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When banking empires fall: the Bible’s view

What do empty bankers’ pockets, Snapchat and Bible prophecy have in common?

Trouble, thy name is Deutsche Bank.

Question: are you a sensible human being? If so, you probably find talk of banks and banking extremely boring and would prefer to have your eyeballs rubbed with rusty nails and rinsed in salt water. That being the case, I’ll aim to keep this relatively short and simple (mainly because I’m not smart enough to explain it all properly anyway). But banking boredom or not, this is a story you really should know about. It’s also morbidly interesting, in a ‘twenty-car-pileup-in-slow-motion’ kind of way.
Deutsche Bank (hereafter ‘DB’) is Germany’s largest bank, and it is in a world of strife. Founded in 1870, it has 100,000+ employees in over 70 countries and counts total assets of just over 1.8 trillion euros (that’s 1,800,000,000,000 in real numbers, or roughly half the size of the entire German economy). On paper, it looks like a powerful and proud old institution – but the reality is somewhat different.

1. Where did all my money go?

Let’s look at a quick snapshot, by imagining you had some money to invest in them:

  • In May 2007 buying one ‘share’ of the company would have cost you US$150 hard earned dollars. That made its ‘market cap’ (in brief, the amount of money required to buy all the outstanding shares in the company) at the time around US$68.3 billion dollars (a.k.a. “quite a lot of cash”).
  • However… if you wanted to buy one share of DB today, you would just need to open your wallet and find a $10 note and a $2 coin. And they’d still give you 9 cents change. Yessir, today one share in Germany’s largest bank costs just $11.91. So if you wanted to buy all the shares in the company, instead of needing US$68.3 billion dollars (like 2007), you’d now need just US$16.2 billion.Why, that’s a saving of more than 75%. What a bargain! (bet you can’t get that at Lowe’s).

 

  • HOWEVER… that also means that if you were a reasonably wealthy investor in 2007, and after watching the share price rise you bought say 10,000 shares at $145 each, your $1,450,000 investment in 2007 is today worth just $119,100, give or take (not counting the dividend payouts you’d have received through the years, of course). In very basic numerical terms, you’re down about $1.3 million dollars. Good investment? Hmmm.

2. A fine day for a nasty fine

If you happen to follow the financial news you may have seen that the US Department of Justice have hit DB with a big fine (let’s not go into why right now, for the sake of our eyeballs). Now that’s OK, because DB knew it was coming. They expected it to be about US$2.5 billion – righto. Ouch. But wait? What? Hold-the-phone: it’s actually US$14 billion – which, by the way, is almost the size of its ‘market cap’. Now, whilst DB technically have a lot of assets they could sell to pay this fine, this is just another in a long line of financial calamities that have hit the bank. How do you think current shareholders feel when the bank gets hit with a fine almost as big as the total of all its shares? Of course, they may never end up paying that much (DB has said it has “no intention” to either) but that doesn’t make their problems go away. Don’t forget that their CEO John Cryan (PUN ALERT: he’ll be ‘cryan’ soon enough) has told everyone that it’s all good, and nothing is wrong – they’ve got heaps of cash and they’ll just sell a few things off. Which is exactly what Lehman Brothers’ CEO Dick Fuld said in 2008, months before Lehman’s collapsed (PUN ALERT: they ‘fulded’, yeah?) even though they had $35 billion dollars of cash and liquid assets. In fact, DB have been trying to sell a subsidiary called Postbank this whole year –it’s just that no one wants to buy it, at any price.

OK, fine. You get it. So what?

3. A spiderweb like no other

Well, the most worrying thing – and the part that matters for Bible students – is that DB is hugely interconnected to just about every other major financial institution in the world. If you want a visual representation, there’s a great little diagram courtesy of the IMF, from the ‘Fortune’ article listed under ‘Further reading’. Here you go:

spider

That’s one hectic spiderweb. Yep, I think we’re doomed.

 

Basically, it looks like a somebody dunked an angry spider in Red Bull Concentrate and then told it to build a web as quickly as possible (whilst playing Iron Maiden loudly in the background).

DB’s troubles are lengthy, well documented and even include dodgy Russian dudes (the New Yorker article below is a long but fascinating read, if you want more) but in short, many analysts believe we could be staring down the barrel of another 2008 financial collapse moment, or worse. Only last weekend, Angela Merkel “waded into the mess” (so said the UK’s Telegraph) by announcing there would be no government bailout of DB. So this giant company is teetering, and the German government says they do NOT stand behind it. What does that mean for all the other financial institutions who deal with it – or in other words, the many thousand strands of that spider web? Anyone who follows financial markets knows that once confidence evaporates, things turn ugly. Would YOU, Mr Businessman, trade a few billion dollars with DB right now, given the state it is in? Heck, I’ll be keeping my $11.91 in my pocket thank you: I’d rather buy a coffee and some toilet paper.

Let’s not forget that Germany, to quote the Telegraph again, “has set itself up as the guardian of financial responsibility”. They let the Greek banking system go down the drain, and Italy is already gurgling. Germany can hardly turn around and bail out its own largest and dodgiest bank when they’ve watched other Eurozone banks hit the wall, and indeed railed against the ‘bailout mentality’.

4. One heck of a lot of coffee

So… let’s get back to our friend ‘Herr Trouble’ one last time.

DB’s share price fell another 7.5% this past Monday, 26 September. Last financial year they posted a 6.8 billion euro loss (yes, that’s -6,800,000,000: enough dosh to buy you 139 brand new Porsche Boxster 718’s, or 1.9 billion cups of coffee).

I’ll have 139 of those please, mate

 

But wait! There’s more.

According to the Financial Times, DB is currently dealing with 7,000 lawsuits and regulatory actions. Their market cap is currently worth less than Snapchat (I think that weird fact alone speaks volumes!) and as I said, is only a shade bigger than the fine they just got whacked with.

And y’all say: so what? The Western Bulldogs are in their first final for 55 years, and the Cronulla Sharks in 786 years! And #Brangelina have broken up! Why should I care about greedy bankers?

Fair enough: before you reach for those rusty nails – why should bible students (or any normal person) keep a keen eye on all of this?

Well, in Luke 21 Jesus Christ talks about the kind of state the world at large will find itself in immediately before his return to the earth:

And there shall be signs […] upon the earth DISTRESS OF NATIONS, with PERPLEXITY; the sea and the waves roaring; MEN’S HEARTS FAILING THEM FOR FEAR, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be SHAKEN. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then LOOK UP, AND LIFT UP YOUR HEADS; for your redemption draws nigh.

And an intriguing prophecy in Isaiah 24 speaks of widespread social and financial meltdown that affects all classes of people:

Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate […] And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the Lord has spoken this word.

Don’t get me wrong – the return of the Lord Jesus Christ is the best possible thing that could happen to this earth, as Psalm 72 and many other Bible passages clearly explain. Isaiah 24 isn’t all bad news: you need to keep reading the rest of the chapter. God has planned a glorious endgame – but that’s another story for another day.

5. Everything will be just fine (lol)

There are countless examples of reputable financial news sites reporting these latest DB developments with growing angst – I’ve compiled a short list below if you want to read more. The crux is this: people from all sectors are worried, and that’s putting it lightly. But ask the man on the street, or the major Aussie newspapers today, and nothing’s wrong.

Everything’s “perfectly normal” (except the size of Donald Trump’s hands, which somehow is still important news).

I think I put them in the wash a few too many times. Must be all that money I was laundering

 

Consider this: as of lunchtime yesterday, the most-read stories on the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age were about Donald Trump’s “very stupid post-debate antics”. The Brisbane Times’ leading story was about a meteor report (oh the irony!!), and WA Today led with a story about an AFL player’s drinking game trending on Twitter. Awesome.

Sorry guys, my bad – everything must be fine after all. Nothing to see here.

But then… that’s exactly what another Bible prophecy said people would think, in Matthew 27:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

So… who is gonna win the footy this weekend – after all, that’s the big issue, right?

Tick tock.

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References / Further Reading:

5 Things You Should Know About the Deutsche Bank Train Wreck Fortune, 27 September 2016 http://fortune.com/2016/09/27/deuts… Deutsche Bank shares fall to lowest level since mid-1980s The Guardian, 27 September 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/busines… Deutsche Bank: how did a beast of the banking world get into this mess? The Guardian, 27 September 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/busines… Deutsche Bank’s Pain Is Germany’s Too Bloomberg, 26 September 2016 https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/ar… The Deutsche Bank crisis could take Angela Merkel down – and the Euro The Telegraph, 26 September 2016 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business… Deutsche Bank’s $10-Billion Scandal The New Yorker, 29 August 2016 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2… Here Are the Signs That Deutsche Bank Is in Big Trouble The Street, 25 August 2016 https://www.thestreet.com/story/136… The return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth to establish God’s kingdom: http://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/ Ezekiel 38:1-23 Daniel 11:40-15; 12:1-3 Matthew 24:36-39 John 5:25-29 and 14:1-3 Acts 1:9-11 1 Corinthians 15:52-57 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 5:2 Revelation 1:7

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