Fare Thee Well Bank of Scotland!

September 19, 2008

The Bank of the Scotland is the latest victim to fall prey to the global credit crunch

avatarIt’s the credit crunch that just keeps on crunching. Latest victim – the Bank of Scotland, established in 1695, and the institution that invented banking as we know it in a Western sense.

Got an overdraft? You can thank the Bank of Scotland for that innovation and plenty more. The bank, known as HBOS after its merger with English bank Halifax, is the biggest home lender in the UK. And now, merged with Lloyds TSB, it will become even bigger.

But at what cost, and why? The cost to Scotland at this stage is unknown, though it’s inconceivable that no jobs will be lost. Some say with a Scottish Prime Minister and a Scottish Chancellor, pressure will be brought to bear on Lloyds to ensure there are not major cuts north of the Border.

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The Secret of Switzerland’s Success

July 26, 2008

Bern, Switzerland's capital

Bern, the Swiss capital, being sheltered by the Alps in the background

Quick question: What are the first three things you think of when you hear the word “Switzerland”? The most common answers tend to be The Alps, chocolate, and banking (with watches coming a close fourth).

Having lived in Switzerland for a year, I was shocked to see how rural much of the country is and by “rural” I mean rustic. I was always under the impression that Switzerland has wealthy for most of its several centuries existence but was shocked to learn that it was quite poor until this past century.

Being a strong admirer of Switzerland’s highly autonomous and decentralized political system that quite often relies on localized direct democracy, I learned that their system had much to do with their economic success. A highly skilled workforce combined with high exports, a stable currency and most of all, a stable financial/political regime has allowed Switzerland to prosper and become the envy of the world.

Could it all be thanks to the Gnomes of Zurich? John Fund explains the success story that is this alpine country in: Cuckoo for Switzerland.   Read the rest of this entry »