Book Review: Heads You Win

The Moneychangers

After the banking novels of Ravi Subramanian, I had a chance to read The Moneychangers by Arthur Hailey.  This book was written in 1975, and I was curious to see how the author depicted the world of banking in America during this period.

The book is story of First Mercantile American Bank, founded by the grandfather of the current chief, Ben Roselli.  As Ben Roselli is diagnosed with terminal illness, it is time to find a successor.  There are two candidates - Alex Vandervoort and Roscoe Hevward.  Both are senior executives of the Bank with proven track record.  While Alex favours the path of retail Banking and modernization, with corporate social responsibility, Roscoe prefers large business lending with focus on profits.

The Bank is rocked by theft of cash, as well as forged credit cards.  While Alex, with the help of Edwina D'Orsey, Branch Head and Nolan Wainright, head of Security tries to solve these, Roscoe ends up dining with G G Quartermain, head of SuNatCo, a large business group.  The Boards overrules Alex's protest to grant a load of $50 million to SuNatCo.

The rest of the book is about these events affect the Bank and how Alex and Rocoe deal with them.

Like other books of Arthur Hailey, the MoneyChangers is well researched and depicts the American Banking industry during the 1970s in great detail.  These were the days of relationship-based Banking before the large-scale automation.  There are references to emerging technology in the form of ATMs and computers to validate credit card transactions.

Many of the aspects in the book like credit card fraud, embezzlement using dormant accounts, bad loans, bank run are as relevant today as they are in the book.

Though set decades book, I would rate this book over the new generation banking novels.