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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Are We Ready for the Next Financial Crisis?

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The global financial system is not prepared to deal with the next systemic financial crisis.

That’s one of the key conclusions of a report, Managing the Next Financial Crisis, produced by the Group of 30, an independent, nonprofit international body with representatives from government, business and academia.

The report, developed by a committee that includes former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Guillermo Ortiz, former governor of Mexico’s central bank; Alex Weber, former president of Deutsche Bundesbank; and former Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen, delivers a mixed assessment of readiness.

The global financial system is now better prepared than before the last crisis to address failures of individual institutions and modest shocks to the system, as a result of reforms in government regulations and bank practices,  but it has less flexibility to address a systemic crisis, according to the report.

“Emergency powers have been weakened” through legislation and “an erosion of political capital” to use those powers, the report notes, citing among other developments Dodd-Frank, which limits such interventions Federal Reserve’s credit facility for AIG used in the last crisis, as well as other legislative and regulatory changes in the U.S. and abroad.

In addition, just like before the last crisis, the U.S. lacks standing facilities to provide emergency liquidity to nonbank institutions, and the global financial system has no formal structure for an international lender of last resort, leaving the Fed the most likely candidate.

“Many parts of the shadow banking system remain vulnerable, including components that caused major problems during the [global financial crisis] such as securitization, bilateral repo and commercial paper,” the report notes.

But it concludes that “it is not enough to fight the last crisis,” and notes that the “vast majority of experts” consulted for the report believe “that the next financial crisis will likely come from a new vector, and that the regulatory structure is not prepared for many of the most likely possibilities,” including cyber risks. A cyberattack could be especially devastating because it could destroy or severely damage the tools needed to stop runs and stabilize the financial system.

“The regulatory structure does not place enough emphasis  on preparing for emergent risks of new types, even though we can never be sure what they will be,” says the report.

It recommends “exploring and preparing for various possible scenarios” to increase the resiliency of the global financial system and to guard against complacency. “Even if we cannot precisely predict it, this type of scenario planning can identify weaknesses that, if fixed, will serve us well.”

The time to act is now, “to have the discussion in peacetime on how we will need to act in war,” said Andrew Metrick, the Janet L. Yellen professor of finance and management at Yale School of Management, in a media webcast Wednesday about the report. “Having the discussion leaves us better prepared if things get very bad again.”

“There’s no way an economy can survive the collapse of the financial system,” said Geithner.

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