One of the personal consequences of the implosion of Northern Rock has been that a couple of pensioners have asked me to look over their savings and other financial arrangements
And even though they smell vaguely of cat food and repeatedly call me by my brother's name they are not yet that far gone to believe a word of what the government, the television or the banking industry is telling them
Apparently, Northern Rock is 'on the mend'...
...which seems to be the new way of saying 'irredeemably fucked'
Personal experience gained from shuffling a few old ladies' savings around this last week, combined with some anecdotal evidence and my patented spooky psychic powers, tells me that, unsurprisingly, there have been some rather chunky, and largely unreported, flows of cash out of and into certain retail savings institutions
My spooky psychic powers are telling me that it's been a splendid week for the likes of building societies such as Nationwide, Britannia and Chelsea (try calling their new account opening phone numbers for a giggle)...
...not such a good week for the likes of banks such as Bradford & Bingley, Alliance & Leicester, HBOS (Halifax) or Barclays (Woolwich), any of which could easily be a lot sicker than we are being led to believe
and no prizes for spotting that my ESP is telling me that it is building societies which are feasting off the wounded flesh of banks which were once themselves building societies
Building societies were never exactly the most brilliantly managed institutions. They do however have several things going for them - especially the fact that building societies don't issue shares and are therefore immune to the kind of exciting stock market shenanigans which result in the bouncy, bouncy price variations that speculators find so rewarding
Maybe I missed it but the acres of media commentary and analysis generated as a result of (ex-building society) Northern Rock's demise somehow failed to touch upon all sorts of pertinent and potentially enlightening lines of thought:
- the near death of building societies ten years ago, when large numbers of 'carpetbaggers' colluded with the banking industry in return for a few hundred poxy quid in windfall shares
- the negative influence of the stock market on directors, under constant pressure and temptation to increase share prices through adoption of half-arsed, short-sighted business strategies; including ill-advised cost cutting, creative accounting and adoption of insanely risky business models
- the role of powerful speculators armed with resources capable of distorting shares prices and rigging markets
- the presence of quite a few people in the queues who appear to have 'saved' an awful lot of cash, or maybe they had piled up their loot off the back of the same lunatic housing bubble that looked liked it was going pop any minute, taking their unearned nest eggs with it - a few vaguely guilty consciences and a subconscious fear of an impending dose of cosmic yin and yang perhaps?
- the Governor of the Bank of England telling the Treasury Select Committee when he appeared before it last week that, yes, the people pulling their money out of Northern Rock were behaving rationally. Their savings were not safe and would have either been lost or frozen for months if the Bank of England and the Government had not eventually intervened with an explicit guarantee
All things considered it was much easier to blame a few thousand 'irrational', poorly informed grannies for the fuck up