Bankers Anonymous - Honest and Reflective Conversation about FinanceThe world of finance is a dizzying landscape of acronyms, forms, and risk evaluation. Not our favorite dinner table conversation topics, but they’re a pivotal part of all of our lives. About a year ago, we were approached by a former banker with a lofty goal to speak about finance in an approachable way. He had a passion for helping people understand finance and applying that knowledge to what was happening in the world. The problem was he didn’t know where to start. Blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, social media, conversation, engagement…he had heard all the buzzwords and had seen enough evidence to know it worked, but where did he begin. That’s where our strategy team pulled together to guide him on his path.

We recently spoke to Michael Taylor of Bankers Anonymous, who’s now a year into his venture, and enjoying every bit of it.

1. Tell me about what you did prior to launching Bankers Anonymous.

Just prior to Bankers Anonymous I ran a private investment limited partnership, the type which is a typically misnamed as a ‘hedge fund.’ My fund focused on distressed debt and other illiquid fixed income opportunities. Before that I sold bonds at Goldman Sachs, in the mortgage and the emerging markets (Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia) bond departments.

2. While many might shy away from discussing local, national, or even global financial news, what fuels your passion?

Understanding finance is terribly important for making good decisions at the personal, local, and national level. Over the years I’ve become increasingly concerned that we as individuals do not understand finance enough for our own good. At the same time our leaders do not either. The 2008 Crisis is what happens when we have a misunderstanding of what’s really happening. You get bad decision-making, all up and down the line.

Responsibility rests with our households, our organizations, with our cities and states, and with our country. My passion is not to force my way of decision-making (that will come later, when I’m selected as dictator, by acclamation) but rather to contribute to understanding finance in its simplicity, as well as its complexity.

3. What’s your goal with Bankers Anonymous?

Give educated, but non-expert, folks an introduction to understanding finance better. To give them a sense that they have the ability, as well as the obligation, to engage with the topic not just as individual economic agents, but also as citizens. Finance matters a lot. If we abdicate responsibility for understanding and also decision-making, then we get the crappy results we deserve. Like in 2008.

4. What successes have you seen since launching your blog and podcast?

I’ve been picked up by the BBC, The Guardian, and the top online finance news aggregator, Business Insider.

5. How have you seen the use of new media and social networks change the world of finance?

As I’m sure happened with every industry, the number of diverse voices and sources of information has multiplied to Tower of Babel infinity. Sifting through the infinite to find high quality information, however, remains the challenge and the opportunity.

6. What expectations did you have and what have been unexpected hurdles you’ve learned to overcome?

I’m aware of my severe limits in engaging in self-promotion, and that remains a challenge. Social media helps somewhat, in that other people can do the promotion, rather than oneself. But still, this internal hurdle remains.

7. I love how you work to make finance an approachable topic. What’s been the overall response to what you do?

Many friends and many strangers have sent me unanticipated appreciative comments. This is gratifying.

8. What advice do you have for someone looking to move into the digital space?

Marry a doctor who can pay the bills. Remain married for at least as long as it takes for you to figure out how to make it pay. Which is to say, commit for eternity.
What else can I say? I’m a finance guy.

9. What upcoming stories, interviews and reviews can we expect in the coming months?

I have interviewed and transcribed interesting people on topics such as philanthropy, innovation & economic growth, the rising cost of higher education, and wealth taxation in France. I hope to get the chance to edit these as podcasts soon, as they are all very important finance topics.

I will continue to do reviews of personal finance books, as I’m working on my own personal finance book project and I need to have covered all ‘the competition.’

10. What’s been the most rewarding part about what you’re doing?

It’s pretty darn fun to write about an idea I think is important and then have others feel the same way and to share it widely. Like, for example, my piece on ‘What is Wealthy?

11. What should our readers be paying special attention to in the world of finance?

Rising interest rates affect everything from the cost of our mortgage, to the ease of starting a business, to the cost of financing our federal deficits. We cannot control interest rates, but we can try to understand what to anticipate as rates change. For the previous 30 years, until the Spring of 2013, we’ve experienced a steady decline in interest rates, which is generally experience as a good and pleasant thing. Two generations of folks have not really experienced the opposite situation, rising interest rates. It’s probably time think about what may change.

Deficit spending, at both the household level and government level, should only be undertaken with an understanding of the long-term consequences. You can shift consumption forward in time, but of course at the expense of the future. Pleasant spending decisions today may result in unpleasant saving decisions tomorrow.

In partial contradiction of that, I also believe that quality of life considerations should often trump pure financial calculation. Some things do not make perfect financial sense, but you’ve got to do it anyway. Like starting a blog, teaching, and writing a book.

12. Where can people find you online?

I write at www.bankers-anonymous.com
Tweet: @bankeranonymous
Facebook: Bankers Anonymous
Scribd: Bankers Anonymous

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