***WARNING: Massive SPOILER ALERT for the series finale of HBO’S “Game of Thrones.”***
[A GREAT ROOM OVERLOOKING THE CITY OF BRAAVOS. A LONG TABLE. THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS IS SEATED. THE CEO IS WRAPPING UP.]
CEO: In conclusion, the restarting of slave trade following the death of the Targaryen queen has increased our rate of return. After a few years of slow growth due to geopolitical uncertainty in Westeros and Essos, it looks like the Iron Bank will be fully recovered before the end of winter.
CHAIR: That is excellent news and calls for many toasts at tonight’s gala celebration. Before we conclude, is there any new business to discuss?
CEO: Yes, our Westeros agent Tycho Nestoris reports the possibility of some new loans to the new regime across the Narrow Sea.
CHAIR: [Arches eyebrow] Oh, really? I suppose we should hear him out. The chair recognizes Tycho Nestoris.
TYCHO NESTORIS: Thank you. Yesterday I entertained their newly appointed Master of Coin, Bronn, who made a pitch for restoring our official line of credit to Bran the Broken. Something about funding brothels or ships. He was a bit vague about the purpose of the loan.
DIRECTOR 2: And do you think this line of credit would be profitable?
TYCHO: I do, ma’am. Historically, loaning to Westerosi sovereigns has been a profitable business for this bank, and we do not have a large list of sovereign borrowers.
DIRECTOR 2: Recent history suggests otherwise. Our Westerosi debts have not always paid off. Is it not true that you approved a large loan to Stannis Baratheon that was never paid back?
TYCHO: [Winces] Um . . .
DIRECTOR 2: And after a minor miracle in which Queen Cersei repaid much of their official debt, you approved another loan for her to hire the Golden Company? One that she is obviously never paying back?
TYCHO: Let me remind you that she had just repaid those other debts, and the board had indicated a strong interest in stopping the Breaker of Chains from interfering in our other enterprises —
DIRECTOR 2: Yes, but not at the elevated risk of loan default. Even a crabber down by the wharf would have hedged against the possibility of Cersei’s default, yet you secured no collateral. Two large loans to Westeros governments. Two defaults that left this bank in parlous shape.
CEO: In better shape than the Golden Company at least.
CHAIR: I fear this might be just throwing good money after bad. It does seem as though our loan portfolio in Westeros has not yielded the rate of return that our stockholders expect. Tycho, how is this not an example of you trying to justify lavish monitoring trips to Kings Landing?
TYCHO: Kings Landing is not the destination visit it once was. Nonetheless, I anticipated this reaction, so I called upon one of our best outside consultants from the Essos Group to put forward a political risk analysis of this new loan structure. May I introduce Ser Jan of the Bremmens.
JAN: Directors, I have studied the history of Westeros and have great confidence in the likely profitability of new lending. For one thing, Daenerys Targaryen did the Six Kingdoms a favor. In razing Kings Landing to the ground, she uprooted many of the interest groups and social rigidities that had been constraining Westerosi economic dynamism. My maesters project robust economic growth, even during this long winter. Furthermore, that kind of negative population shock means more agricultural yield per person. A well-fed Westeros is likelier to produce a more affluent Westeros over time.
CHAIR: So you’re saying that the destruction of Kings Landing is . . . good for the economic growth of the Six Kingdoms?
JAN: Well, given how concepts like gross domestic product are measured, yes. Perhaps the most significant shift, however, is the greater power conferred on the lords and ladies compared to the king. By making it a quasi-elected position, and by ensuring that the great Westerosi houses act as a check on the monarchy, one could argue that the Six Kingdoms acquired the ability to credibly commit in ways that Cersei or Stannis or Robert Baratheon simply could not.
CHAIR: Yes, I can see this from those images you have magically beamed against that wall.
JAN: I call it MaesterPoint, sir.
CHAIR: Any thoughts?
DIRECTOR 2: Jan of the Bremmens, is it not true that King Bran has not had much governing experience or training?
JAN: Well, I suppose that’s true.
DIRECTOR 2: And how do our little birds say that he is governing so far?
TYCHO: So far, there appears to be a lot of staring into the middle distance and some wan smiles. We cannot confirm that milk of the poppy is involved.
DIRECTOR 2: And Tycho, is not correct that the North has seceded from the other six kingdoms?
TYCHO: It is true, yes.
CHAIR: But, bloodlessly!! It was apparently settled in a single conversation!!
DIRECTOR 2: Very convenient. Secessionist movements can often lead to sustained conflict, can they not?
TYCHO: I suppose.
DIRECTOR 2: I think we need to wait a bit to see which way this new regime breaks.
DIRECTOR 3: Maybe we are thinking about this the wrong way? What if, instead of lending to the Westerosi sovereign, we open branches of the Iron Bank all across the Narrow Sea? There appear to be lots of enterprising people there, who only lack an access to credit to be able to build businesses and better lives for themselves. The Iron Bank will have its due, but what if we did that in a manner in which everyone else also profited? What if we thought of lending money as a transaction in which borrower and lender both win? Like, win-win?!
[Long pause. Then general laughter.]
CEO: No increase in per capita income since the last winter, and you think this is a win-win business? Who are you, a procrastinating fantasy writer?
CHAIR: So, we’re agreed. We’ll lend Bran money, but only for the immediately profitable activities.
TYCHO: So this means?
CHAIR: Bronn only gets the line of credit if he focuses on brothels rather than ships. Meeting adjourned!