If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times

Wriston, Walter B.


Baskets of Money


Concerning the dollar's gradual decline as the world's reserve currency, do you see countries resorting to a basket of currencies rather than relying on a single unit?

We have that now in the SDR[19]  which is basically a basket of currencies. It has been difficult to do technically, because you don't buy and sell harmonicas or oil or anything else with a basket. You do it with a currency. Still, there are various ways to weave a basket. Years ago, the Creditbank in Brussels issued bonds that were payable in a basket of currencies, so-called Euro Units, but it really never caught on. In the real world, when you're buying and selling wool or coffee or steel or whatever, you have to bill and be paid in one currency, then you can switch it into whatever you want. There is a feeling that as the dollar declined, people tried to protect themselves with a basket. But so far it's a very minuscule thing, other than the SDR.

Do you feel that the U.S. benefits from this? If so, in what way?

The dollar was overvalued for a long time. As a result, it was very detrimental to our exports and helpful to foreign exporters. The dollar is now seeking equilibrium, and I think that over time, when it reaches equilibrium, our export position will be better than it is now. I don't regard the situation as a disaster.


[19] Special Drawing Rights, made available under specified conditions to central banks by the International Monetary fund, are supported by, thus in one sense denominated in, the various national currencies of member nations.

  • The document was created from a compilation of interviews and question and answer segments with Walter B. Wriston which was later compiled into "If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times" in 1980. The original speech is located in MS134.001.034.00018.
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 Title Page
If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times
I: Getting Down to Fundamentals
The Big Cop-out
You Can't Go Bail for Everyone
Risk Is What It's All About
II: Some Basic Ills of the Body Politic
Lincoln Wouldn't Have Made It
Unpredictable Is a Dangerous Country
The Pitfalls of Single-issue Politics
Expect To Get Zapped
The Perils of Legal Pollution
The Injustice of Our Tax System
Those Wonderful People Who Bring You Inflation
Stop the Presses
Silly Premises Lead to Nutty Conclusions
Easier Said Than Done
III: New York, New York
New York City Is Alive And Well
The Road Back
IV: Careers
Rx for Happiness
Good Forward Planning
Dull Job?
A Simple Matter of Survival
Making It at Citibank
What Fast Track?
No Hiding Place
V: Once Around the World Quickly
South Africa
China: A Matter of Timing
The Real Significance of Iran
Iran and the Money Markets
Fashions in Country-criticizing
VI: The Global Financial Scene
The Elusive Eurodollar
De Facto Payments Mechanism
Too Big To Move
The Foreign Exchange Game
They Can't Leave the System
Baskets of Money
Swiss Francs
The Value of a Dollar
Not a Loss Since 1897
A Rational View of LDC Loans
Free Trade Benefits Consumers
The Destructive Costs of Regulation
The Big Rip-off
A Real Entitlement
Can Regulations Prevent Bum Loans?
The Insidious Side of Controls
Competition in Regulation
VIII: The Shape of Things To Come
Not As Big As You Think
What Lobby?
Armageddon Is Late, as Usual
Some Simple Facts about Interest Rates
An Expensive Luxury
How Big Is Big?
What We Did Yesterday Won't Work Tomorrow
A Matter of Semantics
Unpredictable Is a Dangerous Country
Privacy: A Serious Problem
The Unseen Revolution
Things Are Going To Be Different
Take the Handcuffs off Everybody
The Gray Areas of Lending
No Mouse under the Rug
Thank God We Don't Have National Banking
Competition Keeps You Awake
Accounting for Loan Losses
Not a Utility
People Like It
Computer Frauds
Some Final Words on Responsibility
About the Author