Too Big to Fail Author Andrew Ross Sorkin Talks Finance, Blockchain and AI
Zhang Jing
/SOURCE : Yicai
Too Big to Fail Author Andrew Ross Sorkin Talks Finance, Blockchain and AI

(Yicai Global) Jan. 10 -- Andrew Ross Sorkin, the columnist for the New York Times, founder and editor at large of DealBook, co-anchor of CNBC's Squawk Box. He is also the co-creator and executive producer of three seasons of TV series 《Billions》, which brings a hedge-fund narrative to television. His best-selling book, Too Big to Fail, about the 2008 financial crisis, won the 2010 Gerald Loeb Award for Best Business Book and was adapted into an HBO movie, co-produced by Sorkin, that was nominated for eleven Emmy Awards.

Here he discussed what has changed and what stayed the same on Wall Street in the past ten years since 2008 financial crisis.

CBN Weekly: Numerous Wall Street-related books have been written in the wake of the financial crisis, but your book is still the best way to understand what was happening then. If there would be a sequel to the book, which part or what content you would like to add on?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: First, thank you. I hope there is no sequel because that would mean another crisis! If I could go back in time, I might write two books. Too Big to Fail would have been the second of the two books. The first would have been the prequel narrating how the underbelly of the crisis was created over the decade prior.

CBN Weekly: What feedbacks or reactions from friends and readers mostly impressed you?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: Happily, the best feedback I get is from participants in the crisis who I never spoke with who come up to me and say, "You got it exactly right" or "I thought I was in the middle of it and I learned so much that I didn't know." Or I love meeting students or other people who say they don't normally like to read books but that they couldn't put Too Big to Fail down and that it's their favorite book. That's pretty gratifying. I didn't like to read much as a student and I remember the impact a good book could have on me.

CBN Weekly: If we try to make the long answer to short, what has really changed after ten years in the finance industry?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: A lot. The culture is actually pretty different. Frankly, very few of the big personalities of that era still are around with the exception of Jamie Dimon of JPMorganChase and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs. But I worry that memories are short and that as regulations get removed, we could add more leverage in the system, which is always the main ingredient of a crisis.

CBN Weekly: As thinking back to 2007, is this situation where you expected to be right now?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: I didn't think the economy would ever come back to this level. We were truly on the precipice. I don't think people appreciate today how bad things were.

CBN Weekly: Why have the banks in Europe generally come back from the financial crisis less strongly than the American ones, especially seeing the crisis started in America? 

Andrew Ross Sorkin: The one thing the US did early on was improve capital requirements. That was the key. In Europe, they took a long time increasing capital requirements, in part, because the banks couldn't afford it and because, at least early on, it was more politically popular to finger point and talk about executive compensation.

CBN Weekly: 10-years has passed, are banks—and taxpayers—now safe enough? There's been a lot of criticism that those regulations put in place went too far, that they have strangled the economy, that they are preventing banks from lending freely. Do you agree with those criticisms?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: I think we're much safer than we were, I do think it slowed down the economy, but that was a fair cost of having a safer system.

CBN Weekly: Lots of people will possibly mention to you the TV Show《Billions》, How much do you think it has revealed the real situation of this industry?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: I like to think it's given the public a peek behind the curtain of the financial world in a fun way.

CBN Weekly: How does this industry retain that swashbuckling nature?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: Hedge funds are still a bit swashbuckling, but for the most part, there is a lot less swashbuckling. Maybe that will soon revert. It always does when there is a lot of money around.

CBN Weekly: Your career has seen a host of companies trying to challenge the status quo in finance; some have succeeded, others fail. The new threat of Finance is Silicon Valley. All kinds of Fintech startups are coming for Wall Street. Where do you feel most vulnerable?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: There are a lot of upstarts trying to upend finance. Some are succeeding, but I expect many to be gobbled up by the traditional banks. Those deals will transform the banks and perhaps their cultures.

CBN Weekly: When you look forward to what a bank actually looks like in 10 years, will it actually look fundamentally different? Are bitcoin and blockchain the future of Finance?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: I'm a believer in the blockchain but I'm still not sure about bitcoin! We'll see.

CBN Weekly: Has your view of what finance does change over time? Have you been forced to actually think harder about what exactly the role of finance in society is?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: I do think about capitalism and what it means a lot these days. I do think capitalism works and has brought millions of people out of poverty. But I also believe if it goes unregulated and unchecked, it won't fulfill its promise.

CBN Weekly: What you wrote about is exposing the dark side of the culture of Wall Street, if there is one piece of advice you could give to the young people who are interested in getting into Wall Street, what it will be? Has the allure of finance to young people changed at all?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: These days, the most enterprising, innovative minds I know go to Silicon Valley or get involved in technology and AI. That's the future. And that's where the next fortunes will be made. Indeed, that's the biggest challenge Wall Street now faces: recruiting talented people. It used to be the hottest place to work. Now it is one of many places -- and other industries like technology have become more popular and exciting.

CBN Weekly: Has the book changed your life? What has the crisis taught you mostly?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: The book changed my life because it made me realize that even the stories I'm writing day to day in the newspaper go so much deeper. When you get to peel back all the layers the way I did writing the book, the story is never black and white. And that's the most interesting part.

[Both CBNweekly and Yicai Global are owned by Yicai Media Group, the largest financial news group in China. Over the past 13 years, Yicai Media Group has dominated Chinese financial media through radio, television, newspaper, magazine, new media, information services, business research and other mediums. It is the first choice of partner for the world's top financial forums and international economic organizations.]

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Keywords: Andrew Ross Sorkin , Too Big To Fail