Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Banks collapsing, dominos falling ever closer to Poland

In Russia when they were explaining to me why people didn’t trust banks so much (topic was triggered by the low volumes of deposits in commercial privately owned banks) they said: “there’s been a banking crisis every two years, what would you expect. People are afraid that the bank can come down and take their savings with it”.

(fot. rosendahl@flickr)

I kind of took it in as a valid explanation but never fully internalized the notion – in Poland, when selecting a bank, hardly anyone actually considers whether it’s gonna go bankrupt or not. You never hear banks falling in Poland, except for some obscure “pocket banks” in the distant past of the early days of the market economy.

Even with the lest prestigious and smallest banks, trust used not to be really the major decision factor.

Maybe that is going to change soon. Just in (gazeta.pl):

Investors wondered who would be the next candidates for bankruptcy. Commerzbank, owner of the Polish BRE Group, fell almost 23 percent on the Frankfurt stock exchange. Trading of UniCredit (strategic shareholder of Pekao) was suspended altogether on the Milan stock exchange, after they fell 9%.

In December 2007 I quoted this passage I found in FT:

(…) two giant and interlinked bubbles burst simultaneously – one in property, one in credit – leaving banks and investors on the brink of bankruptcy, some hanging on by their fingertips

That was before the balls started to drop, and the mood was cautiously optimistic then.

It sure feels like something similar with regards to banking situation in Poland right now. Things are falling apart abroad, but at home everything is supposed to be in order, except for the performance of investment funds, which keep looking for the bottom – but this is generally accepted as an isolated and contained phenomenon.

Looking into the future of Polish financial sector in the next 6 to 12 months, maybe it’s time now to calculate in some turbulence.