Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Death of the Banker: The Decline and Fall of the Great Financial Dynasties and the Triumph of the Small Investor, by Ron Chernow (author), Michael Kramer (narrator)

Highbridge, April 2017 (original publication March 1997)

Ron Chernow is one of the great historians of banking and finance, and this is a look at one of the great transitions in that history: the death of what was for a long time the dominant kind of banking, the fall of the great financial dynasties.

Many of those dynasties were born originally as merchant families. Successful merchant families tended to accumulate capital, and they had to do something with that capital--and rulers wanted money to field armies and live in a style befitting rulers, without raising taxes to the point that their subjects rebel.

Lending money to other businesses took longer.

Over time, the relationships among bankers, businesses, and investors changed, with the relative power of each rising and falling over time and changing economic realities.

In the nineteenth century, bankers were at the height of their power.

By the time Chernow wrote this book, in the late 1990s, investment bankers, though wealthy and influential, had fallen dramatically compared to both major corporations, and the small investor.

I had initially not noticed the original publication date on this book, and was surprised as I gradually realized that Chernow seemed not just to be not discussing events of the last decade, but seemed to be unaware of them. Then I checked, and realized that, why, yes, he didn't know about the events of the last decade, because the book was written twenty years ago.

It's good. It's thoughtful. It's interesting.

But if you're looking for history and analysis that includes the financial industry events that have disrupted our lives over the last decade, you'll need to look for a more recent book.

With that caveat, recommended.

I bought this audiobook.