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2004

Maria Giuseppina Lucia, 1999 La Geografia Finanziaria, Mercati e Territorio, Bologna, Pàtron Editore, 229 p.

Risto Laulajainen

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1It is increasingly accepted nowadays that the financial sector should be an integral part of the geographical research agenda and, subsequently, become part of the discipline’s educational curriculum. Steps in that direction have, indeed, been taken for some time already, and it is noteworthy that comprehensive geographical treatises seem to originate in areas other than the Anglo-American cultural sphere, which normally leads the pack in financial research and education. Professor Lucia’s contribution is the most all-inclusive national textbook known to this reviewer and should be a prototype for further efforts. Being a textbook it contains much historical, descriptive material, valuable for a foreigner as a concise source on Italy’s past. Beyond that, everybody should benefit by studying the selection of topics and the way they are arranged and handled in the seven chapters.

2The introductory chapter explains the distinction between the real and the financial economies, outlines the effects of deregulation and computerization, and speculates about the viability of financial geography in a local and global context. Chapter 2 provides a guide to the structure of the industry, elaborates on the significance of enhanced information, and describes the change from compartmentalized national markets to the current global one.
Chapter 3 looks at the global financial space in detail. It begins with the familiar study by Reed on finance centers and pays due attention to the many dimensions which should be (but seldom are) accounted for when ranking and classifying these centers. Attention soon turns to the triad of New York, London, and Tokyo, their relative locations within the time zones, their main financial institutions, regulatory histories, and, unexpectedly, internal morphologies. These global cities are followed by numerous national centers on the three continents, and the cavalcade is rounded out with leading offshore centers, offshore zones, and the seemingly locationless eurodollar and asiadollar markets. The available space is well used and all that is essential can be found there.
Chapter 4 takes the domestic perspective. It relates household savings to disposable income, identifies their structure by financial product, and compares household financial assets with those of institutional investors (mutual, retirement, and investment funds). International and temporal comparisons are included. The comparative underdevelopment of the private securities market is explained by the ravaging growth of public debt, placed domestically at very generous terms and syphoning available savings. Investment funds, private financial advisers, and insurance companies are sufficiently developed, however, to warrant few pages each.
Apart from government paper, Italian finance is predominantly banking oriented. Chapter 5, on banking, is consequently the core of the monograph. The historical section is comparatively extensive and it is there that a foreigner will find reasons for the large aggregate market share of numerous small public-law banks which can neither be sold nor bought, in the way of the more familiar landesbanken in Germany. Lending and borrowing (intermediation) are given by macroregion, the regional loan books are disaggregated by type of lending (investment credit, public bodies, real estate, agriculture), and so are the regional revenues (intermediation, fee services, trading). The great bulk of lending (90 pct and above) stays within the macroregions. Whether this is an outcome of localized banks and heavily clustered manufacturing, or the state’s involvement in capital transfers, remains open. The same applies to the revenue structure. Lombardy and Piemonte, with the largest banks and manufacturing companies, have comparatively more intermediation but little trading revenue, whereas Lazio (with Rome) and Tuscany are their opposite. Bank penetration is measured by the percentage of outlets and automated tellers by macroregion in 1986 and 1996, and a saturation wave from the North to the South (islands excluded) can be sensed. This reviewer would have preferred an intensity indicator such as the number of outlets related to population or deposits. There are few large Italian banks, which results in a comparatively modest international presence. This applies in the aggregate and apparently also individually: the international network of an unidentified bank in the mid-1990s (Fig. 24, Chapter 6) does not include a single office in the conventional offshore, nor in Singapore or Hongkong. Unfortunately, the loan books of the ten most internationalized banks are given only for Europe and the Rest of World, leaving the domestic books in the dark.
Chapter 6 is mostly about securities markets. They remained neglected, in regulation and technology, until the mid-1980s but have, thereafter, been upgraded to a good Continental level and beyond. For example, the over-the-counter computerized trading system for government bonds, MTS, nowadays adopted all over Europe, was developed in Italy. There is only one proper exchange of any significance, that in Milan. Regional exchanges have faded into insignificance during the past two decades, a familiar story. The ample space allocated to them could, from a foreigner’s perspective, have been used for deliberating on why top Italian companies ignore the domestic forum and list directly at the NYSE, or why Italian short-term derivative contracts are traded at Liffe. Again, there is some material about land prices and city morphology. The former are part of the picture but should be tied to cost structures in general and competition between finance centers.
The seventh and final chapter is enigmatic. It may have been intended as a synthesis, but is actually a collection of unrelated topics. Did it emerge from a basket of ideas which matured during the final stages of writing but too late to be integrated in the main body of the work? If this was indeed its birth, the author should be congratulated for having the courage to include the material rather than omitting it for formal reasons. The themes are: city internal structure, financial employment by region, and the regional concentration of various financial activities such as borrowing, lending, banks’ non-banking activity (non-intermediation), and international operations. The indicators are in index form, the regional figure being divided by the national mean, and given as a territorial shading on maps.

3There are numerous graphs and maps by region (twenty) or macroregion (five). They are based on unpublished calculations by the central bank, a beautiful testimony of a common cause between the practical world and academia. The most recent data is from 1996, not bad for a book coming to print three years later. The text contains more numerical information than an average reader may care to digest. Tables would have been a desirable way to present the core data, with appendices for the rest. The use of the vernacular is natural in an undergraduate textbook and a useful reminder that English is not the only foreign language in our Common European House. An international reader should not be discouraged, however, because financial vocabulary is about the same as in English. Italians should feel proud that their centuries-old financial culture has got a modern imprint in this unique monograph.

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Risto Laulajainen, « Maria Giuseppina Lucia, 1999 La Geografia Finanziaria, Mercati e Territorio, Bologna, Pàtron Editore, 229 p. », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Revue de livres, mis en ligne le 23 novembre 2004, consulté le 10 décembre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/786

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Risto Laulajainen

Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law, PO Box 630, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
Risto.Laulajainen@geography.gu.se

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