Fischer, himself former governor of the Bank of Israel and former vice chair of the US Federal Reserve Board of Governors, introduces the three heads of the major central banks during the financial crisis. Their discussion focuses on the causes and nature of the crisis, the lessons they learned, and what they would each do differently.
One of the chief points Bernanke emphasizes is distinguishing between a financial crisis, which he describes as any kind of big shock to the financial system, and a panic, which is a general run on intermediaries and a very particular kind of crisis. In the United States, “The panic was the most important thing,” he says. He doesn’t think the Great Recession would have been so severe without it. His recommendation: “In the crisis, look for the short-term liabilities, look for where the run potential is.” He also stresses how critical it is for central bankers to have robust lender of last resort tools to guard against future panics.
“The essence of this was a run,” King says. “The impact on the economy was based on that run.” His major takeaways are that the banking system was undercapitalized, lender of last resort facilities were inadequate, and politics were problematic.
One of the major lessons for Trichet was the speed with which the run took place. It created an unprecedented contagion. “The herd formed up in one day,” he says. And while he acknowledges that we are safer today, he still sees some of the same issues. “We are still in this interconnection, and we have to prepare.” He stresses the importance of maintaining central bank independence. He also points out the resilience of the often-maligned eurozone. Although 5 of the 19 countries had a dramatic crisis, the union still held.
A session from the 2008 Financial Crisis: A Ten-Year Review conference held on 8-9 November 2018 in New York.