A Summer Reading List for Commercial Bankers

(Image: Thinkstock)

"Bailout: How I Watched Washington Rescue Wall Street While Abandoning Main Street," by Neil Barofsky (pictured).

"Barofsky's damning insider account of how government officials handled the 2008 financial crisis has generated a great deal of buzz … and criticism. The New York Times doled out both with one reviewer calling the book a 'must-read' and another asserting the former Special Inspector General for TARP's first-person narrative contained numerous 'contradictions and inconsistencies.' The mixed reviews provide even more incentive to read the latest bailout book since it forces readers to draw their own conclusions." — Jeanine Skowronski, deputy editor for BankThink

(Image: Michael Chu)

"Finance and the Good Society," by Robert J. Shiller (pictured).

"The Yale economist who correctly predicted the housing bubble would burst proposes some interesting ideas for more flexible financial instruments, such as mortgages with 'preplanned workouts' that would automatically reduce the borrower's obligations in an economic downturn. Also, why couldn't countries issue equity, with dividends pegged to GDP, rather than solely raising money through debt with fixed payments that become unsupportable when the economy goes south? Well, why not?" — Marc Hochstein, executive editor of American Banker

(Image: Bloomberg News)

"Funny Money," by Mark Singer.

"The book [is an] amazing tale about how people can develop a warped sense of reality when they get caught up in the excitement of a booming economy or industry. Even bankers get sucked in, making exceptions along the way to their strict underwriting criteria because everyone is convinced it will all work out in the end. Despite the painful lessons supposedly learned from the oil and gas lending boom and bust, as well as other crises since, the industry went right back and did it again with real estate several years ago. It's amazing how history repeats itself. It's also a timely reminder for bankers today given that the roots of the Penn Square debacle stemmed in part from the fact that the big banks were awash in money that they needed to lend." — Joe Morford, analyst at RBC Capital Markets

Pictured: Bill P. "Beep" Jennings, chairman of Penn Square Bank when it collapsed in 1982.

"Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System," by Barry Eichengreen.

"Eichengreen has written a short, accessible book covering what may be the most important driver of banking in the years to come: whether the dollar stays on top and what impacts its decline would have on both the U.S. and global economy. Exorbitant Privilege also reminds us, fittingly given the situation in Europe, that fiscal policy might be the ultimate force behind both monetary and financial trends. The book is about as 'big picture' as you can get; the topics covered potentially swamp almost any other decision a business executive can make." — Mark A. Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute

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"The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and The Rise of Modern Finance," by Ron Chernow.

"I found this book, for those with a long history in the profession, to be truly insightful as confirming what I witnessed myself. As to those who are younger … this book is a treasure trove of financial history. For all of us, this book proves beyond doubt that the shenanigans and events of today have happened repeatedly in our history, not to mention how strong the tie between our financial chieftains and our politicians and regulators has been historically." — Michael V. Suitt, assistant financial representative at Northwestern Mutual and former investment portfolio manager

Pictured: J. Pierpont Morgan (Image: Bloomberg News)

"The Megabanks Mess," by Herb Allison (pictured).

"Lots of former Wall Street honchos have made a splash by arguing that the big banks need to be broken up. But in this largely overlooked e-book, Allison, a former top executive at Merrill Lynch and TIAA-CREF, makes a much more detailed case than the cable TV format allows. Allison wrote the manuscript in 2008, but its publication was delayed by three years when he was pulled into firefighting roles at Fannie Mae and the Treasury Department. Allison's argument is essentially that the largest banks have stopped putting their customers first, and that splitting them up by business lines would return the industry to a more customer-focused business model." — Kevin Wack, Capitol Hill reporter at American Banker

(Image: Bloomberg News)

"Practical Bank Credit," by Herbert Prochnow of Illinois Continental National Bank.

"The book is a didactic text on bank credit presented with such exceptional clarity that it is a pleasure to read. It made a 'lender' out of me, and it will do the same for any lending officer, junior or senior, who wants to be a good lender. It is invaluable." — Ugo Nardi, retired commercial bank president

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"The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers - and the Coming Cashless Society," by David Wolman.

"An excellent survey of the technological changes that are making physical money obsolete with an impassioned case for the benefits of this transformation." — Marc Hochstein, executive editor of American Banker

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"The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge," by Doc Searls (pictured).

"Searls envisions a world where consumers have more control of their personal data, and more clout in everyday commerce, than most of us imagine possible. Banks could help make it happen by acting as what he calls a 'fourth-party service - unambiguously working for the customer, as an agent for the customer.'" — Marc Hochstein, executive editor of American Banker.

"The Lost Bank," by Kirsten Grind.

"The spectacular fall of Washington Mutual from its mortgage-fueled high is one of the forgotten stories of the 2008 financial crisis. The author, who was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of WaMu, tells a tale of intergenerational betrayal, starting with the World War II veteran who turned the Seattle-based lender around in the 1980s and ending with his younger successor who began reading his own press clippings. The book relies on hundreds of interviews with WaMu insiders, plus the exhaustive findings of government investigators, to give the definitive account of the largest bank failure in U.S. history." — Kevin Wack, Capitol Hill reporter at American Banker

(Image: Michael Chu)

"Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis," by James Rickards.

"The hard-hitting Rickards, principal negotiator of the 1998 LTCM rescue, explains how winning a modern-day currency war is winning the race to the bottom in terms of devaluation resulting in a lose-lose scenario. With a firm grasp of economic history, he suggests an endgame where only an asset that is not someone else's liability will prevail: gold." — Jon Matonis, payments and currency consultant

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We asked American Banker readers and staff members to recommend books that changed the way they think about the financial services industry for bankers to take on their end-of-summer vacations.

 

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