Societie Generale and the missing £3.6 billion

You would think that it would be easy to find the £3.6 billion missing from one of France’s biggest banks. After all it’s not a small pile of money. Somebody must be able to spot it.

So where is it? What most people seem to have ignored is that if the money isn’t in that French bank, it’s got to be somewhere. We know that the rogue trader doesn’t have it, so somebody else must have it. Money does not evaporate.

Traders in the financial markets are nothing more than barrow boys. Essentially they buy things cheaply and sell them on more expensively. That’s how they make their money. The fact that this trader has lost so much money implies that somebody somewhere bought whatever he was selling, options for instance, at a cheaper price than he paid for them; it isn’t complicated.

Even though the French authorities are running round trying to find this rogue trader, all around the world there are probably severalvery happy people who have benefited significantly from his mistakes. He is unlikely to have been trading with more than a hundred people. Which means each of them are now £36 million better off. Nice work if you can get it.

But with the world’s media focused on the hunt for the rogue trader, no one is busy looking for the multimillionaires he’s helped create. They are literally laughing all the way to the bank.

What’s strange about this tale is that it’s exactly the same as we have seen countless times on the Internet. For example, high-street booksellers have been complaining for years that people aren’t buying as many books. They have lost millions of pounds in book sales. They focus all their attention on looking for the missing millions. But those millions are not missing — Amazon has got them.

There really is only so much money to go around: governments do not keep printing money. If they do that it would lead to runaway inflation. So, money supply is kept fairly static. When one business loses money another business gains money. So when your business sets up online, if you have an established offline business the chances are it will lose money. We have just witnessed this with the Christmas trading figures. Dozens of retailers complained that their sales were down in the high Street. But their sales were up online.

They seemed to think that by establishing an online presence they would somehow increase their income. Whilst this is perfectly possible, the chances are that if all you’re doing is replicating your offline service with an online oonr, all that will happen is that people will choose your online business for convenience. Simply by setting up a shop online, you are unlikely to increase your income. To do that you need an altogether different online approach. Few retailers have yet to work this out. for any particular business.

There is only so much money to go round; if you’re offline business doesn’t have the money, your online business will probably have it. Just like the missing money from the French bank, the money hasn’t disappeared. It has merely gone elsewhere. If you truly want to increase your market share and really want to increase your online business you need to provide something different than merely a replacement for your offline shop.

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