What investor could make Warren Buffett jealous? How about the pope!
The Vatican Bank--officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion--is out with its annual financial report, and to say it’s a good one is an understatement. The Vatican Bank’s profit went from $3.1 million in 2013 to $76.1 million last year-- a whopping 2300% gain.
It’s a return even the Oracle of Omaha would be hard-pressed to match. But Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli argues you might want to hold off calling it a “miracle” performance.
“I don’t brush it off,” he says. “But it’s really not a bank, it’s kind of an asset manager. And they’ve been trading bonds in Europe where they have had a massive bond market rally and you have QE.”
The bank does point to its bond investments as well as spending reductions for the big jump in profit. And Santoli feels that’s all in line with what Pope Francis has said he wants.
“The current pope is trying to run the Vatican Bank in a more disciplined way, basically bring standardized financial operations to it and cut costs,” he explains. “And that’s been working.”
Santoli adds that’s a big change from the past.
“The bank only started to report results publicly a couple of years ago, so we don’t have a lot of history,” he points out. “But it’s been plagued by scandals and seen as a little bit of a slush fund, so obviously it’s been run as a tighter ship recently.”
Yahoo Finance’s Aaron Task tips his cap to the new man at the helm for getting that ship to run tighter.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Pope Francis,” he says. “He’s changing a lot of things within the Catholic Church and at the Vatican and this is one of the areas he came in and said we’re going to follow the EU’s laws on banking transparency which the Vatican Bank hadn’t done before.”
Santoli also notes officials are being a bit more selective with whom they have dealings.
“The bank has been trimming its roster of customers,” he points out. “So essentially trying to focus in on those customers they feel are on the up and up and should be there.”
However, like Santoli, Task is approaching all this news with some reservations.
“I interviewed Gerald Posner, whose latest book called God’s Bankers is about the somewhat sketchy past,” he explains. “These are not the Girl Scouts or the Boy Scouts here. They’re doing better now, but I don’t think we should be out there cheering, yea, the Vatican Bank, they made a lot of money last year.”
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