Merit issue: Just one guy on Silicon Valley Bank's board knew anything about investment banking

Before its collapse Friday, wokesterism surrounded Silicon Valley Bank like a miasma.

The wokesterly attentiveness didn't per se destroy that mid-sized bank, given that most banks play these games, and the big ones are very loud about it.

As I noted earlier, Johns Hopkins University professor of economics Steve Hanke put his finger on the problem more precisely in an email:

[T]he real SVB issue was terrible banking and risk management that resulted in a massive duration mismatch between SVB's liabilities (read: deposits) and its assets (read: long-dated bonds). The mismatch was stupidly not hedged. SVB was a poorly run bank, a disaster waiting to happen. Any regulator worth his salt should have seen this coming long ago.

Apparently, they didn't know how to run a bank.  They failed to understand their unique risk profile; they failed to plan for it through hedging their risk, which could have been done; and they failed to even hire a risk manager for most of 2022.  They just did woke stuff, virtue-signaling for the political crowd, and donated to Democrats.

Now it comes to light from the Daily Mail that they really didn't know much about banking at all:

Just one member of Silicon Valley Bank's board of directors had a career in investment banking, while the others were major Democratic donors, it has been revealed.

Tom King, 63, was appointed to the board in September after previously serving as the CEO of investment banking at Barclay's. He has had 35 years of experience in investment banking.

But he is the only one on the board with a career in the financial industry, while others are a former Obama administration employee, a prolific contributor to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and even a Hillary Clinton mega-donor who prayed at a Shinto shrine when Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election.

The board is now being investigated by federal authorities after it failed to prevent the bank from going under while it was investing clients' money in risky low-interest government bonds and securities.

It has previously been accused of being too focused on woke issues.

Now it's pretty obvious what the results of that were.  Just one of them knew how to bank.  No wonder they couldn't manage the bank.  They had a merit problem in their top management, with characters hired for their political connections.  One of them, Mary J. Miller, was an actual Obama administration official.

Leftists of this sort are convinced they know how to command and run the United States, they know what's best for us, they know more, so they must have felt it was a piddling matter to run a bank with a complex risk profile of startup investors with large deposits who could pull that money in hours if there was a panic.  Well, there was, and the bank saw $46 billion of its $200 billion–and-some deposit base withdrawn in just one day.  Nobody planned for that because there were woker things to think about and political skids to grease.

Well, now we see the results of that.  The bank has gone bust and is in a federal receivership.

What this tells us is that a lot of top talent among the Democrat elites aren't so full of merit at all, given that they know nothing about running a real-world enterprise, yet they are fool enough to think they do.  And that boards that bring on these characters are just as stupid because they're bringing in people who know nothing about their industry, filling their boards with people with lots of degrees and fancy résumés and political connections, but absolutely no knowledge about running a bank.  They do it, of course, on the disturbing premise that they can always get Joe Biden to sign off on a bailout for them, no need to learn to stand on their own two feet.

How many other banks do this zero-merit hiring for their boards and beyond?

I've noticed this happening in Silicon Valley as well, in this piece I wrote about the zero-merit Meena Harris, the money-hungry niece of Kamala Harris, who had high positions at Uber, Slack, and Facebook, yet whose "merit" wasn't tech, but self-promotion — selling t-shirts and posing for Instagram "influencer" photo shoots.  She was valuable to any of those tech baronies only because of her ties to Kamala Harris.  There seem to be a lot of those.  Tech companies are brimming with former Obama operatives who weren't hired for their tech know-how yet hold the highest positions.

It shows how far we have fallen in competitiveness.  Political incompetents sit at the top levels of banks and tech companies in Silicon Valley now, their political prowess more important than their tech or banking prowess.  When it matters, they show how useless they are in running the operations but how handy they are for a bailout.  That's a pretty sorry model for any industry.

Image: Tony Webster via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

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