Short termism in Financial Markets

There has been an immense focus on the Financial Sector in the years since the 2008 Financial Crisis, and rightly so. It was the worst since the Great Depression of 1929 and systemic risks in the financial sector contributed heavily to the depth of the recession. Since then there have been Libor scandals, misselling claims, rogue trades and countless other examples of market manipulation.

The regulators now have their work cut out to fix the financial system. This is no easy task: the financial system is simply too large and misaligned with its Economic role. The system today is complex; involving derivatives, high frequency trading, huge leveraging, swaps, puts and calls, some of which add real economic value but others add very little and cost the economy heavily though risk and volatility. A recent IMF study has suggested that there is a tipping point past which the costs of financial development exceed the benefits, which most advanced economies have already crossed.

Rather than repairing the system itself, regulators are doing their best to realign incentives: The Fair and Effective Markets Review, published on 10 June 2015, recommends tougher sanctions on market abuse and greater accountability for those participating in the markets. Also proposed are bonus claw backs, which could mean senior manager’s bonuses can be taken from them at any time over the following ten years if it is discovered that their actions caused subsequent harm to the system.

It is good to focus incentives on the longer term and discourage short-termist behaviour. A long-sighted financial system is the ideal, but incentives alone cannot create it.  It might seem obvious that the answer is The Tobin Tax: placing a small levy on each transaction made in the markets and suddenly short term trades become unprofitable, trading volumes reduce and favour long-term oriented trades. The available literature on the Tobin Tax is mixed and inconclusive, with some models suggesting that lower volumes may harm liquidity and actually increase market volatility. As with all issues in Economics, the answer is not easy, but steps will have to be taken to make trading work for the long term.

Chris Bailey

Chris is an analyst at Volterra, currently on a year’s placement from the University of Bath.

Image: Monopoly Money [Explored] by Jason Devaun licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Alex O’Byrne, Associate at Volterra, is an experienced economic consultant specialising in economic, health and social impact, economic strategy, project appraisal and socio-economic planning matters.

Alex has led the socio-economic and health assessments of some of the most high profile developments across the UK, including Battersea Power Station, Olympia London, London Resort, MSG Sphere and Westfield. He has significant experience inputting to EIAs and s106 discussions as well as drafting economic statements, employment and skills strategies and affordable workspace strategies.

Alex is also experienced at economic appraisal for infrastructure. He was project manager of the economic appraisal for the City Centre to Mangere Light Rail in Auckland. He also led the economic and financial appraisals of the third tranche of the Transport Access Program for Transport for New South Wales, in which Alex developed and employed innovative methodological approaches to better capture benefits for individuals with reduced mobility.

He is interested in the limitations of current appraisal methodologies and ways of improving economic and health analysis to ensure it is accessible to as many people as possible. To this end, Alex recognises the importance of transparent and simple to understand analysis and ensuring all work is supported by a robust narrative.

Alex holds a BSc (Hons) in Economics from the University of Manchester and he was a member of the first cohort of the Mayor’s Infrastructure Young Professionals Panel.


Senior Partner

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Ellie is a partner at Volterra, specialising in the economic impact of developments and proposals, and manages many of the company’s projects on economic impact, regeneration, transport and development.

With thirteen years experience at Volterra delivering high quality projects to clients across the public and private sector, Ellie has expertise in developing methods of estimating economic impact where complex issues exist with regards to deadweight, displacement and additionality.

Ellie has significant experience in estimating the economic impact across all types of property development including residential, leisure, office and mixed use schemes.

Project management of recent high profile schemes include the luxury hotel London Peninsula, Battersea Power Station and the Nova scheme at London Victoria. Ellie has also led studies across the country estimating the economic and regeneration impact of proposed transport investments, including studies on HS2 and Crossrail.

Ellie holds a degree in Mathematics and Economics from the University of Cambridge.