Wealth Management

Voted #6 on Top 100 Family Business influencer on Wealth, Legacy, Finance and Investments: Jacoline Loewen LinkedIn Profile

November 30, 2009

Would you pony up cash for a ski resort in a desert?

What does the billions of dollars bust of Dubai mean for North Americans? First of all, it is a reminder that our global economy is still fragile and interlinked. Secondly, it is the British banks who were one of the main lenders to the troubled, slowly deflating, glittering and formerly fabulous Dubai. So North America will be relatively unscathed.

Finally, for North American business, a strong message is to get back to basics where you know your clients.

The important question to ask is who is the customer? British banks made assumptions that the Dubai sheiks had oil, that the price of oil would continue to climb and so sure, they would be good to pay back the loans. These bankers did not do sufficient risk analysis.

The other critical question to ask is use of proceeds. Did these bankers ask, “What are you going to use the loan for?”

"Hmmm...let me see, you are going to build a ski resort in the middle of the dessert? How good will the pay back be for that expensive project?”

A little bit of market research would have helped. If a ski resort in a hot place was such a good idea, I’m sure Vegas would have done it already.

I also recommend the last question to ask is if you, the loans executive, personally, would make the loan. This is not in the manual. However, by briefly contemplating whether you would give your own money to the project idea does push your thinking to a more sensible place. This artificial question perhaps, but briefly gives an alignment of interests. Perhaps if the loans executives were asked to assign some of their bonus to the loan repayment, it might have saved the British tax payer (who are now the proud owners of said banks) yet more pain.

For North Americans, check your executive compensation packages. Study how these British bankers were being paid for the amount of loans they made. Were they made into mercenaries, more interested in getting paid a bonus than watching for clear signals the loan might not get repaid?

Now the British tax payer is backstopping these defaults, but they do not have a ski resort in the middle of the desert as compensation.

Dubai should not affect Canada too much. Canadian bank stocks have gone up and we have a commodity backed currency.

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