Don't Blame the Geeks, Management Deserves the Heat for Failure to Identify, says WSJ

The WSJ had an article about the failure of Wall St's Credit risks, and the blame does not fall on the geeks, but management. I liked the article because you can apply most of what is said to the issues of energy efficiency in the data center. Don't blame your energy geeks, its management that causes the energy inefficiency behavior.

The stereotype of a bank risk manager is a geek scrawling Greek letters on a whiteboard. But mathematical errors by the pocket-protector crowd aren't to blame for Wall Street's woes. Regulators from five countries just published a report analyzing 11 banks' risk management practices. From their conclusions, it appears the losses were due to amateurish management blunders.


First, the big losers didn't have effective firm-wide systems for collecting data on, and evaluating, their risks. They allowed business heads too much leeway in setting and enforcing risk limits, and didn't work to break down bureaucratic barriers that kept bad news from flowing upwards. The result was a profusion of disparate businesses indulging their own short-term appetites for profits, largely immune from having their performance evaluated on a risk-adjusted basis.

Those that dodged bullets were constantly updating and tweaking their models and used them to supplement, rather than replace, their market judgment.

It might have been more comforting if the regulators had been able to blame the mess on some poor quant's slide-rule mishap. Such a mistake could be easily corrected. The periodic recurrence of banker stupidity is a less tractable problem.

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