Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reflecting on the financial crisis

I just submitted my conference presentation for NOC 2008, so I thought I take a moment to reflect on some remarkable issues in the financial crisis. Although I don't experience any personal damage yet, it all looks quite distressing if you would only look and listen to all the news flashes. Nowadays, it should be quite easy to select a number of RSS feeds in order to get you into a deep mental depression. For someone who is really working in the financial business, I can imagine that it must be quite depressing to see how things drop down for days in a row. The thing that happen seem to go beyond their span of control. On the other hand, I sometimes get the impression that the 'panic of the crowds' is the only leading driver for everything that is going on. I wonder if there is really any reflection, or is it just blindly following the crowds in a sort of belief that this will get you into a save place where you can wait until the crisis is over. Another factor I noticed is the role of the media. Listening to radio interviews I sometimes get the impression that it is not interesting enough to make a report on companies that are doing relatively well. The tone of voice also contributes to how news items are perceived by the public. For example, the 6% decrease of the Nikei index on Oct. 28 was considered "dramatic" and "historical". One day later, the 6.4 % increase was mentioned only a "light recovery". If I would only have read the header, I would think about an increase of 1 or 2% maybe, but not 6.4! This is not helpful to create a more positive context in which structural recovery of the damage can be established. It's not a coincidence that the possibilities for short selling have been restricted.

The financial crisis has already infected some real 'economies', such as the automotive and hospitality industries. A rather unexpected thing is that - so far, so good - the ICT business is not mentioned very much (read a Dutch review on this by Irma Borst). In the 2001 crisis we got the full blow. But what about this time? Will we remain in the periphery of this financial hurricane? Cutting costs on training and education is one of the things that are always a risk, unless there is a clear business case that supports the idea that the benefit will be larger than the costs. Especially for the e-Learning business the definition of clear business cases may become essential drivers for investments in the near future.

No comments: