Tony Jackson

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Full name: Tony Jackson

Area of interest: Financial markets, investment, business regulation

Journals/Organisation: Financial Times


Personal website:







Education: Glasgow University and Oxford: Classics

Career: Trained as securities analyst at Edinburgh broking firm Wood, Mackenzie. Joined FT 1983, posts include head of Lex Column, New York bureau chief

Current position/role: (part-time) columnist

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Other: Married to FT journalist Maggie Urry

Books & Debate:

Latest work:


Financial Times:

Column name:

Remit/Info: Financial markets, investment, business regulation

Section: Companies UK

Role: Columnist



Website: FT.Com/Tony Jackson

Commissioning editor:

Day published: Monday

Regularity: Weekly

Column format:

Average length: 800 words

Articles: 2014

Articles: 2012

Articles: 2011

Articles: 2010

Articles: 2009

  • The inevitable price of Britain’s industrial largesse - Britain’s ingenuity has succeeded in wiping out its comparative advantage by giving foreign competitors the technology to make goods more cheaply - 28th December
  • Pay resentment can easily spread - Surveying the field of battle over bankers’ bonuses, an idle thought occurs to me. Why just bankers? When are the guns going to be trained on chief executives as a class? - 21st December
  • Opportunity to repair analyst system must be taken - At a recent meeting on derivatives in the City of London, there was the usual grumbling about how complex these things were. One of those present demurred. “What derivative in the world”, he asked, “is as complex as Citigroup’s equity? - 7th December
  • It’s bubbly all round but really, does anyone care? - In recent years, world markets have become so unstable that spotting and exploiting the next bubble has become the name of the game - 5th December
  • Consider complexity in assessing derivatives - Carbon trading is the new subprime. It is a market dominated by derivatives and speculation. It is thus of the devil and will go the same way - 30th November
  • Beware the red light of rising consumer price indices - If the darker scenario is right, the message is clear. Watch those consumer price indices – and when they turn, don’t hang about - 23rd November
  • Bank regulators should learn from health and safety - Regulatory reform of the world’s banks is becoming a painful thing to watch. The main object is disappearing under a mass of suffocating detail. Perhaps policymakers should turn for guidance to an unlikely source – health and safety - 16th November
  • Addicts left in charge of fixing the system - It is by now apparent that we are in another asset bubble. The chief cause, is action by governments to repair the damage from last time round. Though the pattern has become familiar, it is chilling that this outbreak should come so soon after the biggest bubble in living memory - 9th November
  • Take the lead on regulation to call the bankers’ bluff - Britain’s banks, the chairman of Barclays said recently, would be harmed if the UK imposed tough regulation not applied elsewhere. This is a deft application of the principle of divide and rule - 2nd November
  • Age-old problem of pensions and a shrinking workforce - In 25 years, the UK will have 2.8 people of working age to every one retired, versus 3.2 today. An old story, you might think. Except that the story keeps getting worse - 26th October
  • Hired guns’ bonus expectations shoot industry in the foot - The bank bonus culture, so sumptuously on display last week at Goldman Sachs, remains under fire from politicians - 19th October
  • Crystal ball stays hazy on bonds or equities question - For what it is worth, I have serious doubts about the recovery story. I find it hard to credit that a crisis of such momentous proportions could be followed so promptly by business as usual - 12th October
  • Emerging markets story symptomatic of wider issue - Every now and then in the investment business, you come across a statement that brings you up short: a warning signal that a high-water mark has been reached - 5th October
  • TBTFs are a malign growth that must be confronted - A couple of months ago, I aired a proposal for tackling banks judged too big to fail: an insurance fund, paid for by the banks, to compensate taxpayers who have rescued them - 28th September
  • Maybe the banks are in worse trouble than we realise - I hate to say it, but we may just possibly have it wrong about the banks. Received wisdom says they are reverting to their bad old ways, and that punitive measures are called for – the first and most concrete being higher capital requirements - 21st September
  • The delicate game of target valuations - In today’s less febrile conditions, we must return to basics. In particular, consider two concepts that are sometimes confused – the control premium and synergy - 14th September
  • Equities surge raises questions on reliability of bounce - The surge in equity markets over the past six months brought relief that the world was not ending. Then came expectation of a bounce in corporate earnings. But how reliable is the bounce? And how sure are we the crisis is over - 7th September
  • Individual rationality can mean collective irrationality - Now even the UK’s chief financial regulator has started kicking the theory of efficient markets, the fun has gone out of it somehow - 31st August
  • Comeback beckons for the conglomerate - The experience of Berkshire Hathaway and General Electric over the past year shows that the classic strategy of diversification has been doing its job - 24th August
  • Aim to contain boom and bust, not just to prevent it - Much well-deserved abuse has been heaped on academic economists lately and on their naïve faith in rational actors, efficient markets and the rest. But there is one area where their beliefs still seem to hold sway – regulation - 10th August
  • A bank-weary taxpayer’s pipe-dream - Protect taxpayers from big banks repeating their blunders in the next bubble by charging for that insurance through regular premiums - 4th August
  • Fundraising looks increasingly desperate - The issue of the ability to raise funds in these turbulent times is one of the most important facing the corporate sector - 27th July
  • CDS market has to climb evolutionary ladder - The regulatory big guns training their sights on the primitive and embryonic credit default swaps markets should make it resemble other developed markets as far as possible - 20th July
  • Private equity set to become a weapon of mass destruction - Logic suggests a lot of companies owned by private equity must be on the point of expiring under the weight of their debt. But the bankruptcy rate, though rising, is still historically low - 6th July
  • Buffett and other blows to efficient market theory - You cannot beat the market today or next week. But you can in the long run, provided you do not want what the average does – or not at the same time - 29th June
  • Optimistic sums risk BA landing in a pensions hole - There are times, I confess, when I feel like giving the unlovely subject of corporate pensions a rest. But then comes the next downward lurch: more companies in denial, fresh evidence that some may be past the point of no return - 22nd June
  • It’s a wicked world for pubs that offer a quiet pint - The business case of the British pub is instructive. The industry has been squeezed by global forces, and the long-term outlook is bleak - 15th June
  • GM shows gravity of pension challenge - The old GM’s US pension fund, with its near-$100bn (£63bn) of liabilities, is being transferred to the new entity. As a direct result, the new GM could be bankrupt again in a few years - 8th june
  • Dividend shadow of former self and future uninspiring - The recent revival of confidence in the markets has had one striking side-effect. Besides bidding up the prices of stocks, investors have also sharply raised their expectations of future dividends, as expressed in the dividend swap market - 1st June
  • Mounting sadness behind the happy headlines - There is no reason to suppose the general public’s instincts are less trustworthy than those of investment professionals – and it is the mood, and therefore the behaviour, of the public that matters above all - 25th May
  • Haunted by lack of clear disclosure of material risk - What is the point of the annual report and accounts? Evidently, it is to show the company’s profitability and the state of its balance sheet. But it is also to alert the owners to contingent risks and liabilities - 18th May
  • With no measure, is liquidity half-full or half-empty? - One of the more intractable problems to have emerged from the financial crisis is that of liquidity. In normal times, we assume an asset can be sold at its market price. Take that away, and the effects are literally incalculable - 11th May
  • ‘Cheeky’ banks play game of marking bonds to market - It has been a pretty good first-quarter reporting season for the big banks. The profit centre in question is the marking to market of the banks’ own bonds. The worse a bank’s prospects and the further its bonds fall, the bigger the profit, and vice versa - 27th April
  • False dawns threaten to blind forecasters - The worst is over, it appears. Various authorities, from President Barack Obama downwards, are lining up to tell us so.The proposition may or may not be true. The real issue, though, lies with the credibility of those advancing it - 20th April
  • The pariahs of finance get that shrinking feeling - What is the future for investment banks? They are, after all, the pariahs of finance: the supposed casino operators who turned out the biggest gamblers of all. When all this is over, what functions can they usefully perform? - 6th April
  • Maybe equities rally, but my money stays under the mattress - When I suggested three weeks ago that equities were due for a rally, and the US market promptly rose 22 per cent in a fortnight, I knew it was time to stop pushing my luck - 30th March
  • Reason dictates rational market theories are bunkum - Consider three stories in this paper last week. All three stories can be referred back the same root: the idea that the market price of a share or other security is somehow true, or at any rate truer than any other price that can be arrived at - 23rd March
  • Proper or improper, banks need society’s control - Let us ask some basic questions about banks and attempt some provisional answers. What is a bank? What is its economic and social function? How can that best be achieved? - 16th March
  • Expect plenty of mood swings before optimism returns - The arresting question is whether credit is the new equity. Specifically, might today’s asset of choice for pension funds be not stocks, but corporate bonds? - 9th March
  • Is writing on wall for regulatory role of ratings agencies? - Indeed, we can pose a starker question. If the agencies – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and the rest – were to vanish, would it matter? - 2nd March
  • Science illusion and ignoring the lessons of history - The anxiety about central and eastern Europe and the amounts lent tby western European banks may only remind us of a problem that has been grumbling along for months - 23rd February
  • Cult that squeezed equity cushion out of shape - In pursuing the cult of equity, companies forgot that its real purpose from a corporate standpoint was to provide a cushion in tough times - 16th February
  • For a quick profit, try picking a pensioner’s pocket - Much of the problem of company pension fund deficits stems from corporate obstinacy in clinging to equity investments rather than government bonds, which are a vastly better match for liabilities - 9th February
  • Inflationary 70s are a lesson in present-day prudence - Despite general concensus that inflation is very unlikely in the short-term, the possibility of a ‘black swan’ event makes prudence the order of the day - 2nd February
  • Various effects of ‘financial isolationism’ take hold - there is a trend for German banks to lend only to Germans, US banks to Americans and yes - British banks to the British - 26th January
  • Why are the banks in crisis again? - The ugly downward lurch of US and European banks in the past 10 days is unsettling, if not wholly unexpected. What is behind it? And where do we go from here? - 19th January
  • History teaches us that rock bottom is a long way off - The collapse in deposit rates has brought a previously rather abstract question into stark relief. As a saver, why should you settle for under 1 per cent return when you can get several times that on equities? - 12th January

Articles: 2008

  • Surreal exercise in giving the clients what they want - The stockbroker’s annual ritual of forecasting the year ahead is quaint enough at the best of times - 29th December 2008
  • Past performance is no guarantee of future knowledge - ’It is better to know nothing,’ said the 19th century American humorist Josh Billings, ’than to know what ain’t so.’ That might stand as an epitaph for the year - 22nd December 2008
  • Banks’ crisis of identity leaves depositors in trauma - What are banks for? Let the last word on this go to the Victorian banker and commentator Walter Bagehot. “The business of banking,” he wrote, “ought to be simple: if is hard, it is wrong” - 15th December 2008
  • Reverse yield gap is turning the clock back 50 years - The gap between bond and equity yields is becoming a critical issue in financial markets - 8th December 2008
  • Too many arguments suffer from lack of imagination - There seems to be growing support for the notion that equities have reached fair value. This raises two questions: how far it is true, and how far it is useful - 1st December 2008
  • Recession flames fanned by debt-capex combination - Every day we hear of capital spending being axed worldwide. Quite right too, you might think. With demand collapsing and borrowing unobtainable, what else are companies to do? - 24th November 2008
  • Full impact of banking crisis aftershocks is anyone’s guess - The banking meltdown seems to have been coming to an end but there are no signs yet that the consequences for the real economy have yet fully emerged - 17th November 2008
  • Time to pay closer attention to the credit markets - The apparent fizzling out of the late-October surge in world equities carries two lessons. First, history does not repeat itself. The second lesson is less obvious but equally important - 10th November 2008
  • IMF gives no reason to think the worst is over - IMF studies found that recessions linked to banking crises lasted twice as long on average as those not linked to any financial crisis, and the cumulative loss of output was about four times as great - 3rd November 2008
  • Take care not to be misled in search for bottom - Have equity markets reached fair value? Some eminent investors, such as Warren Buffett, would appear to think so. And certainly, the time to pose the question is when the prevailing mood is as glum as it is today - 26th October 2008
  • The view isn’t pretty as the banking crisis dust settles - As the hullabaloo of the banking crisis fades, it seems increasingly to have been a kind of distraction from the wider topic. Experience suggests that in crises such as these, bank rescues come some time before the market touches bottom - 20th October 2008
  • Is nationalisation the answer to banks behaving badly? - Why not nationalise the banks and have done with it? Some countries have already gone part of the way, and Iceland all of it - 12th October 2008
  • ‘Spiv’ short sellers might have stopped the rot - Some days, you wonder why you bother. You bail out the banks, pump liquidity like a fire hose and slash base rates. So the market bombs and even most of the banks are down. Ingrates - 8th October 2008
  • Parallels with 1929 highlight need for radical thinking - Last November, I suggested the present crisis might bear comparison to 1929. At the time, it was a kind of throwaway remark. Now, I think, we need to examine the case more closely - 6th October 2008
  • Crazy scramble to hire architects of a toxic industry - For a lay public baffled by the self-immolation of the Western banking system, perhaps the most bizarre instance is the scramble to hire employees of Lehman Brothers - 29th September 2008
  • A long way to go, even if it’s the end of the beginning - For the economy and the markets this is unlikely to prove the great turning point. It may be the end of the beginning, but there is a long way to go - 22nd September 2008
  • Valuation is fraught with dangers - Even the most fundamental valuation methods are brittle - 14th September 2008
  • Sovereign wealth funds appear to have lost their way - The forward march of the sovereign wealth funds seems in slight disarray these days. Some have been lured off the track by glittering baubles such as football clubs and trophy buildings. But even the steadier troops face a wider issue. How far can they count on seizing assets from the stricken west on the cheap? - 7th September 2008
  • Irrational emotions? Depends which analyst you ask - I was surprised recently to hear two young, prosperous traders tell me technical analysis was their bible. Never mind company news or earnings, they said. Just show us the charts. Their implicit view is that the chart captures what matters – the irrational emotions of market participants - 31st August 2008
  • Safest form of diversification is to avoid the herd - Welcome to the Great Falling. Wherever you look these days, assets are tumbling – stocks and bonds, emerging markets, oil and gold, real estate, private equity, hedge funds, infrastructure funds. Whatever happened to diversification? - 24th August 2008
  • All quiet as focus switches from inflation to recession - Among the blizzard of economic data last week, most striking was the jump in US inflation to a 17-year high. What made it remarkable was the market’s reaction. There was none - 17th August 2008
  • Hitches in the view of a self-righting banking system - At this delicate juncture, the benign view of the western banking system says that past mistakes have in essence been paid for - 10th August 2008
  • Oil price fall might signal a deeper malaise for corporates - Last month brought a spectacular instance of what is known in the jargon as a crowded exit when the crude oil price cracked - 3rd August 2008
  • Europe needs boardroom diversity to stay competitive - The verdict of Siemens’ Peter Löscher that his compnay was too German, too white and too male could apply to most companies in continental Europe and the UK - 27th July 2008
  • Salvage system faces its toughest test - As August approaches and thoughts turn to summer holidays, one group of professionals has its mind on the autumn and winter. Insolvency experts - 20th July 2008
  • Judging by the US, the worst may be yet to come - You can always count on America to give the world a lead. Just as it kicked off the credit crisis, so it stays at the cutting edge as the crisis unfolds. So much the worse for the rest of us - 14th July 2008
  • Let impact of M&S warning serve as a guide - Judging by the events of last week, equity markets are entering a full-blown valuation crisis - 7th July 2008
  • Rampant inflation leaves just two investment options - There are still those dogged souls who think inflation is a mere blip, that will pass as soon as raw material prices stop rising. But their number is dwindling – in the markets at any rate. So it is opportune to ask how investors can protect themselves - 30th June 2008
  • Trapdoor falling on equities in stagflation cage - Those of us who have been fretting for some time about inflation now look like being trampled in the rush to agree. Indeed the big brokers have become so excitable on the topic that, were the situation not so serious, it might even seem time to buy - 23rd June 2008
  • Not the time to gamble on survivors of Armageddon - If you offer prognoses on the markets, as I do on occasion, you are bound to make the odd mistake. In this column four months ago I made a cracker - 16th June 2008
  • The new face of modern finance's chameleon - The more you consider it, the more private equity seems the chameleon of modern capitalism. When the background changes, it changes accordingly - 9th June 2008
  • Lack of trust lurks at heart of banking trouble - Investors are getting twitchy about the banks again. Several UK bank stocks, for instance, are at multi-year lows. But in a wider and more global sense, the twitchiness never really went away - 2nd June 2008
  • On securitisation and credit market market follies - Last week’s £500m issue of mortgage-backed securities by the UK bank HBOS caused a tremor in banking circles. It is effectively the first such deal in Europe since the credit crisis struck. Is securitisation back? - 26th May 2008
  • Damaging pensions drama may have started for real - It now seems unarguable that the ogre of inflation is back. Time, therefore, to consider some of the less obvious implications. Let us begin with pension funds - 18th May 2008
  • Speculators feast on soaring commodities - In times of famine, Vladimir Ilych Lenin took a robust line on speculation. “We can’t expect to get anywhere,” he told the Petrograd Soviet in 1918, “unless we resort to terrorism: speculators must be shot on the spot” - 11th May 2008
  • Tentacles of recession and the Great Unwind - By way of relief from the drama of the credit markets, let us pause to consider equities. It is now eight years, give or take, since the main world markets peaked. Where are we now, and what are the prospects? - 4th May 2008
  • Relief on Wall Street unlikely to bring universal joy - Over the past 10 days, Wall Street chiefs have been queuing to announce that for them at least, the worst is over. They could well be right. But what about the rest of us? - 27th April 2008
  • Inflation poser spreads beyond the world’s super-rich - The other day, an investment professional was telling me of a pressing problem. He handles wealth management at a big investment bank and the main worry for his super-rich clients at present is inflation. They expect him to arrange protection against it. But how do you do that? - 20th April 2008
  • De-equitisation, re-equitisation – a crucial issue for strategists - The era of equity shrinkage, we are told, is over. Farewell share buy-backs, hello rights issues. De-equitisation is dead, long live re-equitisation - 13th April 2008
  • Regulation? Plus change for investment banks - Last week’s startling bounce in global bank shares prompts a couple of intriguing questions. The move may, of course, prove no more than a normal bear market spasm. But in the near term, might the banks be close to turning the corner? And further out, might the threat of regulation turn out to be empty? - 6th April 2008
  • Plenty to think about in this time for reflection - The debate on bank regulation risks becoming slightly theological in character. On the one hand, justice must be seen to be done and bankers must pay for their sins. On the other, tinkering with free markets is of the devil, and the nation that attempts it is on the road to perdition - 30th March 2008
  • Corporates should be braced for the Great Unwind - Most of the world’s fund managers, according to the latest survey from Merrill Lynch, think equities are cheap and bonds are dear. Conceivably, they could have that the wrong way round - 23rd March 2008
  • Vital for lenders and borrowers to get back in touch - Rumour has it, a senior property analyst told me last week, that at least one big UK bank is no longer issuing loans on commercial real estate, or even rolling over existing ones. If true, I am not particularly surprised. After all, the banks’ exposure to the sector is at record levels and property values are sliding - 16th March 2008
  • Pension schemes revolution needs careful planning - The decay of the old pension fund model, it seems, is gaining pace. In the UK, Goldman Sachs is the latest firm to buy out a corporate pension scheme, that of the leisure group Rank. More important, the first such buy-out fund was last week launched in the US, thus taking a British phenomenon on to the world stage - 9th March 2008
  • Equities sail on unconcerned but credit is a different story - Optimists would say last week’s demise of the London-based Peloton ABS credit fund was the darkness before the dawn. Others might say there is plenty more where that came from - 2nd March 2008
  • No compelling precedent for another switch into equities - Last week’s runaway winner in the bad ideas department was the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. This quasi-official body, which takes over bust American pension funds, is switching the bulk of its assets from bonds into equities - 24th February 2008
  • Super-yielders emerge to offer a 10-year opportunity - Amid the welter of gloom from the credit markets last week, it was striking to hear a note of optimism from a veteran London fund manager. Granted, he told me, we might be facing a 50-year Armageddon. Failing that, some parts of the equity market, such as housebuilders and banks, seemed to him to offer a once-in-10 years opportunity - 17th February 2008
  • Fears of recession spread - Whatever happened to the bounce in equities? A week ago the UK’s FTSE 100 index, for instance, was in fine fettle, up 450 points from the low and back through 6,000. Then it lost two-thirds of that in three trading days. Some rally - 10th February 2008
  • Derivatives is an industry tainted by its side effects - At times like these, spare a thought for derivatives salesmen. It has been clear for a while that their wares can prove toxic. But it must be dispiriting for the poor devils that almost every time a fresh chasm opens in the financial landscape, derivatives are at the bottom of it - 3rd February 2008
  • Beware market rally... it could be a false dawn - Those of an essentially cautious disposition, such as myself, have two recurring problems with markets. We tend to call the top too early and the bottom too late - 27th January 2008
  • Has the supercharged banking model run out of road? - It is possible, to put it no higher, that the tidal wave of investment into western banks from sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) could prove a serious mistake - 20th January 2008
  • Unsustainable paradox threatens to bring ugly results - Consider the following two remarkable facts. Corporate profitability across most of the world is at an all-time high. Yet equities are cheaper in relation to Treasury bonds than they have been for more than 20 years - 13th January 2008
  • Banking system’s problems at heart of the bear case - Contemplating the year ahead is, when you come to think of it, a slightly pointless exercise. It is not just that forecasts are generally wrong. More seriously, we tend to worry about stuff that never happens, while getting blindsided by events that nobody foresaw - 30th December 2007

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