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November 11, 2015

We were wrong about universal banking

“Hardly a week goes by without headlines blaring another restructuring by a big European bank, or the replacement of its management. Deutsche Bank and Barclays are the latest to announce big changes. They follow UBS, Standard Chartered, Royal Bank of Scotland, Credit Suisse and more.

“The cause of all this turmoil is the banks’ quest for a formula that will enable them to return to the pre-2008 financial crisis glory days of global reach and big profits. But there is no such formula. The destination will prove unreachable and the quest unfulfilled.

“The main reason for this is not that economic growth remains subpar, or that regulation has become more onerous (important though these factors may be). Rather, the trouble stems from a perilous cultural balancing act at the core of European banking: how to manage and profit from their high-risk, high-cost investment banking and trading businesses. In short, the universal banking model is what is really at stake in the search for the right mix of management and operations at banks in Europe and, indeed, in the US.”

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Read the full Financial Times op-ed by John Reed here.

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