Economists in Nordic banks and other major financial institutions work mainly as internal experts on micro- and macroeconomic issues.
Traditionally, at least in Finland, they have also been important public figures in economic issues and are often referred by financial newspapers. After the beginning of the ongoing financial crisis, economist- and other financial experts have been increasingly quoted by mainstream media too.
Large banks like Nordea, OP-Pohjola and Danske Bank are usually the employers of the most referred-to economists. Usually the interviews are labeled as the official “opinion” of the employing bank. Economists employed by smaller banks are many times referred separately only if their opinion/statement is edgy enough.
An Ilta-Sanomat article featuring Pasi Kuoppamäki, Head Economist of Danske Bank Finland
The main goal in these statements and other public sources of expert information is, simply to offer easily understandable information to the general public. Although lately the main tone-of-voice, from any high level financial expert, seems to be rather calming than purely educative, since the general public has become increasingly interested of the economy and may rush to judgements without proper understanding of economic issues.
Some people might say that Economists try to be the voice of reason and a statistical way of analyzing facts in today’s atmosphere filled with all kind of financial extremists and idealists all pushing out information more or less fixed to move the public opinion to their preferred direction.
As usually is the case, this subject is not as black-and-white as you might first think. Let’s remember that the most referred-to economists in Finland are employed by commercial banks and the Bank of Finland. After all it is to the bank’s/public institutions benefit to calm the conversation since some things in the public debate have have the tendency to be blown out of proportion by the more edgy and media-sexy point-of-views. Summa summarum; the voice of reason comes frequently with a sort of motherly, calming tone.
Luckily for anyone not as educated in the financial market system and macroeconomics, Economists are, by profession, obligated to base their statement on statistic facts, being usually Masters of Economic sciences of some sort and controlled mostly by the generally accepted financial theories of the time. This results, in worst cases, in slightly bland and vague statements, as the economists are tied to so many supervising authorities ready to separate the statement of the institutions official policy.
Social media will hopefully bring some openness and more differing, although still justifiable, opinions in to the discussion. This, of course, will come with challenges, as Economists have to clearly separate the more-edgy opinions from the official, vaguer stands of their employers.
I used the word “statement” when talking about the interviews and financial information provided by economists because they tend to vary from personal, although highly educated, opinions to the official stand of the employing bank and hard data proven by statistics. Of course most of these statements are based on documented facts, but let’s keep in mind, that even an educated prediction of future economy is far from an exact science. Also, even documented facts are often impossible to explain plainly and understandably enough to the general public in a short magazine-interview, to cover the whole scale of the subject/problem.
P.S. I’m writing this mostly based on my personal observations from following conventional and social media and professional publications from my work in a large Finnish bank. I purposely concentrated in the Finnish point of view of the subject. Please use the comment section if you can direct me to more edgy and witty Economists if you find any!
(Economists still meaning professionals who comment based on their expertise or research in the subject , not their personal ideology or opinion)