Saturday, October 11, 2008

BPN 1247 Oh no not again such a banking week

It has been a strange week with all those financial fluctuations: the stocks going down, banks being unable to provide their customers with their savings and banks being nationalised. None of it I had seen on this scale, certainly not in The Netherlands.

In The Netherlands we believe that we have a reliable banking system. Of course there have been some calamities, but in general you get what you ask for. But in the past weeks some strange things happened. The government nationalised the Dutch part of the Fortis Bank, from origin a Belgian bank. Fortis, or better Fortwas, had formed a consortium with the British Royal Bank of Scotland and the Spanish Bank Santander in order to buy the Dutch bank ABN-Amro, the national banking pride (not to me as I found The Bank too arrogant).

The problems developed over a period of a short time and of course the communication with the customers and the market was piecemeal. This yielded more than one forum on internet. There was even a forum pro Fortis and critical more negative forums and columns. After the acquisition of the Dutch parts of Fortis and The Bank ABN-Amro the sentiment has died down and shareholders arm themselves for court cases against Fortis or what is left of it

And just when everyone thought that the financial crisis would die down and the stocks would go up, another disaster announced itself in The Netherlands: the Icesave disaster. Icesave was the international internet bank of the Iceland bank Landsbanki. Subsidiaries in Great Britain and The Netherlands had been set up to pick up savings against a very high rate of 5,5 percent, the highest in the Dutch market and I believe, 5,6 percent in the UK market. In the Netherlands Icesave attracted 120.000 clients who put in 1,6 billion euro. However the bank got in liquidity problems and people smelled it. In droves they came to rescue up their savings. But of course there were also people who believed that this would not go wrong. Besides the Iceland government guaranteed the first 20.000 euro and the Dutch bank was the guarantor of the rest, first up for the next 20.000 euro and since this week for the next 80.000 euro. It soon became clear that Iceland could not guarantee anything. With 300.000 inhabitants, the national ministry did not have that much cash. So it nationalised all the banks. Did Fortis communicate piecemeal, Landesbanki did not communicate at all, except for a note on its internet site of Icesave, the transparent bank (!).

Again here the same effect as with Fortis, forums popped up all over internet. The most popular became Icelost. But a real fast action came from Business News Radio. This station is part of a cross media company with an internet site, the financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad and conferences. It is a very eager station, which smartly uses all the cross media facilities. So when Icesave stopped operations and was unable to provide money to its customers, the station started a crowdsourcing action. Under the motto Crises, the radio journalists called up the victims to mail their stories to the radio station. The station was flooded. Within an hour the journalist had a full inventory of all the questions of their listeners and the sad stories. They had enough content for the rest of the day. Stories were cited and analysed and victims interviewed. It was a smart move to combine two fast media: e-mail and radio.

Blog Posting Number: 1246


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