Sycamore Showcase panelists discuss Wall Street meltdown

October 9 2008

As the headlines continue to be dominated by the financial crisis and its increasingly global impacts, Indiana State University educators and industry professionals met to make sense of the issues. "The Wall Street Meltdown" was the topic of Sycamore Showcase at Noon, held Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Terre Haute.

John Conant, professor and chair of the economics department, explained that the economy is a complex system with a variety of contributing factors that have led to the current economic climate.

"You can't fix Wall Street without fixing Main Street," he said.

Lakshmi Bala, a finance professor, agreed that the financial system was a "nexus of relationships and interactions." While the kind of interconnectivity can act as a catalyst for crisis, Bala asserted that things could turn around.

"I don't think it's a disaster," she said. "I don't think it's something that we will not be able to come out of."

Tarek Zaher, professor and coordinator of the ISU finance program, encouraged audience members to stay calm and wait for change even in the midst of confusion. He said events like the showcase were a positive step toward reaching a greater understanding of underlying issues.

"We should be optimistic, not afraid," he said.

Others on the panel offered different viewpoints.

"The biggest problem we face is a lack of patience," said Jack Tatom, research director of ISU's Networks Financial Institute.

Tatom said that the current foreclosure crisis means that housing prices will continue to decline and stress on financial institutions will remain a concern.

Bob Guell, an economics professor, asserted that the issue was more than a crisis of confidence.

"I believe we have a great deal more to fear than fear itself," Guell said, noting that while credit could always be made available people could not be forced to borrow. "We have a substantial crisis."

Yet Guell maintained that no one in the audience needed to run to the nearest ATM to withdraw his or her life's savings.

"There are banks that are going to be fine," he said.

Bill Minnis, president of Citizens National Bank, was on the panel and reported that local banks are fairing relatively well.

"I don't think the environment here is a panic environment," he said.

More than 50 people attended the luncheon discussion, including a few students from ISU's College of Business.

Nathan Lloyd, a junior majoring in finance and insurance and risk management, said the variety of viewpoints expressed by the panelists reflected the complex nature of the problems facing investors, CEOs, lawmakers and consumers.

"Wall Street and Main Street are connected. The more the market goes down, the more you lose," Lloyd, a native of Plymouth, said. "It's truly a scary thing."

Lloyd said that while the financial crisis is being discussed in his classes, it's also popular topic among his friends on a daily basis.

"The main problem is everyone is to blame," he said. "Yet no one seems to know how to get out of it."

While Wednesday's discussion underscored what most Americans already see as a dismal financial picture, the panelists managed to end session on a positive note. They encouraged anyone with a little extra money to consider investing in the markets.

"This is tremendous buying opportunity," Tatom said. "We shouldn't be too negative."

Sycamore Showcase at Noon is a regular free event for the Wabash Valley and ISU communities, designed to foster collaboration between the two entities.

More information in the series is available by contacting Indiana State's Center for Public Service and Community Engagement at 812-237-2334.

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Writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or etaylor16@indstate.edu

Photo and cutline: ISU finance professor Tarek Zaher, left, discusses the current economic instability while Bill Minnis, president of Citizens National Bank, looks on. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

More photos from the event are avaliable online

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Story Highlights

As the headlines continue to be dominated by the financial crisis and its increasingly global impacts, Indiana State University educators and industry professionals met to make sense of the issues during the recent Sycamore Showcase panel discussion "The Wall Street Meltdown."

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