The Future Of S&P Downgrades: FYI, CYA Or LOL?
I can’t resist this.
In the last few days, S&P downgraded the pristine credit rating of two leading mutuals, two fraternals, one stock company and a country. What is next? Will planet Earth become a mere AA+, as well?
I understand their position. They cannot look past the obvious facts about gross debt, unemployment and spending patterns of the U.S. and not do something. But the question is, is it an economic issue or a political one? In many ways, it doesn’t matter. Ratings are only valuable as relative to something else. And now they are all arguing about whether or not that data is correct.
Let them argue their butts off. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the future of the rating system is going to work very differently. There will no longer be a few experts who tell the world what your grade is. The transparency and access to information will allow the world to tell you.
Yes. I am talking about the wisdom of the crowd. Corporate executives everywhere are secretly shaking in their boots about Gen Y and how to deal with them, while on the outside, they are saying things like “they don’t have any money” or “they don’t have any power” … yet.
Gen Y, as it is defined now (basically anyone about 31 or younger), is the largest generation—even bigger than the boomers. So the world must look at them as the leaders of the future, not the ones we need to change to conform to our ways of being.
Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, stop screaming over the fact that Gen Y is “risking their futures” by putting them out on Facebook. You can’t stop this. This is the way they roll. The world is going to work on a social currency that only gets fed by the data that people provide on a constant basis. So if you’re hiding stuff, people will be suspicious of you. If you tell the truth, even if it is a little embarrassing, people will at least know they have accurate data and will trust what you say in the future. Would you trust a twentysomething who tried to make you believe they never got crazy at a party? C’mon. The new access to information levels the playing field.
So how does that relate to S&P, you ask? Well, rating agencies do the job of assimilating facts and figures and come up with conclusions based on some algorithm that puts an entity in a range or a grading scale regarding their ability to pay back debt, support claims, etc. In many ways, these ratings create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the experts agree that someone is worthy or not, the world generally follows. However, in the current/future world of open information, the rating agency of public opinion becomes the truth. So if the consumers at large have enough information that they can form an opinion about a person, a company or even a country, those numbers will ultimately speak louder than any single authority figure ever can, and the rating agency, as we know it, becomes a thing of the past.
Where is this already being done? How about “likes” on Facebook. Seller ratings on eBay. Views on YouTube. Sure, you can say that the financial stability of companies is a complicated matter that not everyone can understand, but just wait. If Gen Y sees the political and economic “experts” as a bunch of noisemakers, they will be LMAOing to their friends and asking what they think instead.
How do you spell Pterodactyl?