I spent much of the summer following developments on capital surcharge rates and the debate over debit interchange. (Sad, I know.) But I couldn't help turning my focus on occasion to an issue in my own industry: the scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's newspapers in Britain, which no doubt hastened the erosion of the public's trust in the media.
As a journalist, I can tell you it's very easy to avoid the phone-tapping and other journalistic commandment breakers that came to light in the News Corp. scandal. Yet every day, in ways that are milder but no less insidious, we in the media test the trust we've been granted. Egged on by the popularity of snarky blogs and opinion television, professional journalists have been eager to experiment along the edges that separate analysis from opinion, irony from meanness. They are doing a terrific job of making the distinctions; unfortunately, they are coming down too often on the wrong side of the line, trading away some of their hard-earned credibility in the process.
Even the financial press—as staid a group as you'll find in journalism—has been eager to get in on the fun. Remember those reports in June about the special line that Goldman Sachs employees had to themselves at Shake Shack, the crowded hamburger joint across from the firm's headquarters? The post ricocheted around the Internet. When a respected news site picked it up on one of its blogs, a Goldman spokesman tried to correct it. The site simply noted his protestations at the bottom of the post, punctuating it with a flourish of (fake?) doubt about his side of the story. I get the joke, but it's a slippery slope: one day, you're writing a funny blurb about a burger mecca and a certain vampire squid; the next day you're trying to decide how to handle a story that can move markets, shape policy, or affect an individual's reputation
Hopefully, in our first three issues, you have found in American Banker Magazine a safe haven—not from hard truths or honest assessments, because we're proud to be providers of those things—but from the noise that is crowding out serious coverage of the financial services industry. Our aim: to report fairly and accurately, with straightforwardness, with humor when appropriate, but never with hysteria, even if hysteria (in the markets, on Capitol Hill) is the story.
In that spirit, our Briefings section this month offers a considered look at what the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee's two-year commitment to low interest rates means for banks. (Thank you, Ben Bernanke, for making your announcement the day before we went to press, instead of the day after, otherwise we would have gone with our original Briefings opener—a piece about the industry's preparations for a rising rate environment. We'll get back to you all on that in 2013.)
Metrics & Measures this month has our ranking of the mid-tier banks, with an analysis of the trends in return on equity for this group. And in our cover story, we look at the evolving strategy of PNC Financial Services Group. CEO Jim Rohr, in his own straightforward way, explains why the analysts are wrong when they say PNC needs to follow up its pending takeover of RBC Bank USA with another large deal to build scale in the South. He also candidly discusses his own future, and his change of heart about a long-held belief regarding market share position.
As always I welcome your feedback and invite you to visit us online, where you can now tweet, share or like our stories using the social media tools available at AmericanBanker.com/Magazine.
Editor in Chief