It's been a while!
A combination of respect (see January Blog), plus a work and travel schedule that has actually even had me open-mouthed at times - I'm supposed to be retired for heaven's sake - has left my Blog untouched for a while. Meanwhile, there seems to have been a lot happening out there on which I would usually have voiced an opinion, welcome or not.
HSBC, for example, which I usually studiously avoid commenting on for pretty obvious reasons, has been in the news rather a lot recently. Their travails are well documented and commented upon, with anything I said on the subject and particularly in their defence, being swiftly kicked into the "well he would say that wouldn't he" bucket.
However, one issue that is now going to give the media an ongoing story is the whole question of the Bank's future domicile, and I just wish they would all shut up and let the Bank get on with it.
You would think that the announcement of the Bank carrying out, at the request of shareholders, a review of where the organisation should be headquartered, was actually tantamount to a decision. It's not. And now, whatever the Bank decides will automatically create negative headlines which you can see already. If the Bank decides to stay in London - then the headlines will talk about "scaremongering", "political agendas", and "bluster" - and if it decides to leave for elsewhere the headlines, in the UK at least ,will be "Good riddance - we didn't want them here anyway", "Running from the Regulator", "Into the hands of China". In other words HSBC is damned if they do, and damned if they don't! It's just as well they've got thick skins in the Bank.
There are also some realities here that get conveniently overlooked. In particular if it had not been for the acquisition of Midland Bank in the early 1990s, HSBC would still be headquartered in Hong Kong where until the move to UK it existed happily for 128 years. It has only been in the UK for 22 years, but is "when convenient" a British bank. But in the last couple of decades the economic landscape has changed particularly in Europe, and globally it will continue to change. I am also not convinced that HSBC was ever totally comfortable in the UK environment. But of all the telling realities was the reaction of the stock market to HSBC's share price when it announced the domicile study. Clearly there are many who feel that study should proceed forthwith.
But a move elsewhere is not going to be simple either. I know that everyone seems to have pre-determined that Hong Kong is the most likely destination for a move, and for a whole variety of reasons not least emotional ones that's probably right but it's an expensive place to do business and will not be the only contender. There are significant costs involved in a move of this magnitude, and property in Hong Kong for example is not cheap, but there are also considerations surrounding available expertise, including being comfortable with the regulator, so this is by no means a done deal.
Continuous commentary by the media, including the usual guesswork and emotion is not, I am sure, going to influence the careful study and the eventual announcement as to the outcome of those deliberations. But HSBC needs to understand, as I am sure it does, that whatever the final decision it is not going to be treated fairly. That said, and in defence of some media (not a usual position I take), there have been one or two thoughtfully objective pieces in the last day or two on the subject.
Amongst other topics that have been occupying my thoughts of late but so far uncommented upon include oil prices, the Arabian Peninsula and what happens next, a family wedding, and a fascinating couple of weeks in Myanmar. I have also become particularly interested in the future of banking generally, although more so at the retail customer end of the business. Disruption is the current name of the game - including service delivery and payment ability to a new technologically driven customer base, and of course the rise in things like lending clubs particularly for SMEs. Game changers - or not really? Does the High Street really need to worry? Well, I think the answer is yes, and I also think the regulators need to get in on the act one way or another.
Some thoughts on these issues perhaps in the coming weeks as I return to whatever passes for normal these days.