Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Zopa Sounds Super Alternative to Apalling Banks

Jonathan Freedland is a very sharp columnist and today he informs us about a great idea. I like it because it suits the mood of the time and is based squarely on market principles so that even the most rightwing critic could not object to it, even if it is being publicised by a Guardian writer.

Freedland reminds us of the current infamy of the banks(see Goldman Sachs and Barlcays buildings pictured) whereby US banks have trousered $175bn of taxpayers' money and yet have rewarded themselves with $35bn in bonuses! Just astonishing is it not? Rewards in the UK will inevitably be in a similar category.

There has been much talk of curbing such excesses but the bankers have done as they please and the merest suggestion of a High Pay Commission- supported by Vince Cable and Labour think tank- Compass, has already caused both Osborne and Darling to shriek dismissive protestations.

Freedland's suggestion is based on a real life innovation, born of consumers' desire to adapt to new conditions. Zopa is an online bank, a bit like Betfair the online bookie- where some people offer money at stated interest rates and borrowers take their pick. Zopa checks creditworthiness and lays off the risk so that defaultings are very rare and do not really hurt lenders.

And the system- though in its infancy- actually works. I do so hope it catches on- though the cynic in me also wonders that if it does- its owners will be raking in huge bonuses in a decade or so which a new generation will castigate and demonise. Plus ca change...?

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