It’s A Wonderful Life

I was recently asked to create a crisis management course for a leading international institution in London. In light of recent events within the financial markets I have found it increasingly frustrating that, put quite simply, no one seems to have anticipated such crisis on such a monumental scale. I have heard no evidence of these various banks or financial wizards having ever heard of the word contingency. Perhaps they, unlike most other business sector leaders, could sleep well at night in the knowledge that the US federal reserve or the bank of England would simply bail them out. Well, if that was their only contingency plan, then who could blame them? The question remains: in all of the boardrooms in the entire world who was it that decided that the time was now ripe for losing – spending – borrowing – and wasting billions of taxpayer’s pounds and dollars? It seems to me that they were more concerned with managing the media than with managing the profit and loss account. Surely those responsible for providing annual or quarterly financial results to the various government bodies must have noticed that something wasn’t quite right: and if they did, and were totally honest about it all, then why hasn’t government on both sides of the Atlantic acted sooner to alleviate the problem? Even employees at some of these vast crumbling empires are wondering why they weren’t told sooner of their impending job losses. Of course, the worrying thing for me is the value of my miniscule pension, watching it slowly disappear over the horizon. We all have to deal with our own household finances on a daily basis and there is no question that things are getting tighter. In crisis management terms it’s important to begin with the worst case scenario and work backwards. For example, to prevent losing your home it’s important to maintain mortgage or rent payments and not to ask too much of our disposable income: live within our means. This isn’t rocket science, yet this is precisely what the financial giants haven’t been doing. The solution to this problem is quite fundamental and requires a certain amount of head removal from sand and lifestyle change. During the past thirty years or so credit has been legitimised. So much so that saving for something, say a new fridge, and paying for it in cash has become almost quaint: unacceptable. Yet maybe this is the answer: perhaps this is the lesson we all have to learn from days long since gone. You can only spend a pound one way, live within your means and cut up the credit cards. There, a crisis well managed. Mind you, if we all did that just think how many more banks might go bust, but at least we would be back in control.

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