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Food for thought on the credit crisis

I have been thinking about securitisation and how I can explain it to clients.

Having just been playing with my twin grandchildren aged four, I have arrived at the following narrative, which substitutes organic food manufacturers for lending institutions to add clarity and make it less incredible.

Once upon a time, there were a lot of big food manufacturers which only sold organic food. They were so successful at selling this organic food that to keep up with demand, they decided to relax the rules and include something called E numbers. The E stood for excess.

For years, they carried on and no one wanted to do anything about the E numbers. Even the agency tasked by Parliament to maintain the standard of food – a sort of food standards agency – did nothing for years. I know, let’s call it the FSA.

Suddenly, some years later, when loads of people in the US got ill from the excesses of the same E numbers that were in our food, the FSA stepped in. It told the person whose job it was to stop what had happened, but who had failed, to sit on the Naughty Step as a punishment. The Naughty Step was so uncomfortable, it decided to ease that person’s discomfort by giving them a load of money to sit on, thus smoothing out the rough time he was having.

Meanwhile, the food manufacturers had been secretly selling food with E numbers to loads of other manufacturers, who had hidden that food in their own food, also with E numbers in it. When the FSA and other agencies suddenly realised that E numbers were harmful to the food, no one could tell what food contained the E numbers.

Every manufacturer got worried about their own food and also other manufacturers’ food, so they all decided to stop selling food until they could take out the E numbers and go back to selling proper organic food. The effect was that everyone had to go on a diet while they sorted out the problem, which meant some very disgruntled people.

The moral of the story is entirely up to you but I suspect it will differ depending on whether you are the FSA, a manufacturer, a seller of food or a buyer of food.

David Barnett

Principal, DPB Independent Financial Services, Edgware, Middlesex

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