The first quote from Keynes’ Universal Theory warned us that most practitioners are prisoners of dead economists. Emilio Ontiveros just failed and most Spaniards don’t know what Keynes told us. He was a man of character and he and I had disagreements on several occasions, so this article is not meant to be a saint. Emilio Ontiveros had many honors and recognitions in life and deserves an important posthumous tribute.
I started studying finance in 1991 and I was already one of the most important references among economists. In 1992 the crisis of the European monetary system broke out and in 1994 the Mexican tequilazo. The financial aberration is arguably the most complex facing economists, and I was enthused by the intellectual challenge of understanding its dynamics. In my skills library was a textbook on international financial markets written by Emilio and his team at Afi, and I drank it all in. They taught the institutional aspects and the basic concepts to understand the parts of the existing time that were born from these financial crises that had such devastating effects on the citizens who suffered them. Then I read his map of the Castilian financial system, his text on the Spanish sovereign debt market. Several generations of economists began to understand financial markets thanks to Emilio, and for that alone he deserves this credit.
He had a brilliant academic career, obtaining the chair of finance at the Autonomous University of Madrid, but he was one of the few economists to make the leap to private enterprise and put into practice the ideas he taught in the skill. Closely linked to the savings bank sector, he founded Analistas Financieros Internacionales (Afi). Emilio was a great businessman. He created a consulting company in Spain that could compete on equal terms with large multinationals and was a leader in various business niches. He has always been able to spot talent and has always had talent around him.
But Emilio was more than his books and his business. From an early age, I felt the poverty of communication and dissemination of finance in the media. Every time I was with him we talked about finances and I never had the opportunity to talk to him about it. Emilio was the great reference for me. He was a communication musician. He read everything to him and had a perfect command of everything he spoke, but he managed to keep it simple and adapt to the audience. His columns in El País were of the highest quality, he was a television musician, but for me his interviews with Iñaki Gabilondo in SER on contemporaneity were excellent.
Since 1960, Spain has been one of the most developed countries in the world. This success story cannot be explained without the modernization of the Castilian banking and financial system and Emilio Ontiveros is part of this story. The improvement of public debt markets in the late 1980s to finance domestic debt, mortgage market, capital markets, 2008 banking crisis, 2012 debt crisis, pandemic.
Spain faces financial challenges as complex as those of Emilio. The old public debt since 1903 with a known structural debt was mainly concentrated in the known pension system. The digital revolution, smart loan systems, energy and climate transition, improving capital markets to finance them, etc. You could agree with him or not, but Emilio always had his own opinion on all these matters. It leaves us too young, with only 74 springs, at the time of intellectual plenitude.
But, as Keynes taught us, his ideas will remain. Financial analysts and their partners will continue their embroidery. Your School of Finance will continue to nurture the talents and knowledge that make decisions in our financial system. And those of us who revered his books and learned from him will continue to use those ideas he always beautifully shared.
And today is the time to highlight their human quality. One day in 2016, during a magazine shoot that we both worked on, we had a heated debate that turned out to be very awkward and unnecessary. The chat ended at half past eight undetermined and when I got home I got an apology message from Emilio. Two days later, he invited me to dinner at his favorite Japanese restaurant near Afi’s headquarters and it was a friendly meal where we just talked about business. It was another musician’s catechism. Thank you Emilio and rest in peace. You have it more than the stud.
Jose Carlos Dix He is professor of finance at the University of Alcalá