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From long-term savings to instant mortgages: financial demonstration and the role of interaction in markets

By Zsuzsanna Vargha


Accounts of the crisis have privileged 'high finance' innovations whereas retail banks constantly experimented with how they sell (new) products to consumers. I examine the case of product innovation at a home savings bank in Hungary during the pre-crisis credit boom. Turned from offering state-subsidized long-term savings-and-loans to promoting instant mortgages. Based on ethnographic observations of the bank's Direct Selling Organization, I trace the bank's shift from state-subsidized long-term savings-and-loans to instant mortgages, to problems with demonstrating the qualities of financial products, even ostensibly prudent ones. Drawing on concepts of scientific demonstration and proof, I compare how financial advisors explained the plan to consumers before and after it was combined with mortgages: first they drew the funds by hand, later they adopted software-generated scenarios. I suggest that as sellers perform products interactively with clients, consumers' needs appear. Thus, when organized differently, financial demonstrations yield different consumers-with-preferences. Based on this interactional perspective, I find that consumer finance is an 'economy of qualities' where preferences and product properties stabilize through consultation, and where "social" embedding can enable "economic" calculations. Based on this interactional perspective, I examine US and UK proposals for consumer financial protection

Topics: HG Finance
Publisher: Sage
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1177/1350508410392100
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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