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November 26, 2001 by Terence Roche Terence Roche

CFI – A Parable

Once upon a time in a small kingdom called CFI, a king and his subjects had a vision. “We have been to the marketplaces of finance,” they said, “and we have seen the moneylenders. Their business is strong, and they create much wealth. But their process is poor, and it takes much time and effort to give out their money. We will create a system to make their lending faster and easier. It will prepare their scrolls. It will allow them to keep better records.

“But we have also seen that they must lend their money in many kingdoms,” they said, “with different customs and different laws. We will make our system work in all of them, and guarantee that our system will not violate those laws.

“And when the moneylenders see the value — and indeed the magic — our system brings, they will pay us many coins for our system, and we will prosper.”

And the kingdom’s rulers were delighted with the plan, and extolled their subjects to toil day and night to build the system. The workers surged forward with a mighty effort, and a system was born. The king and his rulers saw the system, and they were greatly pleased.

They appointed emissaries to visit the leaders of all kingdoms to show the moneylenders the strong magic the system held. And the moneylenders were awed and said, “Indeed, its power is massive, greater than that made by other kingdoms.” As was foretold, they offered up generous quantities of gold for the new system.

Indeed, many other kingdoms asked if they might be allowed to invest in the kingdom’s system and share in the wealth it created. They delivered great wealth to the investment houses for this honor.

So it came to pass that the magic grew, and many more kingdoms gladly purchased the magic of the system. In fact, it became impossible to visit any of the moneylenders without seeing the mighty system the little kingdom had produced. The kingdom had great power and fame. The king, his rulers, the investors, and all the loyal subjects of the kingdom prospered for many years.

But unbeknownst to these warriors who had fought so fervently to attain these laurels of success, a force dangerous to them was gathering in a kingdom to the north. There, a great ruler had gained much power by controlling the workflow of the marketplaces, and all the other kingdoms were forced to pay him a tithe to render their magic usable there. The emperor of this kingdom was known as the Keeper of the Gates (many to this day still believe he is the Dark Lord). This emperor sent forth his troops to announce that a new order was to be visited upon the lending houses, and it was to be called “Windows.” It was foreseeable by all that this decree would require much of the magic in the lending houses to be recreated for its power to remain.

The subjects of the Kingdom of CFI went to their king and his rulers and said: “We must make new magic for our system. This will take great effort, and it will be necessary to hone new skills to accomplish this.”

The rulers smiled benevolently and said: “Do not worry. Our power is greater than all others, and we will make new magic. And because we have much wealth, we can pay other kingdoms many coins for their magic if we cannot make our own.

“And, because our name is strong in the houses of the moneylenders, they will wait for us to make the new magic,” they said.

So again the subjects labored many months, and a new system was created, a system that the kingdom believed conformed to the new order. Once more, the king sent emissaries to the many kingdoms of the moneylenders.

But alas, the moneylenders looked at the system and lamented, “Where there was once magic, we smell in some parts the foul odor of offal, and we cannot abide its strength.”

The emissaries returned to the kingdom and reported: “The moneylenders are unhappy. They see not the magic. They detect the odor of fertilizer in the system, and none can withstand the odor thereof.”

But the rulers smiled and said, “They are unwise, for fertilizer is good. It is that which makes growth. It will help our seeds of magic grow into a mighty oak.”

“Furthermore,” the rulers said, “we will use our palace gold to buy magic not only for the moneylenders, but also for the moneychangers in the houses of banking. These systems will know one another’s magic, and our success and wealth will be stronger than ever. And we will change the name of our kingdom to reflect the new power and strength we possess.”

So it came to pass that much of the kingdom’s wealth (and some that was borrowed) was put forth for this purpose. And for a third time the laborers toiled with great might to make the new, bigger magic.

But though many heads of state came to the kingdom to witness the new system, few dropped their bags of gold upon the table to procure it. Those moneylenders who did give coins for the new system still cried out, “The magic is still incomplete; you must make it whole!”

The rulers frowned and said, “Is it not possible that you misunderstood what magic the new system might hold?”

“Indeed? A pox on your house!” cried the unhappy kingdoms, and their laborers complained loudly.

It was then that the very same moneylenders who had availed themselves of the original magic came to the king and said: “We have loaned you much gold to assist in the creation of the new magic. We now must see repayment of that gold.” But the kingdom could not, it seems, find sufficient wealth to do so.

This rendered a foul card. Poverty visited upon the kingdom, and the faces of the workers were set with grimness.

When all was at its darkest hour, the ambassador from the kingdom called Harland came to the court and said: “We will buy what remains of your magic, and we will repay the moneylenders. But your magic is now weak, and we will give you only one coin where we once might have given you many, and your investors, who had given you gold, will get only tin in return.” The weakened kingdom had no choice but to comply with these terms.

And so it came to pass that the once mighty kingdom found itself toiling as the minion of a new power, its glory and its magic no more.

The moral of this fable is that one great product, an early lead in the marketplace, and loyal hardworking subjects aren’t enough in the new millennium — rulers must stay nimble.

Bonus moral: Magic should not be sold as such before it is truly magic.

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