Value and Crises by Makoto Itoh

By Makoto Itoh

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But it took an outsider to understand the problems that needed to be solved. Peterson thought Lehman was resting on its laurels and needed to aggressively solicit and attract new corporate customers. The banking industry was experiencing a pronounced change in customer behavior in which corporations had begun to shift toward multiple investment banking relationships. For example, General Motors (GM) had historically used only Morgan Stanley but was now adding additional bankers to its roster. 2 Arriving at Lehman in 1973, Peterson immediately focused on expanding product development and broadening the financial services offered.

In some services, investment banking was taking on the characteristics of a commodity business where bankers made money on volume, not on pricing. Compounding this was a simultaneous compression in brokerage-related fees. On May 1, 1975, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lifted the fi xed-rate commissions and ushered in a new era of greater commission rate competition. This meant institutional clients that traded large blocks of stock could now negotiate the rate they paid. Many 26 ᭿ Uncontrolled Risk investment banks responded by increasing the types of services offered to fi nd new higher-margin sources of revenue, in addition to maintaining relationships with important clients.

6 Central to all of these new strategies was the increasingly prominent role played by trading. THE RISE OF TRADING AND CHANGING RISK PROFILE Lehman in the 1970s was one of many investment banks that decided to expand their trading activities in an effort to diversify their revenue stream. Given that investment banking revenue was so susceptible to the economic cycles, Lehman pushed to find ways to generate more predictable year-on-year revenue. Trading and putting more firm capital at risk was part of the answer.

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