The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money


It is now 5 years since the collapse of Lehman Bros and the start of the financial crisis that collapse precipitated.  Though most of us grow more and more cynical and angry about the financial system, how many of us really understand it?

Brett Scott is well placed to lead us on an exploration of radical approaches to global finance, shareholder activism..  An anthropologist and former whizz kid broker, his  Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money offers the reader a framework for approaching the financial system based on hacking, activist entrepreneurialism, DIY and open source culture.

In the podcast, Brett talks to Craig Barfoot about the creative disruption of hacking and describes  ‘the sheer joy and curiosity of exploring an economic system……..once you’ve explored the financial system enough you can see the weak points and how you can exploit them.”

Brett’s hacker approach is to take the existing technology and play with it creatively – changing the DNA of a financial instrument.  So he looks at how campaigners have used financial instruments and subverted them  – shareholder activists buy shares, others press for Socially Responsible Investment Funds (which, as he points out are tiny compared with the massive investment funds they run alongside), the divestment movement aims to get large organisations to divest from companies involved in mining or the arms industry, and those using the ‘social return’ model push for something different on the bottom line.  As he points out, the aim of much of this is education as well as advocacy – by getting involved we learn more about the financial system.

But he counsels that you  have to maintain radical input, you must not allow the social impact  bond, for example, to be co-opted by Goldman Sachs and used in their PR campaigns!

Nevertheless he says it is a mistake to see bankers as just the stereotypical ‘greedy bankers’, arguing that people go into finance for a variety of reasons –  financial reward is just one of those reasons. with family pressures and intellectual challenge being equally important.

This is an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to begin to understand the financial system in order to change it.

Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money is published by Pluto Press, price £11.50.

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