the pretension from the firms we had spent so long hearing tell us about the risk characteristics of certain products. 

Endless correspondence describing deals they were actively selling as “crap” and “vomit” left the securitization emperors with no clothes when testifying in front of endless senate committees. They also gave us juicy fodder for stories covering the CDO market’s implosion.

This was all a long time ago now. It came flooding back to mind, however, when reading the leaked 361-page report written by Promontory Financial Group into RBS’s mistreatment of many small and medium-sized enterprises that had the misfortune to fall into the hands of its Global Restructuring Group (GRG) in the recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis.