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Broken Markets: A User's Guide to the Post-Finance Economy Paperback – June 14, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Kevin Mellyn is a management consultant, author, and former international banker residing in Bronxville, New York. He has more than 30 years of experience in almost every aspect of global finance and banking. Mellyn is the author of Financial Market Meltdown (Praeger, 2009) required reading for new recruits in a leading global financial-services firm a short history and explanation of financial markets, manias, and panics to help the general reader understand and cope with the calamity of 2008. He has been widely published and quoted in financial publications in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Mellyn holds AB and AM degrees in history from Harvard University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Apress; 2012 edition (June 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1430242213
  • ISBN-13: 978-1430242215
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,255,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My life has been less remarkable than lucky. I was born in Lynn, Massachusetts and was a member of the first class to graduate from St.Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover,New Hampshire. There I was lucky enough to get selected for something called the Advanced Studies Program at St.Paul's School which gave me the ambition to apply to Harvard which I attended on a scholarship. I wanted to be an historian but lost my way and ended up leaving graduate school and teaching at Harvard to become an international banker in London and New York. I met many interesting people in the process and more to the point learned most of contents of this book through personal observation.

The working title of this book, which is really an extended essay in the style of the great Victorian banker, author and journalist Walter Bagehot was Lombard Street Revisited after his most famous book. Bagehot's Lombard Street has been much quoted but it would seem little read since he published it in 1873. To my mind it is only great book ever published on the nature of money, financial markets and crises, great because Bagehot did not disdain to explain the basics in plain language but also because of his voice of authority as both a practitioner in finance and someone who knew the "real history" of money. Bagehot demystified the world of the financial market for the general reader, making it as concrete, simple and readable as possible. In doing so he empowered those who bothered to read him to make up their own minds about seemingly arcane matters that deeply affected their wellbeing. This is precisely what Financial Market Meltdown sets out to do for men and women now living through the worst financial crisis of post-war history.

I first came across Bagehot through the study of history at Harvard, I think through my advisor Prof. Harry Hanham. In the mid 1970's I found myself through a series of accidents working as a banker in the City of London, a few steps from Lombard Street. My job was to sell US dollar banking services to all the financial institutions in London. I soaked up the lore of the Bank of England, the Clearing Banks, Merchant Banks and Discount Houses, the Stock Exchange and Lloyds. My turn of mind and my study of history always made me go back to first principles about why things worked the way they happened to work and how they came about. I was fortunate in my colleagues and bosses in London, mostly men who had left school at fifteen or sixteen to become bank clerks. They knew their stuff and gave me an invaluable education in banking and the traditions of the City that I would not otherwise have received.

Later I was involved in the same business globally based in New York, followed by a series of planning and staff jobs for top management that exposed me to every aspect of the business of banking as it was then practiced. The thing that struck me was that most of the American bank executives I worked for knew a lot about being executives but understood little about banking. Worse, they often leaned heavily on brand name management consultants that knew even less.

My bank died of terminal mismanagement as most businesses do sooner or later and through yet more accidents I became a consultant myself, sort of a gamekeeper turned fox. My work took me to Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, and my clients expanded to governments, central and development banks and even regulators. I kept returning to Bagehot for insights and frameworks. Various drafts and sketches of the ideas in this book began to pile up in my files.

The crisis which began forming in the financial markets in the summer of 2008 caused an editor friend of mine who knew about my embryo banking book to ask me to reframe it in the context of the financial market meltdown. The current book is the product of that effort, carried out in great haste and without formal research except to check the odd fact. This is, in fact, exactly what Walter Bagehot did in quickly writing Lombard Street in the wake of the panic of 1873. It is, like that work, an highly personal viewpoint informed by a lifetime in the financial world, not a formal work of economic history such as those produced by scholars such as Niall Ferguson

Bagehot wrote to inform intelligent lay people how the financial markets worked but also to influence a political debate around the proper role of the Bank of England in preventing and managing panics, an argument not unlike our current debates about the role of the Federal Reserve and financial regulation generally. My purposes are the same.. Like Bagehot, I am a classic liberal as it was understood in his day, and like him I am deeply skeptical of all abstract systems and innovations rooted in ideology. At the same time as Bagehot put it "money will not manage itself". For better or worse, the future of money and finance is now more than ever in the hands of the state. In a democratic nation it is vital that individuals be empowered to ask the right questions of their representatives and public servants as well as their financial institutions. If this essay has helped empower even one reader I am fully satisfied that it has been worth writing

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mellyn begins his latest book with a scene by scene synopsis of the "movie we've seen before". It's not a movie for date night but instead much like the best Ken Burns documentaries.

Like Mellyn's previous book there are the comic anecdotes (congressmen responding with "bovine incomprehension" toward all financial matters which Mellyn admits is "unfair to cows") and the quirks of history (OPEC as a byproduct of US abandoning Bretton Woods; UK clearing system a function of seeing the Bank of England as a competitor). The humor and historic quirks are the trademarks of any Mellyn exposition and make Broken Markets worth the read on the merits of these alone.

The book's central thesis, that we're entering a phase of "financial repression" is hard to argue - mainly due to the ample evidence that repression is well underway (think interest rates approaching zero, mounting financial regulation). By the time we reach the last scene, there are no surprises and unfortunately no joy either. Life in an era of financial repression is not interesting for anyone and unless you're one of the lucky third to be an "insider" on the right side of highly regulated society, be prepared for a long and tenuous life of unrewarding toil.

But the good news is that this movie runs on a continuous loop and after a bleak ending, there is always a happy beginning. After reading Broken Markets, you'll know what to look for. Definitely worth the read.
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Format: Paperback
Kevin Mellyn's Broken Markets is an extremely useful, and enjoyable, book for anyone interested in gaining a greater understanding of the broad forces at play that are shaping the financial sector. Other books have been written about the 2008 financial crises and related topics, but this one in particular has the distinction of framing the crisis within a broader historical context in a way that is easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, insightful and even witty. Through this historical context, the reader is better able to develop a meaningful understanding of why modern financial institutions look the way they do, and in doing so, the reader gains a more trustworthy roadmap of where they might be headed. This book will appeal both to lay readers who might not be as familiar with the topics, as well as experienced bankers and policy makers who will appreciate Mellyn's spot-on root cause analysis on a deeper level. Mellyn covers enormous territory in this book, exploring forces and phenomena such as financial repression, inflation, the fundamental role of banks as financial intermediaries, the trend from spread income to fee income, the swinging pendulum of financial regulation and so on. Mellyn's achievement with this book is to do so while making the reader feel like he or she is chatting with an industry expert. In sum, a very worthwhile read.
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By Gderf on March 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
Mellyn starts with a good case that CEOs are taking too large a share of corporate wealth. He cites consumer debt as a major problem. His history cites the Great Moderation of 1985-2008 with attendant influence in checking the rise in asset prices as a prelude to the great panic. Economic consequences of regulation are all bad as as lawyers, not financiers, draft rules. The Dodd-Frank 848 page monstrosity won't make financial regulation more effective. The 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was instrumental in financing activism that eventually led to the housing bubble.
High debt is affordable as a massive redistribution from public to government. The rich can't make a dent in the debt. Chevy Volt and Solyndra are evidence of crony capitalism. The difference between private and public finance - government can take it's citizen's money. It's impoverishing the thrifty to feed the government.
There are no safe havens for keeping money. Mellyn's investment advise, in contravention of public incentives, is to save your money. Don't invest in stocks, bonds or money market funds. What does that leave? The book ends with the question will we ever again have prudent banks?
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Oleg Fomin on September 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Kevin Mellyn's book is an excellent review of the driving forces behind the rise and fall of the modern finance-driven economy. Following the tradition of Bagehot, Mellyn analyzes the intended and unintended consequences of financial regulation in shaping the structure of the financial industry and economics of individual households. The author paints a sober picture of "post-finance" world, addresses a hard truth about available options on what to do about fixing the financial system and provides practical recommendations for a common reader on how to adjust to a new reality.

What sets this book apart from the rest of the literature on the financial crisis is that Mellyn draws his insights leveraging a longer time horizon and a broad spectrum of financial, economic and political events that defined the structure of today's finance-driven economy. The result is a profoundly insightful story that has something to offer for a lay reader, finance professional and policy maker alike.
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By John A. Carey on July 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
A careful examination of the state of our big banks and an excellent account of the development of U. S. and international financial institutions, practices, and regulation over the past century, Kevin Mellyn's book is a wonderful contribution to the literature on both the sub-prime meltdown of 2007-2009 and the subsequent efforts to write new governance codes for the financial industry. Like Abbie Hoffman's notorious book of forty-some-odd years ago, this is a survivalist handbook written by a social critic, though here everything recommended is legal. More than that, Kevin Mellyn's advice goes beyond what is merely personally useful or expedient to include broad prescriptions for general improvement. The author's writing-- clear, informed, discriminating, and aphoristic-- is never dull. "Avoidance of debt is a form of freedom" is just one example of his strong and interesting prose, and his sage and subtle pointers. One really cannot go wrong spending some hours with this book.
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