The changing face of markets

The changing face of markets, Essential Finance is one of a series of Economist books that brings clarity to complicated areas of business, finance and management. It is a guide to the increasingly complex world of money, financial markets and the things that revolve around them.

It owes much to the entertaining and often irreverent guides to banks, bankers and international finance written over the years by Tim Hindle, a former finance editor and currently business features editor of The Economist

An introductory essay examines the changing face of markets: how stocks and bonds have become more important as sources of finance for companies, how financial institutions have expanded not just in size but also across borders and in the kinds of business they do

If Rip Van Winkle had gone to sleep in the early 1970s and woken up 30 years later, he would recognise little of today’s financial landscape.

True, there are companies with shareholders, and banks and stock exchanges; and there are still plenty of lawyers and bankers who help to transfer money from one pocket to another so that companies can raise the finance they need and business may be done.

It is true that banks have successfully shifted a large proportion of their risk on to others, and this has helped them to withstand a welter of shocks internationally. But are banks really as
adept at diversifying this risk as they like to think? Are those to whom they are passing the risk capable of managing it, particularly if markets remain volatile? In short, could the shift from a
system reliant on banks to one based largely on markets contain dangers of its own?

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