Thursday, March 29, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Saving the Sun is the name of the book I am currently reading. It deals with the story behind the former Long Term Credit Bank (LTCB), now called Shinsei Bank and its history through the years preceding.
LTCB was one of the foremost banks in the world before a spectacular wipeout (very much on the cards) took it down. It was an epitome of the Japanese banking system and by no means the only casualty of a system that cannot be called flawed (since it was founded on a firm principle of nation rebuilding immediately after the world war) and yet was the reason for the collapse of the Japanese economy on such a devastating scale (since the economy outgrew the founding principles, but the system did not adapt owing to many intricate and complex nuances of the Japanese system, culture, history and thought processes.)
The collapsed bank was reinvented by an American group called Ripplewood and they turned the bank around and changed its domain of work.
Today, Shinsei Bank is the No. 1 bank in Japan and it makes me proud to be working at a place where history (good and bad) has been made. It makes me feel proud to be developing and delivering systems that a customer will use to benefit his/her life (in this case, banking.) I get a high when things work and people use a system. I cannot explain it, but it makes me feel nice.
Probably I am romanticizing too much, but frankly, this is one thing I love about the IT industry that I work in. We create solutions that are usable by the customer to improve the quality of their lives and to help them do their work better.
I would love to write much more, but I have just completed the book till the collapse of LTCB and the American investors planning to buy LTCB. I would like to finish the book and then write in detail about the history and the flow of the events.
However, one thing that stayed with me all throughout my reading so far has been that men have dedicated their entire lives to working in this bank (and so have men all across the Japanese spectrum, across institutions.) They went down trying to do best for their system and for their country. To an outside, supposedly rational mind, most of their decisions would seem like lack of common-sense or foresight, but thats precisely what intrigues me about the motives of these men.
These were some of the highest educated, talented, smart and well-travelled men in the world and they made huge errors in judgements in business. But their actions were dictated by their social conditioning and a thought of doing greater good for their nation at all times by working to strengthen the existing systems instead of diversifying outside the accepted practices.
They made huge mistakes (mind you trillions of yen worth of mistakes), but they did it knowingly and the conundrum for me is whether you can judge them as fools for doing that or sympathise with them for committing these mistakes, thinking they are doing best for their nation. Greed for oneself was not the motive for these men.
It is a painful thought that has stayed with me all through my reading of the book. Should one judge these men adversely as humans because they made mistakes knowingly, but they did not know at that time that they were making mistakes?
I am confused. And I feel sad, because these men gave their entire lives to improve the cause of Japan and its people. And in the end, they failed, because the system failed them. They were merely going ahead thinking that the system was being strengthened by their actions, when infact it was a spiral towards economic destruction: of the financial system and of the implementers of this outdated system.
No one walked out a winner. Many committed suicide and at the end of a long life of hard work, had failure to show for their efforts.
I just wish that whereever they are, whatever they are doing, God is with them.
The Japanese deserve to be happy.