Stifel Financial Corp. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Ronald Kruszewski urged pessimistic members of the financial services industry to go back and read a 1979 BusinessWeek article titled “Death of Equities” on Monday.
“The quotes in the article are purely reminiscent of today,” Kruszewski said at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association annual meeting in New York.
But in 1979, the economic environment was worse, Kruszewski told the crowd of financial services industry members. Unemployment was at 12%, interest rates were at 20%, inflation was rampant and, as Kruszewski remembers, the perception was that “if you invested in equities, you were an idiot.”
Today, Kruszewski says he is optimistic that an economic recovery is underway. To progress, we need to eschew the “casino mentality” that helped bring on the financial crisis in the first place, he said, through the proliferation of products like synthetic derivatives. Kruszewski also believes that we need to carefully weigh the necessity of more regulation.
“I believe that the events of the financial crisis, the confluence of events, really can’t repeat today,” Kruszewski said. “I think that a lot of the things we’re doing is too much regulation trying to solve something that can’t occur.”
The end result of that regulation, Kruszewski said, is that it could prevent a correction that would naturally happen. We are also discouraging investors from saving by holding interest rates at zero, he said.
Areas where Kruszewski said he would like to see improvement include $1 trillion in cash abroad that could be repatriated back to fuel job creation. He would also like to see subsidies that favor certain industries rolled back.
In the end, the financial services industry also needs to be cognizant of its impact on investor confidence. Kruszewski said he saw the industry permanently lose investors that were not made whole following losses they sustained in the flash crash. Those issues, though, are not insurmountable.
“At some point I firmly believe that this country will rise economically and create great investments again,” Kruszewski said.