Trying to work out which banks are the world's best is a bit like awarding the prize for the prettiest war-torn village. It is a title that carries little kudos. It is also likey to prompt further shelling. Winners of industry awards in the past three years include Ken Lewis, the chief executive of Bank of America for banker of the year (2008); Societe Generale for its risk management; and Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide, a failed mortage lender, for a "life-time of achievement"- The Economist (May 23)
I am reminded of a terrific quote from Martin Wolf, FT''s economic pundit, "Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first put on the covers of business magazines".
But why blame business chambers and the media alone for idolising the wrong guys? Remember the best-selling book by McKinsey gurus, Peters and Waterman, In search of Excellence, that identified companies that had got it all right? Within a few years of the book's coming out, many of the famous names in the book that had been held up as role models were in trouble.
Alan Greenspan was hailed as the ultimate central banker and was the subject of more than one gushing biography. Today, he's among those held primarily responsible for the global crisis.
Moral: Be careful whom you lavish praise on, be it a company or an individual.