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Financial and economic horizon-scanning: developing an early warning capacity

What the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, called ‘the Great Panic’ of 2008 took the world by surprise, even those whose job it was – and is – to contemplate future shocks to the global financial system. Was it a failure of foresight? Or is horizon-scanning in this area fraught with special perils and difficulties?

The British Academy lunchtime forum on 15 December 2009 asked: is it beyond the wit of the UK’s financial, regulatory and governmental institutions to construct a horizon-scanning capability, singly or in combination, that might increase the chances of avoiding strategic dislocations in the future?

The two convenors of the Forum, Professor Tim Besley FBA and Professor Peter Hennessy FBA (pictured), summarised the discussion in a letter sent to her Majesty The Queen on 8 February 2010.

News release: Can we ever say ‘never again’?

List of participants

Alex Allan, Joint Intelligence Committee
Professor Tim Besley, FBA, London School of Economics
Professor Richard Brealey, FBA, London Business School
Gareth Davies, Strategy Unit, Cabinet Office
Dr Jon Davis, Queen Mary, University of London
Alun Evans, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Sir John Gieve, formerly of the Bank of England
Ian Ginsberg, HM Treasury
Dr Simon Griffiths, British Academy
Dr Catherine Haddon, Institute for Government
Professor Peter Hennessy, FBA, Queen Mary, University of London
Rosaleen Hughes, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Gregor Irwin, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Sir Nicholas Macpherson, HM Treasury
Paul Mayo, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Dr Lynette Nusbacher, Strategic Horizons Unit, Cabinet Office
Professor George Peden, University of Stirling
Jonathan Portes, Cabinet Office
Peter Riddell, The Times; Institute for Government
Sir Adam Roberts, President, British Academy
Lord Turnbull, former Secretary of the Cabinet
Dr Harry Woodroof, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills


This Forum and letter followed up an earlier British Academy Forum (17 June 2009) and letter to The Queen (22 July 2009), which had addressed the issue ‘The Global Financial Crisis – Why Didn’t Anybody Notice?’