Demolition for progress

Today I cycled past the former bank building on the corner of the Ceintuurbaan and the Ferdinand Bol. But there was no bank, merely a lot of metal, used to strengthen the concrete floor. It's not clearly visible in this Nokia-snapshot, but just trust me there was a lot of metal there.

When I looked at it, I realized it must have been the functional ground floor or basement, in which vaults or safe deposits of the Incassobank were located. Because that's the bank that was built here:

before it eventually became ABN AMRO building below...

which is now taken down to allow for the South-entrance of the newest Amsterdam subway extension (Noord-Zuid lijn).


History of Basel II and the effects since on banking...

I just read an interesting article on the history of Basel II, the set of rules that was established, some 25 years ago to make the supervisory rules for banking reflect more of the market dynamics than the previous set of rules. The article highlights that the zero-weighting prescribed for government banks, regardless of the country in which they were based, created a bias that made banks upload tons of government treasuries of a range of countries. It made banks lazy in doing a check on the counterparty risk, although there were serious differences in the quality of the debt. And it thus also provided easy (and cheap) money for the governments. We have since learnt that that is not a good thing and that governments cannot keep on borrowing money forever. See also todays warning and possible USA downgrade by Moodys.

The author of the article outlines that at this moment we can see the European Central Bank ignoring the rating agencies qualifications of countries debt to be able to continue providing liquidity to Portuguese and Irish banks. And he goes on to outline that it is quite likely that the future will consist of different Basel-rules, in which banks will have to do better due diligence and have to use realistic measures for counterparty risks.

That is, if we are willing to learn from history.


Retronaut... .interesting site.... with history of Amsterdam in retro-foto's

Today I ran across a site on the web called the Retronaut. It is a site that aims to make pictures of the situation in a city right now and compare it to earlier days. And it has a special section on (the ghosts of) Amsterdam. And the interesting thing is, this method of making pictures on exactly the same spot as many years earlier is something I quite like doing. I don't have that much readily available on financial history however.

Except for one sketch of the desgn of the main office of the Nederlandsch-Indische Handelsbank, built between 1910-1912 and designed by architects: van Rossum and Vuyk. In 1925 the building was expanded by the architect van Gendt.

The building in 1962 turned into the head-office of the Municipal Giro of Amsterdam....

which in turn became the Main Post Office in Amsterdam...

which closed in January 2011 this year and now has space to rent....


Visit to the Jewish Historical Museum... fine example of a modern museum

Yesterday I had the pleasure to visit the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. And I very much enjoyed seeing both the regular expositions and the temporary ones on Dada, Triumph of Identity. It had been quite a while since my previous visit and I was pleasantly surprised. The museum has chosen to focus on the Jewish identity and history in a way that is really inviting and allows for both a more quick overview or a more in depth listen/view to video's and audiotapes. And in doing so they also managed to avoid the risk of becoming a war-museum.

To me it became more clear that since the 16th century the Dutch were a bit more open towards the Jewish people than other countries in Europe, making Amsterdam a better place to stay than other cities in Europe. Still, jewish people weren't allowed into the guilds and sought out jobs as diamond cutters and were active in (street) trade and finance. And I came to understand that Hugo de Groot helped out in outlining which legal rules to apply to jewish immigrants, using the point of view that we should welcome the jewish people to the Netherlands, not so much for the experience in trade or their economic benefit, but for the mere fact that they are human. Imagine that later on, de Groot got in trouble for his liberal point of view (that didn't suit the Calvinist yoke).

I didn't know that it took until after the French revolution that the jewish people officially obtained equal rights. And with that came an obligation to also use the Dutch language. Which was supported by some in the jewish community, but strongly resisted by others. It allowed me to further understand and reflect on being away from home and having to find a place of your own. The way in which the museum helped me look at this history and development of identity was very inspiring.

As the last bit of my tour around the museum I came to visit the Kids Museum. And it would of course be easy to leave it aside and visit only the grown-up stuff. But I didn't and thus entered the home of a family. The visit takes you through the different rooms of the house, allowing for different aspect of tradition to be highlighted. Which is all down in very bright and open manner. With a sort of Harry-Potter like speaking wall, which tells the kids the history of the building. And a music room upstairs, which helped out understanding the different jewish celebrations.

All in all, I found the museum is a real treasure that we may be really be proud of.