The Financial Reporting Council (FRC), which oversees issues of corporate governance, has been busy recently. In June it published an updated UK Corporate Governance Code. Now, this month it has published the companion UK Stewardship Code for institutional investors. So we now have both sides of the governance coin, ready for implementation, the considered regulation by City insiders to prevent a repetition of the banking excesses which landed us in such a pickle two years ago. What do they amount to?
Industry has always depended on credit. Without it we would not have had an industrial revolution. When Adam Smith described his pin factory which, through the division of labour, increased production from, at most, 20 pins per day per operative, to more than 48,000, all that was needed was a market for that massive increase in production. Markets had previously been small and localized affairs, requiring little in the way of transportation. Industrial markets required mass transportation which was first achieved with canals and turnpikes. But canals took many years to build before they could ever earn a penny return. That required a great deal of money and at that time money was scarce. Wealth was accrued in land and property rather than in spare cash. The only way such projects as canals could be financed was to get money from huge numbers of people whose repayment would come out of the future earnings of the projects themselves. The same applied to the later railways, and the whole industrialization process. So banks have always played a central role in the financing of industry.