OPINION: Collateral Damage

Terry Flanagan

Late last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that JPMorgan Chase was cutting “hundreds” of technical-support jobs.

It was hardly a singular move. Rather, it was more of the same depressing drumbeat: going on five years after the global financial crisis, seemingly every Wall Street bank continues to prune jobs. If it’s not JPMorgan, it’s Goldman Sachs; if it’s not Goldman, it’s RBS; if it’s not RBS, it’s Deutsche Bank. Etcetera etcetera.

And these recent news accounts may prove to be small potatoes, if some predictions for a more substantial September bloodletting prove true

And aside from the big banks whose names headlines, there are scores of financial-services businesses that feel the pinch from a weakened Wall Street — technology providers and financial publishers (of which Markets Media is one), plus bars, restaurants, retail, and real estate, just to name a few.

The reason behind the shrinkage of Wall Street and the business sectors that depend on it is elementary: too many people, too little business.

But why is there too little activity? Here’s where it’s less clear. To be sure, some/most of the slowdown is due to the underlying economic and broad-market malaise. But there’s another contributing factor: the ongoing regulatory wave, whose primary punch on both sides of the Atlantic involves tough new rules on risk and capital requirements.

Nobody can rightfully say regulators aren’t well-intentioned in working to create more fair, stable, and transparent markets. But are they cognizant of the collateral damage that the new rules are causing? Are they using a sledgehammer for a task a regular hammer could accomplish?

A few weeks ago, I got a haircut at an old-school barbershop in the shadow of the New York Stock Exchange. The barber on duty — an interesting character whose ‘Tony Mambo’ nickname derived from his decades-ago dancing days — said his business got bad once “machines took over Wall Street.”

He’s right about trade automation, but I suspect he’d also have a few more backsides in his chair if Dodd-Frank were a bit less burdensome.

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