FCIB Prague: 'Welcome to the World of Chaos'

Those hoping for short-term optimism, especially on most member nations of the European Union, at the start of the content portion of FCIB's Annual International Credit & Risk Management Summit in Prague Monday got a bit of reality check from the Belgian-based economist serving as keynote speaker. However, he did note that the idea that there will be bumps, if not occasional “chaos,” doesn't mean things will always be bad between now and the increasingly far-off recovery.

Freddy Van den Spiegel, of BNP Paribas Fortis, said the global economy has largely experienced its chaos moment in the last several years since various bubbles burst in key nations like the United States and some in Europe. That said: credit professionals should not consider that moment to be something of the past.

“The chaos moment is still continuing; this is the world in which we are,” said Van den Spiegel. “But there is a natural chaotic nature of any system or human behavior. And you can't just hide until the storm is over.” As such, strong risk management practices are going to continue to grow in importance in credit departments, but they will also grow in difficulty.

Meanwhile, perhaps the biggest event that needs to happen, in Van den Spiegel's view, is the European Union finally moving towards a more united bloc on issues of banking and politics. That includes having a true “president” type figure as well as a European Central Bank that exists more like the Federal Reserve of the U.S. in scope. But politics may keep that on hold because of the the election in Germany, by far the strongest EU member, coming up in September.

Van den Spiegel noted that it was unlikely anything would happen before then because the current leadership backing plans to ease back on austerity elsewhere and essentially fund bailouts in places that have not been as fiscally responsible could raise the ire of German voters. But, he believes, the Merkel government will come around, assuming the incumbents remain in power.

“There are really no other solutions,” he said. “The hurdle is that austerity on countries that failed limits their ability to grow. If they cannot grow, they cannot recover. You need balance right now.”

-Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM staff writer

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